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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.

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.

.

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.

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.

.

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.

Chapter Text

Tivik’s roosting on the backs of his eyelids. Consciousness doesn’t change it. If his eyes are closed, he sees Tivik. He sees fear, and doubt, and pain. He sees the body of a dead man sprawled across an alley, and he sees ‘troopers and blaster bolts. He can feel his gun ricocheting back into his hand from the recoil.

We’ll be all right, he’d said. And he’d shot a man in the back. A man who would have shattered under interrogation; a man who would have given it all away; a coward, but a man nonetheless.

One more murder. One more grave. And for what?

For the greater good.

No better than a Stormtrooper.

Tivik shifts to K-2, the guttering of blaster shots, the strangling of the voice. If they open the shield gate, you can broadcast from the tower! K-2, gone, all at once, and then the figure changes, K-2 to Tivik to K-2 and suddenly to Galen, wet through with rain and smoke, Galen Erso and his deep-set eyes. Galen turns to Jyn, smiling, soot streaking her cheek, her eyes wet. Done. Gone. Done. We’re going to die. We’re going to die.

You’ve given more than anyone could ever survive, and I need you do to it again.

Do you think anybody’s listening? 

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When he wakes, there’s a medical droid prodding at the screen over his head.

“Sir,” it says. It’s one of the repurposed droids from the old Alliance base on—he can’t remember. Dantooine, maybe. Cassian doesn’t speak, watching it. He has a deeply rooted mistrust of medical droids. Considering a hacked med-droid had tried to kill him on his first solo mission, ten years ago, this is perfectly reasonable. “I trust you slept well.”

He feels as though he’s fallen twelve stories and survived. Cassian considers that, and then remembers. “I’ve certainly slept worse.”

The droid flutters the way only medical droids can flutter. “You are scheduled for bacta immersion at 1100 hours, Captain. We hope your recovery is progressing smoothly.”

Jyn is still asleep. She’s curled on her side, knees drawn up close against her stomach, guarding herself even in unconsciousness. There’s a softness to her face that he can’t read too deep. He can still feel the touch of her hands smearing over his skin, hot as starfire. “What’s her diagnosis?”

“The tendons in her leg are healing at an optimal rate,” says T12. Cassian wants to find a blaster somewhere so he can shoot this thing. Couldn’t someone have coded it to sound more human? “There was some concern of damage to her shoulders, but she is estimated to regain near full use of both arms after final bacta immersion. Internal damage was negligible. She has declined a psychological evaluation, despite the recommendation of the doctor.”

Of course she has. Something wells up in his chest that might be fondness. “What time is it?”

“1007 hours, Captain Andor. Is there anything I can get you?”

A skeleton key, he thinks, that would be nice, but he shakes his head, and the medical droid rolls away on its one broad wheel. The two guards at the door—one man, one woman; he remembers one from a mission on Corellia, doesn’t remember her given name, but the other’s unknown to him for all the Intelligence markers on his jacket—turn to look at him as one. Neither speaks. Cassian dips his head once, and only once, before he looks across sickbay. There are new locks on the console he’d used yesterday, and he doubts he’ll be able to access it again without an alarm going off in Draven’s quarters.

His mind is fuzzy. Threading, like clouds in wind. He grasps strands of memory only for them to fade between his fingers. He can recall more now than he could yesterday, but even in comparison, it’s not much at all. K, gone. The raw ache that’s not faded. Cassian shuts his eyes. K didn’t—didn’t, and there had been blaster fire, and then—

Cassian!

Falling. And then rising again. He must have finished the climb, even though he can’t remember it, because he can see a soft, utterly commonplace smile on Jyn’s face at the top of the comm tower. For a second there’s the smell of sweat and blood and carbon scoring, hair and skin against his mouth. She looks much smaller now, curled in a hospital bed, than she did on top of that tower.

The rest of it is far out of reach.

“Right,” he says to his hands. “Great.”

“Sir?” says the droid.

Cassian shakes his head, and T12 rolls off again.

The first time he’d woken, it’d been to an actual living doctor, not a droid. Broken collarbone, the Bothan had said, nose wrinkling. Blaster bolt to the side, miracle you didn’t lose any organs. Nearly broke your spine, too, Captain. Your legs won’t thank you for getting up too soon. He can’t just lie here, though. There are things that have to be done, there are problems that have to be fixed, and he’s stuck here, in sickbay, because he’d nearly broken his back on a rail in an Imperial base, and if he stands too fast he might wrench his whole spine out and leave it behind in the bed.

The job’s not done yet, Cass. Move. Move.  

He can’t. Cassian smooths the folds out of the blanket, and looks, instead.

Two guards. Easily overwhelmed if he’d been capable of walking on his own. As he’s not, somewhat more complicated. The sickbay is on the fourth floor of the main ziggurat, overlooking Launchpad 5. Dismantling one of the droids would at least buy them time, if they run. Disable the guards, dismantle a droid. There’s an armory one floor down. Steal weapons, gear. If they could manage it, if the whole base didn’t go on alert looking for them, then maybe, maybe, snag one of the untended shuttles on LP-5. Set a course for Alderaan. Go rogue again. Rogue One, reporting for court martial, sir. Just imagining it carves something out of him. He’s so tired, Cassian realizes. He’s lived with it for so long that he can barely recognize it, the weight of it, the scrape of secrets in the beds of his nails and the iron filings in his boots, but he’s tired. He’d finally done things the right way, the clean way, and Scarif had nearly killed him, and the plans are lost, and he’s tired. He’s not sure he has the life left in him to fix it.

Jyn murmurs something in her sleep that could be a word, could be a name, and he’s caught. She could have run by now, he thinks. She could have left. Remembering how she was after the rescue from the labor camp, she should have left by now. She hasn’t, and she should have. He’d ask why, but he’s not sure he’s up to hearing the answer.

He’ll do it, he thinks. Go rogue again, if she asks. Go rogue again, because it needs to be done, but also because she might ask. Mostly because she might ask. He’ll pass over tired, if she asks. And if she goes, then…what? If she leaves, what do the rest of us become? All of those who followed her, a meteorite in human skin. A falling star. Who do we become if we don’t have her?

Something knots tight in his throat, and twists.

He’s lost in thought, watching Jyn, and it’s the only reason Mon Mothma slips in without his noticing. It’s the droids that get his attention, sweeping forward to give reports. She waves them off. “Captain,” she says, and two beds over Jyn opens her eyes at the unfamiliar voice, her breathing still slow and steady, barely slitting a glance through her eyelashes. It’s the way a wild cat wakes, ready to flee, or to fight with tooth and nail, whichever is necessary. Cassian dips his head.

“Senator.”

“Jyn,” says Mon Mothma, and Jyn pushes herself up with one elbow, swinging her legs out of bed. Her feet are bare. He hadn’t noticed that yesterday. There’s a hooked pale crystal hanging against her chest, and Jyn stows it beneath her hospital gown the moment Mon Mothma looks away from her. “How are you feeling?”

Jyn lifts one shoulder, and lets it drop. “Been worse.”

“I see.” Mothma smooths the fabric of her robes. It’s reflexive. She does it in briefings when she’s trying to think of what to say. Considering she’s done so well at disguising all her other tells, Cassian’s surprised she’s being so open about this one. “May I sit?”

You run the Alliance, Cassian thinks. You command us all. You don’t need to ask. Mothma still waits until he gestures to the empty bed between him and Jyn before she settles, perfectly straight, her hands folded neatly in her lap. A statue of a woman, he’s always thought. Smooth-faced and deep-eyed. Mothma and Draven have never agreed, but Draven has a grudging respect for her, and Cassian has slightly more. Her devotion to politics, to the Right Way, has always meant he’s had to work behind her back, but he’s never not respected her for what she does and how she does it. Like how a pathologist respects a surgeon; opposite sides of the game.  

“I never thanked you,” says Mothma. “Either of you, for what you did.”

Jyn creeps around to the end of Cassian’s bed, on the far side from Mothma. She stays on her feet. Her balance is off, but she stays standing, and Cassian keeps his eyes fixed on Senator Mothma. Jyn’s warm at his bad shoulder, standing so close to the bed that if he shifted he’d bump into her hip, and it’s steady as a heartbeat, having her there. “Didn’t do it for thanks,” he says, and Jyn’s the one to knock into him first, shocking at his skin like blowback from a blaster. 

“Regardless,” says Mothma. “You delivered hope in the face of extreme odds, the worst sort of adversity. It deserves thanks.”

Jyn huffs under her breath.

“And an apology,” says Mothma, and her eyes crinkle just at the edges. “There was little that could have been done to prevent the situation as it stands now, but you risked your lives and the lives of your team to retrieve those plans. Rest assured that we are doing all that is possible to recover them.”

“Right,” says Jyn, very, very dry. “Of course.”

“Have you given any further thought to the offer of a position here?” Mothma’s smooth-as-durasteel smile doesn’t waver. “Or will you be leaving us upon your recovery, Jyn?”

Cassian keeps his face mirror-glass reflective, and pretends he’s not listening hard.

“I’m staying,” says Jyn. The knot of tension drains out of the base of his neck. “As long as there’s still a war to fight.”

“Of course,” says Mothma. She smooths her gown again. “I will not lie to you. We are in greater danger now than we have ever been before. So far as we are aware, the plans have not yet been recovered by the Empire, but neither have they been found by any of our scouts. Whatever Princess Organa—” Her throat works, just slightly. “Whatever the princess has done with them, they are well hidden, and appear to be on the move. There are Imperial forces crawling all over the Outer Rim.”

Princess Leia Organa. Small and firebright. Cassian’s only met her twice—Organa had always spent much more time with the pilots, rather than Intelligence—but both times she’d struck him as old and young at once. Like Mon Mothma, really. Dressed in white, heroine of the play, kept from backstage so her robes could never be smeared.

“We stand on the edge of a precipice,” says Mon Mothma, and folds her hands together. “If the plans are not recovered, the Alliance, as it stands now, will dissolve. If they are, we have a fighting chance. It’s a murky time for the Rebellion, Jyn. It may be wiser to stand apart.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” Jyn shifts her weight behind him. He thinks it’s an accident that she bumps him when she does it, but then again, it might not be. “I’m staying.”

“Generous words from a woman without political opinions,” says Mothma.

Jyn doesn’t budge. She’s the woman from the shuttle all at once, the one too big to fit inside her own body, vengeful and protective. Cassian turns to look at her and for a second he thinks he’ll be blinded. She’s bruised and limping and pale and still shining crystalline, and the words dry up on his lips. Nothing like the girl they’d found in chains, he thinks. Nothing like her at all.

“Maybe I looked up,” says Jyn, “and realized I didn’t like what I saw.”

Cassian knocks the back of his shoulder into her arm. Jyn leaves her hand behind on him, just for a moment, and sparks burst beneath the skin.

“Then welcome to the Alliance, Sergeant Erso,” says Mon Mothma. “We’ll be happy to have you.”

“I don’t generally make people happy to have me,” says Jyn. She says it so flat that Senator Mothma wavers, unsure, but Cassian can’t help it. He smiles just a little. “But I’ll stay all the same.”

“Right,” says Mothma. There’s a flicker around the edge of her mouth that might be genuine amusement. She stands. “Once the droids have cleared you for debrief, you will be assigned quarters. Considering your status, that should be within the next twenty-four hours.”

“What about the others?” says Jyn. “Bodhi, Baze—”

“Bodhi Rook has accepted a commission,” says Mon Mothma. “Your Guardians are currently in limbo. Which is to be expected. Captain, a word?”

Jyn wavers.

“It’s all right,” Cassian says. Mothma’s still far too close to hide it, but he isn’t sure he cares any longer. “Just a minute.”

Jyn shifts, and steps away. She gives Mothma one last, haunting look, and then she makes for the back of sickbay, pacing it out as if she’s calculating dimensions. T12 rolls after her, buzzing an alert. Cassian lifts his eyebrows at Mothma, and waits.

“I am aware,” says Mothma, in her quiet, steady voice, “that the entirety of what General Draven does in the name of the Alliance is not made known to me.”

“Senator—”

“You are fortunate, Captain, that the Death Star was employed against Scarif. It means that it is far less likely that the Empire will know your face. But the Alliance talks, and I do not doubt that there are elements within our ranks which have more Imperial leanings than they would have us believe. You will be known to them, now. All of Rogue One will be. It makes you prime targets.” She traps air, and holds it, lets it out slowly. “The Death Star is our greatest threat, but not the only threat. We all know this. Alliance High Command owes you, and all of Rogue One, a great debt in what you have done for us. But they want your word, Captain, that if you are not assigned to hunt the plans, that you will not go to look for them alone again. You are needed elsewhere in the galaxy.”

Cassian watches Jyn and the guard, turning that over in his mind. They, she’d said, not we. And alone, not never. When he looks at Mon Mothma, her eyes burn in her face like spirit-fire, like the kind of flame that could scorch through any kind of shield.

Well, then.

“Understood,” says Cassian, and Mothma dips her head.

“Thank you, Captain Andor.” Without clearing her throat, she shifts her voice up, echoing. “Sergeant. Glad to have you aboard.” 

Jyn doesn’t salute. She does back out of the way as Mon Mothma leaves, watching the guards with sharp eyes, but she doesn’t salute. She limps across the room again, and when Cassian shifts aside on his cot—half an invitation, half a dare, because is Jyn Erso the sort to do this, to make herself vulnerable like this, to bare herself like this—she drops down next to him, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip. There’s the tug in his throat again, like a rope.

“What did she want?”

“Mothma’s with us.” He keeps his voice low, almost whispering. Jyn doesn’t react. He thinks, maybe, that her eyes get brighter. “If she’s with us, Senator Organa is with us.”

“Organa?”

“The princess’s father.”

Jyn shifts onto her good side, pushes her hair out of her eyes. It’s down, and he wants to tangle his fingers in it.

“You think we can do it again?” says Cassian, and Jyn blinks at him like he’s asked if they’re brother and sister. “You think we can find it again?”

Jyn before Eadu would have said, it’s not as if we have any other choice. This Jyn just considers, and then says, “Yes,” simply and clearly. “We can.”

There’s a flow to her like undertow, he thinks. Like a riptide. He’s dropped down into the wave of her and he’s perfectly all right being pulled along. Extraordinary ordinary woman. “The whole Empire will be out looking.”

“And the whole Alliance will be trying to keep us here,” she says. “It balances out.”

“Right.”

“Means you need to be on your feet.”

“I can walk,” says Cassian, and when she looks at him, flat and unimpressed, adds, “With help.”

He doesn’t look at the guards. Jyn does, over his shoulder, a darting glance before she meets his eyes again.

“Chirrut’s still in bacta,” she says. “I don’t know when he’ll be free. But we’ll need Bodhi.”

Bodhi, who’s already done more than enough. Bodhi, who’s already been braver than half the Alliance. “You think he’ll come?”

“It’s Bodhi,” she says. “I know he will.”

None of them have known each other long enough for that kind of surety, Cassian thinks. But it’s Jyn. It’s only the truth, from Jyn.

“We need more than Bodhi,” he says. “When you’re discharged, I need you to find someone for me.”

She lifts an eyebrow.

“K-2,” he says. “I’ll need you to find K-2.”

Chapter Text

I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.

Spinning, spiraling, dizzying.

I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.

Shining bright as kyber in his head.

I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.

Gleaming, dancing, blazing.

I am one with the Force; the Force with me; for always I walk in the light, far from shadow’s touch.

The strongest stars, he thinks, are made of kyber, and ruin, and truth.

He drifts.

.

.

.

Jyn rinses her mouth out for what must be the tenth time, and spits into Bodhi’s empty cup.

“Okay?” Bodhi frets with his hands, twists his fingers back and forth, through each other, dipping and weaving them in and out as if he’s trying to make a blanket pattern. Something in it makes her think of days on the farm she’d nearly made herself forget, of her mother with an old spindle, rough wool, twining in and out and crafting blankets for cold nights. “You’re—you’re doing that a lot, you okay?”

“I don’t like bacta,” says Jyn, and finishes the last of the water. The mess is a cacophony. After sickbay, it’s like—like battle, in a way. Every loud bang has her jumping like the scrumblers that would sneak in through gaps in the tunnels, come up through the floor to eat away whatever her father managed to grow. “Leaves a taste.”

His hands don’t look much better than they did two days ago, still shiny and sore. Bodhi threads his fingers together again, and then says, “I didn’t—I mean, I wasn’t that hurt, so I don’t—‘m okay with patches. Last time I was in bacta was a while ago. ‘s expensive.”

For anyone outside of Imperial space, it’s a nightmare. There are marks on Bodhi’s hands like shrapnel wounds, more than half-healed. Someone chucked a grenade into the shuttle, and he caught it and threw it out again. She says, “Mm.”

“Cassian—” Bodhi clears his throat. “Captain Andor okay?”

“Getting better, Lieutenant,” says Jyn, and Bodhi smiles, just a little shy. “Told you.”

“Guards wouldn’t let me in, after the first time.” He frets with his cuffs. Bodhi hasn’t changed out of his Imperial uniform, and it’s as brave a statement as flinging a grenade into the middle of the room. This is what I was, and I’m here anyway. There’s a hint of a bruise around the collar of his shirt, and she thinks, in a distant, cool, vicious part of her brain that Saw left behind, that if she meets whoever did that, she’ll leave a mark on them they won’t forget, for all they’re on the same side now. “Came back a few times, but they said you were asleep, and then you were in treatment, so.”

She doesn’t have any idea what to say to that, so she doesn’t say anything at all. Jyn finishes the caf, too, the last of the bread she’d snagged from the line, and then without looking up from the table, says, “Do you think you can do it?”

Bodhi hums. Something from Jedha, she thinks. It sounds like the morning prayer on Jedha, from the two days they’d spent there, looking for Cassian’s lead. “Think so.”

“Any time?”

“1630’d be best.” Bodhi shifts, and scratches the back of his neck. “Supply shipment. I’m cleared to go along. Said they needed someone who knows up-to-date Imperial call-signs. Not sure what for.”

“Right,” says Jyn, and stands, collecting her tray. “They’ll be watching you.”

“They already do,” says Bodhi. He curls all his fingers around his mug of caf. “Not that different from usual, right?”

Jyn makes herself smile. If Bodhi can see the lie in it, he doesn’t twitch. He smiles back, wobbly, and goes back to examining his cup of caf, like he can read the future in the grounds at the bottom.

“You’re being followed,” he says to his mug.

“I know,” says Jyn. They haven’t been subtle. She’s been tracked by much better tails than these two. Judging from the insignia on their coats—she shifts her own, uncomfortably aware of the sergeants’ stripes on the sleeve, wondering what that means—they’re Intelligence. (She assumes it’s Intelligence, considering it’s the same patch that Cassian has on the coats in his closet. She could be wrong, but she doubts it.) Some part of her is surprised that they didn’t follow her into Cassian’s quarters. Another part of her knows that they could find her anywhere in this base, if they liked. The fact that they’re being so open about stalking her means Draven doesn’t care if she notices, and if Draven doesn’t care…

Caught, Jyn Erso. The blaster she'd found under Cassian's mattress burns warm at the small of her back. Caught, caught, caught. 

The first time they’d left, they’d had surprise on their side. This time, Draven will be expecting something. Jyn squeezes Bodhi’s shoulder. “LP-5 at 1600 hours.”

“What about Baze?”

“Chirrut’s in bacta, still.”

It’s not much of an answer. It’s enough of a one for Bodhi, apparently. He sighs. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Sergeant,” says Bodhi, under his breath, and Jyn leaves before she can work out how it makes her feel, to be Sergeant Erso. She’s not sure she’s ever been anything, before, and now she’s Sergeant Erso. Not just Jyn, anymore.

Come on, Jyn. If she’s very lucky, she’ll find a full droid to plug K-2 into. If she’s unlucky, she’ll have to wire a few different droids together, which they don’t have time for. She won’t stay inconspicuous carrying droid parts back up to Cassian’s quarters, but…oh, well. We’re not staying beyond tonight, anyway. Every second they stay on Yavin IV is a second the plans spiral further away, far, far out of reach. There’s no time left. They’ve already wasted enough.

One day of unconsciousness, suspended in bacta. Another day of semi-consciousness. And now release. Three days unaccounted for. Projected recovery time for Erso, Jyn Lyra: five days, post-two part bacta immersion treatment. Projected recovery time for Andor, Cassian: fourteen days, post-four part bacta immersion treatment. If Cassian’s done what they talked about, he’ll have pushed for two bacta treatments at once, but that still leaves one unaccounted for, not to mention the two week leave. She scrapes at the top of the tray, leaves it in the return window. If he still can’t walk then—

She could leave without him. If she had to. He would want her to leave without him, if he couldn’t keep up. But—

Welcome home.

No. No. She shakes her head at nothing, and leaves the mess. They’ve waited this long. They can wait a few more hours for Cassian to get on his feet again.

Baze, though—Baze is a different story. I will not leave him, Baze had said. She’d only snagged a second with him before immersion, before the droids had prodded her forward into the apparatus for the bacta tank. He will wake soon, and I will be here when he wakes. I can’t go with you. And she understands. I will be here when he wakes. I will be here when he lives. I will. I have to.

The chip she’d salvaged from underneath Cassian’s bedside table burns in her pocket.

K-2 made backups. She’d still been settled next to Cassian on the bed, close enough that it had been more breath than words. Jyn shuts her eyes for a second. She’d slept without meaning to sleep, hand on his heart, timing the beat. He hadn’t stirred once when T12 had nudged her out of bed, chivvied her to the bacta tanks. Hid them around the bases. Just in case. He would have made one before the push on Scarif, he’s paranoid enough. K-2 can get you in anywhere. You want to find materials, anything, you’ll need K-2. Tell him the Mon Cala protocol is in effect, he’ll help you.

What about you?

I’ll find my own way out. A flash of teeth. Though if I’m not at the landing pad by 1600, you might have to come and get me.

And to do that, she needs the droid who spent a good few days wanting her dead. Brilliant.

The rebel base has no signs. It’s probably sensible, she thinks. If they’re ever invaded, it’s best that Imperials not be able to find their way to weapons caches, or docking bays, or the barracks. At the same time, it’s making it far too difficult to track down the junkyard. The ziggurat is a maze, and her guards seem perfectly content to let her wander in circles for as long as it takes. Bastards.

“You’re new,” says a voice, and Jyn stops. There’s a prickling up the back of her neck, an itch just beneath the skin. The kyber crystal glows warm against her collar. It’s a woman, full-lipped and curly-haired, tipping her head with a hand on one hip and smiling like she’s seen a joke in the air between them. “You lost, Sarge?”

She thinks the patches on the woman’s uniform mean she’s a pilot. Jyn doesn’t look back at her guards. “Looking for the junkyard.”

“You’ll want to go back to the last turn and take a right, for that. Ride the lift all the way down to the bottom, third door on the left. There’s scraps enough down there to build an X-wing if you do it right.” The woman purses her lips. “What d’you need the junkroom for?”

To bring a droid back from the dead and hope he doesn’t kill me in return. “Droid repair,” says Jyn. “Trying to fix an astromech.”

“Junkroom’d be your best bet, then,” says the woman, and makes no comment about a sergeant of—whatever division Jyn’s been assigned to, she can’t tell the patches apart yet—fixing an astromech. She sucks her teeth, and puts out a hand. “Shara Bey.”

Lianna Hallik. It sings on her lips like spice. Tanith Pontha. Kestrel Dawn. “Jyn,” says Jyn.

“I know who you are, Sergeant Erso,” says Shara Bey. She dips her head to the guards. “You want to lose those two bozos, hit the locking mechanism on the lift doors. There’s a short in the system. Lights won’t come on wherever you’re going, so they’ll have to search floor by floor.”

Jyn blinks.

“Unless you like being followed, in which case, have at it, Sarge,” says Shara, and with a chipper salute, she makes her way back down the corridor. Jyn stands there for a breath, for a beat, before turning and following her.

She doesn’t hit the locking mechanism—losing her tails this fast would be a miscalculation—but it’s worth knowing, nonetheless.

.

.

.

I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.

Baze leaves his back to the bacta tank, and turns Chirrut’s staff between his hands.

I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.

Two more sessions, the droid had said. Then they’ll know if he’ll regain consciousness. Surgery, and bacta, and still there’s not a flicker of motion, not a hint of awareness. He shuts his eyes. The tanks have their own sort of hum, deep and low like Jedha’s drums, and they buzz into his ribs and reverberate there like living beings.

I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.

He taps the staff against the ground.

I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.

“Your star is a fool,” he tells Chirrut, but Chirrut cannot hear him. Your star is a fool. I am a fool. You were a fool. We are, all of us, fools.

You wanted to know what the plan is, she’d said. For a second he’d caught a glimpse of what Chirrut must have seen, when he sensed her. Shining bright as kyber. Baze is old enough to remember the Jedi coming to the temple, finding the kyber that resonated with them, alongside their power. He is old enough to remember what lightsabers looked like. There’s a gleam to her like a lightsaber. This is the plan. Are you coming or not?

I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.

“When you get out of there,” he tells Chirrut, hanging in bacta, “I am going to hurt you.”

There’s a flicker of shadow across Chirrut’s face that almost makes him look as though he’s smiling.

.

.

.

The junkroom is less of a junkroom and more of a room full of dismembered bodies. There’s an odd kind of melancholy about it. Forgotten parts, lost drives. Half a 3PO left on a nearby shelf, arm dangling. Jyn picks her way around a pile of parts for old astromechs, and wonders how many of them were trashed in battle, and how many of them just…rotted from the relentless humidity of the Yavin IV jungle. Melancholy and death, and she’s in a graveyard. Don’t let this be a prophecy.

The chip in her pocket is heavier each moment. It’s the wrong size for an astromech; she needs a bipedal droid, probably some kind of protocol droid or defensive unit, unless she repurposes a motherboard and replaces it in another body, but that'll take up too much time, much more than emergency repairs. Time, time, we don’t have time. Astromech, repair droid, astromech, astromech, a protocol droid that’s missing half its insides and two of its three eyes, unhelpful, a buzzing janitorial unit that shrieks and vanishes into the mess when she shoves it aside with one foot, and then—something. Tangled in the bodies of other droids. Jyn heaves a wheel from a broken 2-1B aside, brushes wires away. Durasteel and crimson chrome plating. One eye missing. Something in her shivers. What on earth is the Rebel Alliance doing with a Zed?

She whacks it twice in the head with the heel of her hand, and with a hum, the thing spits sparks.

Zeds. Police droids. She’s tangled with Zeds before. She’s spent fifteen years avoiding police droids. Jyn drags more parts aside, uncovers the rest of it. Working legs, from what she can tell. There’s a puncture in the back, blowout from what must have been a modified blaster. Damn hard to puncture the armor of a Zed. But almost as tall as K-2SO, she thinks, and kicks another piece of a medical droid aside. Almost as tall, just as strong. Differently weighted, but—maybe.

Not particularly subtle, says a voice in her head that sounds almost like Cassian. Wandering around with a modified police droid.  

The chrono on the wall reads 1357. Maybe, maybe—

She touches her fingers to the lump under her shirt, the kyber crystal, warm and heavy. Jyn drags the torso of the 3PO off the shelf, and wrenches off the service panel.

The power converters to the Zed have all been fried by whatever modified blaster bolt took this thing down in the first place. How did they get this here? Zeds are heavy, immobile when they put their programming to it. Did it wind up in a shuttle somehow? It must have. Chased rebels onto a shuttle, been shot down, and they’d kept it for spare parts only to find that 501-Z’s have a tendency to be completely unhelpful in scrapyards. Other droids can be used to power Zeds, but Zeds can’t power other droids. A protocol to keep criminals from tearing them down to scrap and repurposing their overcharged parts for their own use. Durasteel to prevent the pieces from being removed at all. Personality module as advanced as a 3PO, but she doesn’t want that, she just needs the core from the cannibalized protocol droid, a power converter from the nearest semi-intact astromech, wiring to replace the fried pieces, a threader, a coupling, piece after piece after piece. A Zed, 501-Z, and some part of her, some cynical, dry-minded part of her thinks: This could be a bad idea.

Not like we have much of a choice.

The personality module in its chest comes free with a keening sound, as if she’s peeling a living being to pieces. Jyn leaves it on the floor at her feet. Damage to the internal skeleton, yes. And the stunners in its fingertips are fried, which can only be to the good, considering it’s K-2 who’s taking this body. She can fix those later. No stun staffs, no blasters. Unarmed. Heavy, and dangerous, but unarmed. Kestrel Dawn was a mechanic, she tells herself, and reroutes power to the main core. Kestrel Dawn was a mechanic. She started learning how to chop parts at fourteen, never stopped. If I want full power returned to the unit, then—

Sparks flare up against her wrists, and singe at her sleeve.

“You’d better be thankful for this,” she says. She’s not sure if she’s talking to K-2, or to Cassian. “Once you get up we’re not going to have a lot of time before people start asking questions.”

Someone coughs behind her. One of her tails. When Jyn turns around, no one’s in sight. The door to the junkroom is open just a crack.

Right. Stop talking to yourself.

The elbow joints from the now-devastated 3PO get laid in, too, just to ensure full mobility. The spare eye won't fit; K-2 will have to make do with one, for now. No leakage of the power core, which at least means none of them will be suffering from radiation sickness anytime soon. Sweat drips into her eyes. Kestrel Dawn would have this done by now, Jyn, what are you waiting for? She has to punch the damaged panels a few times to get them to settle right. It’s only then that she notices the sigil of the Empire, spray-painted on to the Zed’s right shoulder.

Even the newly not-as-cynical Jyn doubts the Force would do anything at all for a repurposed Security Droid, but it’s a nice touch all the same.

She slides the personality core home, and hits the power.

For a moment, she thinks she’s made a mistake. There’s a fluttering hum inside the torso of the Zed unit, like a fan belt is running against itself. The single eye flickers, goes dead, flickers, comes alive, but there’s no motion, no sound. Jyn sits back on her heels.

“K,” she says. “K-2SO, are you there?”

Metal shrieks along the floor, and then she’s caught. Fingers—heavy fingers, thick, durasteel fingers, layered over with softer metals—dig deep into her throat. She can’t breathe.

“Where is Cassian?” says K-2. And it is K-2. The voice is the same, the pitch, the modulations. “Why are we still on Yavin IV?”

The door doesn’t budge. She can’t breathe. She can’t breathe.

“Jyn Erso,” says K-2, and Jyn scrabbles at the hand at her neck. “Why have you brought me here?”

She rasps. There are spots bright at the edge of her vision.

“Oh,” says K-2, and then he’s let go. Jyn hits the stone floor with a crack, gagging. There’s a high, faint whining in her ears that might be death. “Well.”

Jyn rubs at her throat, and tries not to puke.

“It seems,” says K-2, sounding somewhat put out, “that there is a subroutine in the programming of this unit which renders me unable to do lethal harm to sentient life forms.”

“Brilliant,” says Jyn. She’s going to bruise.

“No,” says K-2. “This is distressing. The firewalls surrounding the subroutine are more complicated than anticipated. It cannot be internally rewritten.”

“We’ll work on it,” says Jyn, and drags herself up off the floor. “You remember me?”

“To say I remember you is incorrect,” says K-2. “This back-up drive retains intelligence on you.” The eye flickers dark, and then light again. “I do not trust you, Jyn Erso.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

He buzzes.

“Fine,” says Jyn. “What is the last thing you’ve retained intelligence on?”

K-2 is quiet for a while. Then, as if she’s pulling it out of him with pliers: “The return from Eadu.”

Better than a whack with a pointed stick, thinks Jyn, and heaves the droid up off the floor. It nearly pops her shoulders back out of joint. "How's your mobility?"

“I could incapacitate you,” says K-2. “I believe this is allowed within the structure of this unit’s programming. It is surprisingly difficult to ascertain my newfound behavioral boundaries.”

“If you incapacitate me,” says Jyn, “I can’t get you to Cassian.”

“Invalid.” K-2 flexes his new hands, in and out. “There is a ninety-four percent likelihood that I would be able to locate Cassian alone.”

“Not as fast.”

“Jyn Erso,” K says, and she stops. “Why have you placed one of my back-up drives into a malfunctioning 501-Z unit?”

“Only working droid I could find.”

There’s a soft, humming buzz from his innards. “Incorrect. This unit is barely standing. It has suffered blaster damage to the right anterior side of the internal skeleton. It will need extensive repair.”

“Better than nothing.” She checks the blaster at the small of her back. "You're welcome."

“Which implies that my original unit has suffered worse damage.”

“You could say that,” says Jyn. “Look, Cassian’s in sickbay, he said—” She rubs a hand over her mouth. “He said to tell you that the Mon Cala protocol was in effect.”

K-2 says, “I see,” and then falls silent. He stands up straighter, and that move is exactly the K-2 she remembers, even in the new body. “I am still struggling to find a loophole in the subroutine which disallows the use of lethal force. It may become necessary to kill you sooner rather than later.”

“Keep struggling,” says Jyn. “We have other things to do.”

“I already know I will not enjoy these things in the slightest,” says K-2, “so what’s the point?”

“Glad to have you back, K,” she says. “Remind me to find you a blaster.”

“Unwise,” says K, but he follows her anyway.

Chapter Text

Draven appears more than midway through the second bacta cycle, odd and indistinct through the bubbles and the murk. The head of Rebel Intelligence, Cassian thinks, should not be nearly so predictable. Perhaps he’s been doing this too long to be surprised anymore.

Well. Almost too long.

At least Draven doesn’t speak to Baze. He doesn’t acknowledge Baze at all, which is probably for the best. Cassian doesn’t know Baze Malbus well, in spite of everything, in spite of the raw wounds and broken bones they’ve had to bare to each other, crammed into a shuttle with every other raw and broken fighter in what can only be called a team, but he has a feeling that Baze wouldn’t take kindly to Draven, and he knows for a fact that Draven has not taken kindly to Baze. Or to Chirrut Îmwe, in bacta for the third day and showing no signs of recovery. The bacta can be repurposed, funneled into makeshift patches and reused, but Chirrut isn’t a general or a commander or even a Rebel. For all that Chirrut’s done more for the Alliance than half the fleet, Draven won’t be happy that so much bacta has been used for the sake of his recovery.

The timer goes off. Cassian sweeps his arms through the bubbles—bacta clings, like oil, like coolant—and pushes off from the base of the tank.

The new pins in his collarbone have held. So have the pins in his back, and this time when he stands, he can keep his own feet, for all that it sends his vision into spirals of black and white. There’s a new scar on his side, scoring from the blaster bolt, in one side and out the other. “Organ function restored to ninety-three percent,” says T12, buzzing around his feet.

“The rest?”

“You may experience some flexibility in your clavicle until the newly grown bone has solidified properly, Captain Andor. Estimate twenty-four to forty-eight hours for proper settlement. Caution is advised.”

“And—” His tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth. “And my back?”

“Spinal damage seventy-two percent repaired,” says T12, amiably. “Caution is advised.”

There’s a ‘fresher head just beside the bacta tank, already running. Water drums down between his shoulder blades, scuffing the last of bacta off, and then the tank snaps closed. Cassian spits, and takes the towel the supervisory droid offers him, tries to scrub the mixed-up water and bacta out of his hair. Draven waits until his ears are clear of the stuff before he says, “Captain. A word?”

Someone’s delivered his own clothes. He touches the top of the shirt. “Who brought these?”

T12 rolls back and forth, but it’s Baze that says, “Jyn,” and knock the back of his head to Chirrut’s tank.

“When?”

“Few hours ago. You were asleep.” Baze peers at him through half-lidded eyes. “You still look like shit.”

Cassian considers that, as he unfolds the long sleeves. No note flutters out of the fabric, but he hadn’t expected one. They’d talked about 1600 hours; 1600 hours is still his deadline. Hopefully Bodhi’s found a ship that we can boost in that timeframe. He scuffs his hair with the last dry edge of the towel, pulls the shirt over his head. “So do you.”  

Baze scoffs something that might be a laugh, and turns his face away from both of them. There’s a crimson mark on his throat from a blaster bolt, scoring just deep enough to be dangerous, not deep enough to need bacta. “Right.”

“It’s good to see you on your feet,” says Draven, as Cassian finds the trousers and pulls those on, too. There are even boots, and thick socks. Too thick for Yavin IV, but space travel leaves everyone cold. He rolls them on. “Some of us thought that you might not come back.”

There’s one of his blasters, tucked into the boot. The one with the silencer, the one he’d used to kill Tivik. He’d left it behind before Scarif, seeing no point in subtlety. No holster, but having a gun is better than not having any at all. Cassian debates, and then finds a place for it at the small of his back, thumbing the safety on. “Thank you, sir.”

Baze scoffs again, and mutters under his breath.

“Do you mind?” Draven snaps. Baze opens his eyes, lazily, and sniffs.

“Nah.” He stretches his legs out, crosses his boots at the ankle. “Not at all.”

General Draven chuffs between his teeth, and tips his head towards sickbay. Cassian collects his boots, and follows after him in bare feet, because that’s what’s expected. The guards are still at the door when they emerge from the closed passage, and Cassian—I shouldn’t still be this weak after three bacta treatments, not this dizzy, how badly was I hurt, I can’t remember—settles on the nearest empty cot to pull on his boots.

“I would advise you,” says Draven, low and fierce, “not to be so damn reckless, Captain Andor.”

“Recklessness isn’t exactly my forte, sir,” says Cassian, and pretends not to notice the way the muscles in his arms are aching from the strain of pulling on his boot. “Aside from select circumstances.”

“Is that what you call all this?” Draven folds his hands behind his back. “Select circumstances?”

“Is there something else you could call it, sir?” There’s something sizzling at the base of his tongue. Cassian ties the laces of one boot, moves to the other. His back hurts. “I can’t think of anything. After all, we’re fighting a war, it’s not like I can sit in sickbay the whole time.”

“You know very well what I’m talking about,” says Draven. “Dereliction of duty is the generous option. The more frank one is mutiny.”

Boots done. It hurts more than he wants to say to get to his feet alone, but he does it, and he stands straight when he does stand, hands behind his back to match Draven. Water dribbles warm as spit down the back of his neck, soaks into the collar of his shirt. Yavin IV is already driving into him, soupy and sticky, a weight to the air like bacta. “Funny,” says Cassian. “I thought this was a rebellion. Sir.” 

Draven hisses through his teeth. “Do you have any idea the strings I had to pull to keep you and your team from being stripped of your rank and status?”

“Not as much as you’d had to have gone to if we’d failed.”

“Far more effort than you were owed,” says Draven, “considering your failure on Eadu.”

He would have flinched, before. Before Jedha, and Eadu, and Scarif. He’d have flinched at that. Now he just watches Draven, level and quiet. Words burn at the back of his throat. I didn’t fail. I chose not to. I chose not to pull the trigger. I can’t stomach it anymore.

“You know what’s at stake here, Andor. Whether the plans are retrieved or no has little effect on the state of the Empire now. Even if Erso’s intelligence is accurate—”

The sizzling thing turns sharp and cold and deadly in an instant, before he realizes that Draven means Galen Erso, and not Jyn. Even after, it’s a knotty icicle going down his throat, holding his tongue. “It is, sir. All of it.”

“Accuracy doesn’t mean a damn thing,” says Draven, “and you know it. Perception is key. The senators in this alliance want a solution that’s clean and neat and tidy, and that’s not going to work. That’s never going to work.”

“Mothma doesn’t.”

“Mothma will fight for a political solution until she has no other option,” says Draven, and waves it off. “We’ve known from the beginning that this is a war, Cassian. They’re only just coming around to the possibility. None of them have realized that war is all it’s been for the past eighteen years.” 

Cassian tests his weight on the balls of his feet. His boots hold. More importantly, his knees hold, though bouncing makes blood rush to his head and his mouth go tacky and grey. “I don’t see what this has to do with me, sir.”

“We are regarding Base One as compromised,” Draven says, and Cassian snaps his head up to look at him. “The entirety of Alliance Command gathering in one place was a necessary risk, but one that has left us with greater vulnerability than ever before. After Scarif the Empire will come for us, and their first target will be Alliance headquarters.”

“If they know where we are.”

“If they don’t already, they soon will.” At the door, the guards shift. They’re trying to eavesdrop. Draven keeps his voice soft, speaking just to Cassian, only to Cassian. “Even if none of the senators and their lackeys turn tail for the Empire, the princess has been captured. Brave as she might be, she was never trained for interrogation. Torture will break her.”

His eyes drift. T12, fussing with blankets. The guards, still trying to listen. The door to the bacta tanks. In the back, the Bothan doctor, whose name he’s never learned. Cassian flexes his hands in and out, and steadies himself on the balls of his feet.

“What would you have me do?” he says, just as softly.

“Searching for the Death Star plans is a dead end,” says Draven, and Cassian stills. “They may hold the answers we wish for, or they may not. Either way, we have far greater concerns.”

“Sir—” There’s a curious numbness spreading through him, from his throat to his chest to his hands. “Sir, that thing is a planet killer.

“Planet killer or no, the Alliance is shredding itself in front of our eyes,” says Draven. “Even the possibility of a weapon like the Death Star is too much for them. Politicians have their foibles.”

The chrono on the wall reads 15:37. By now, if K has cooperated, Jyn will have the materials they need. One of his stashes, behind a locked door in the storage units. Weapons. IDs that’ll have to be amended. With luck, Bodhi will have found them a ship. Twenty minutes. Landing Pad 5. He could get there in seven if he walked fast, but his legs are shaking underneath him from the strain of holding himself upright, and he has to lock his knees to keep Draven from noticing.

“The survival of the Alliance is paramount,” says Draven. His gaze burns. “We will not become another Saw Gerrera, striking at shadows. If the politicians have their way, we will scatter and never reform, and we will never stand a chance against the Empire. I will not lose this war through the cowardice of the politically minded. The Alliance must be protected, and when that is done, then we can find another way to take down the Death Star.”

“We won’t stand a chance if that thing strikes,” says Cassian. “You haven’t seen what it can do, it—it destroyed Jedha City, it destroyed the base at Scarif—”

“And others are searching already.” Draven reaches out, grips Cassian’s elbow. “If the plans can be found, they’ll find them. There are other things that must be done. Whether we go underground or not, there’s more to the fight than chasing after a pipe dream.”

Cassian shakes his head.

“The plans are lost, Captain,” says Draven. “Be realistic. Chasing after them now is a waste of resources. I need every man I can spare to keep the Rebellion going.”

Cassian stares at his hands. How many men, he thinks, how many men and women have I killed with these hands to keep the Rebellion going? Draven’s still talking, but it fades in and out, bad signals and blurry images. How many times can I do it before it swallows me whole?

One less than he could have. One less weight on his shoulders. One more name tattooed under his skin nonetheless.

I set my rifle aside. I will not go back.

“—understand the consequences,” says Draven, and Cassian snaps back into reality. “More than ever we need those who are willing to do what needs to be done, for the sake of the Alliance, Cassian—”

“Find someone else,” says Cassian. He rolls his sore shoulder, ignores the pinch of his newly healed collarbone. Draven’s fingers claw at him, catch at his sleeve. He might be imagining it, but then again, he might not be. “Sir.”

Draven’s mouth goes pinched, sour. His whole face shifts into something unknown, unexplored. Cassian doesn’t look away. “Cassian—”

Find someone else,” says Cassian. “I’m done with it. I won’t go back. I won’t do it anymore.”

“The work isn’t done.” Draven bares his teeth, and for a second there’s a flickering, a memory, an Imperial all dressed in white at the top of the tower, Krennic, that’s Krennic, and a blaster discharging in his hand— “You’re not finished. If you turn your back on the Rebellion now—”

“I would never turn my back on the Rebellion,” says Cassian, and suddenly he’s snarling, staring, waiting. Draven snaps his mask back on. “Take down the Death Star, ensure the Rebellion’s survival. Running and hiding won’t work anymore, not with that thing out there hunting.”

“You don’t understand—”

“No, you don’t understand. I’m done.” The dramatic thing would be to hand over his blaster, but he’s not stupid enough to put a weapon in the hands of a man who might now be an enemy. “Get out of my way, sir.”

“Captain—” It’s T12, rushing forward, buzzing. “Captain, you have not been cleared for discharge from sickbay, you must—”

“I’m discharging myself,” says Cassian. He steps around the droid, and debates about shooting the thing. No. We’ll need it. Repairs will take too long, and there’ll be more dying men in this sickbay than they know what to do with if the Death Star remains operational. “I can walk, I’m fit for duty.”

“You are not,” says the Bothan doctor, fur bristling out, but Draven raises a hand, and she falls silent. The guards at the door shift. Blaster, on the hip, and the woman from Corellia has a vibroblade up her sleeve. Draven has blades, too, at the small of his back, and if he wanted, he could take Draven as a hostage, but Draven’s at full strength and his arms are still weak from the damage and he’d never be able to come back. This is my life, this place, these people, this cause, all I’ve given has been for this, I can’t turn my back on it, I won’t give up on them—

There’s a soft, soft footstep. Out of the corner of his eye, Cassian catches a flicker of red, of long hair. Baze, Chirrut’s staff in one hand. He turns it, carefully, and lifts his chin.   

“I have to go,” says Cassian, still in the odd, quiet voice. “Let me pass.”

“Whatever you’re looking for,” says General Draven, hand still lifted, a mockery of a salute, “you won’t find it out there, Captain.”

Something fractures at the back of his throat. “Move aside, General.”

“Guards, take—”

Cassian hears it, more than sees it. Baze whips the staff around, and the unweighted end takes General Draven in the back of the head. His eyes flutter, and he crumples. The guards—sloppy, Cassian thinks, slow—still have their backs turned, and it’s enough time for Baze to fire stunbolts, one, two, three. The Bothan doctor falls last, and T12 flutters. “Oh,” it says. “Oh, oh, Captain, sir, what—”

“It’s all right,” says Cassian, hating himself. He touches his hand to the droid’s head, to the switch at the back. “It’s all right.”

T12’s eyes flicker, and darken. Cassian bends to go through Draven’s pockets. One passcard, which he confiscates. The vibroblades, too, just in case. Baze spins Chirrut’s staff, props it against his shoulder, and when Cassian backs off, he heaves Draven onto the nearest empty bed. The guards are slightly more complicated, but only in that Cassian can’t carry all their weapons without his jacket.

All at once, it’s done. Draven in a cot, the Bothan doctor in the back, and it’s silent in sickbay again.

Cassian and Baze look at each other.

“You just attacked a member of Alliance High Command,” says Cassian, and Baze snorts.

“It’s not like I killed him.”

“Well,” says Cassian, because this is true. “You coming?”

Baze shakes his mane back out of his face. “Get moving,” he says. “You’re gonna be late.”

Cassian nods. “You might want to leave before they figure out what happened. Erase the droid’s memory, at the very least.”

“I’ll manage.”

“We’ll send word from Alderaan.” He rubs at his jaw. "There's a private comm in my quarters."

"How the hell am I supposed to find your quarters," says Baze.

"Ask someone."

"Rebels," he says, and waves a hand without looking back, disappearing back down the corridor towards the bacta tanks. Cassian looks at Draven for a moment longer, at T12, and then starts his unsteady march down towards the landing pads.

.

.

.

Cassian had been ten when Draven had noticed him first. Ten, and small, whippy and smart, already taking droids apart for the Rebellion and fitting them back together again. Reprogramming. Repurposing. Reusing. There was a look on your face, Draven told him once, when Cassian turned twenty-one and killed his fiftieth man. Like the light of a funeral pyre, caught in a glass jar. Knew you were one to watch, even back then.

His parents, his sisters, all had been four years dead by then. He can’t remember their faces anymore.

Everything you do, Mebwe had told him, closing his hands around the blaster, all of it, all these things you’re learning, it’s all for the Rebellion. It’s all so we can be free again, one day. The whole galaxy. And six months later Mebwe was dead, and Cassian had run on alone. Never been caught. Never been interrogated. Never once been noticed.

Never, never, never.

I’m not used to people sticking around when things go bad, Jyn had said, and what Cassian hadn’t told her is this:

To be honest, I’m not used to people being there at all.

.

.

.

It’s the smeared scarlet durasteel of the plating that catches his attention, and Cassian has to stop his slow shuffle across the landing platform to think: really?

They haven’t noticed him. Not Jyn, who’s standing with her fists locked up at her sides, eyeing the nearest shuttle with a carefully blank look that hides all the greed in her eyes; not Bodhi, whistling through his teeth, fretting at the cuff of his Imperial uniform; and certainly not the 501-Z standing behind them both, inspecting its hands as if it’s never had cause to understand them before. Then, very clearly even over the roar of the landing pad, K says, “My stunners are disabled.”

Jyn rolls her eyes, and turns to reply, but she stops halfway there. Her eyes get big. Then she’s surging across the landing pad, and Cassian’s not entirely sure if she’s more woman or rocket when she crashes into his side.

“Hi,” he says. “I can walk.”

“Sit,” says Jyn, fiercely, “sit there,” and she herds him onto a nearby storage container. Cassian’s not all that sure he’ll be able to get up again once he sits, but he does sit, and the Zed unit creeps forward with all the grace of a bantha. It puts its shoulders back.

“Cassian,” it says, and a knot of fury and guilt and loss winds tighter in his stomach, instead of fading away. Cassian studies the scored face, the one eye. Jyn almost seems to vibrate in place, watching the pair of them. “Bodhi says that a great deal has happened.”

“Yeah,” says Cassian, and looks at him for a while. “Welcome back, K.”

“It’s not as though this back-up went anywhere,” says K-2, sounding puzzled. “It remained taped to the underside of the table, as I left it prior to departing for Scarif. Which, I repeat, was not strategically sound. Likelihood of survival is—”

“Low,” says Cassian. He bites the inside of his cheek at the look on Jyn’s face. “Yes, we know.”

“Cassian—” K-2 stops. “You have sustained damage. I am sorry.”

“Not your fault, K,” says Cassian, and Jyn leans next to him on the storage crate. K-2’s new eye flickers a little, dark and light and dark. “I’ll explain everything once we’re away.”

“I do not see why we have to leave,” says K-2. It’s unsettling, K-2’s voice out of the body of a Zed. It makes his palms itch. “Obviously we have, despite all odds, survived Scarif. I presume the plans were recovered as necessary.”

“Later,” says Jyn, and Cassian knocks his hand into hers on the edge of the crate. It’s half an accident. She turns, blinks at him, slowly. “Bodhi’s found us a ship.”

“Or, well—” Bodhi fidgets. “A potential ship. Maybe. You’ll have to board one at a time, it’s going to be difficult to—to keep you in there without people noticing. I figured, since it’s the first time they’re letting me fly out again after—everything—” He waves his hands, as if to encompass imminent, paralyzing death, grenades, battlefields, and fallen air support in one gigantic sweep. “—that it’s better to go with more subtlety.”

“He wants to put us in crates,” says K-2. “I will not fit in a crate.”

“No,” says Bodhi, “but nobody knows who you are. You’ll just have to lie and say you’re a repurposed Zed unit.”

“That is not technically a lie,” says K-2. “I have been debating whether being placed into a new form necessitates a moniker change. This unit is 501-Z-2958. I suppose you could call me Two-Nine.”

“K,” says Cassian. “It’s temporary.”

“I am half-blind,” says K-2, petulantly, and Cassian could sing. “It is distasteful. You could have replaced that as well as the power couplings.”

“Well, sorry I couldn’t find you a whole new Security Droid on short notice,” says Jyn. “Just keep your mouth shut during the initial ascent and we’ll be fine.”

She leans into Cassian’s shoulder. He’s not quite sure she knows she’s doing it, but he’s not about to push her away.

“Baze?” she says.

“Staying,” says Cassian, “for now,” and Jyn goes glassy reflective again. “If he’s not thrown into custody, he’ll follow when he can.”

“Into—into custody?” Bodhi’s pale around the lips. “Why would he—”

“I’ll explain later.”

“There’s a lot of explaining later going on,” says K-2. “This better be a long trip.”

“If that’s settled,” says Jyn. “You’re sure that the crates will be loaded onto your shuttle, no one else’s?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” Bodhi fusses with his sleeve again, but his eyes are steady. “I’m sure. K-2, you stay with me. Help load. Cass—Captain. You’ll want to follow Jyn. She knows where to go.”

“Right.”

“I’m,” says Bodhi, and then he points at the cluster of shuttle pilots at the head of the landing pad. He’s gone without a backward glance. He’s standing straight, and his shoulders aren’t clipping his ears, and he’s almost bouncing as he walks, as if he’s finally grown into himself. K-2 rocks back and forth, the droid equivalent of heaving a sigh.

“I have a bad feeling about all of this,” he says.

“Unhelpful,” says Jyn. She shifts off the crate. “I’m going to go check that everything else is ready. You’ll stay here until I come back?”

She means just on the crate, but Cassian says, “Yes,” as if she’s asked something entirely different. Jyn meets his eyes, and then looks away again, biting her lip. She touches her fingers to the back of his wrist, very light. K-2’s eye shutters again, and she draws back, steps away.

“Right,” says Jyn, and then she’s vanished into the crowd. Gone, but not. Cassian lets some of the iron seep out of his spine—72%, Andor, be careful, be careful—and leans forward, rubbing both hands up over his face, into his hair. LP-5 is buzzing with people, pilots, techs, assistants, soldiers. It’s a miracle no one’s reported them clustering in the corner like naughty children, like spies.

His lips curl at that one.

“Cassian.” K-2 bends at the waist, creaking just a little. “I thought we did not trust her.”

“Things have changed.”

“Obviously,” says K-2. “Only the Mon Cala protocol is—extensive, Cassian.”

Of course the Mon Cala protocol is extensive. It means K-2 will have to listen to someone other than Cassian. In the case of death or incapacitation of the master, command of the droid reverts to secondary protocol (titled: Mon Cala). Secondary commander to be determined.

“I trust her,” says Cassian again. K-2’s eye flickers. “If I’m not there, listen to her. She's secondary. You understand?”

“Not in the least,” says K-2, and Cassian can’t help it. He claps his hand to K-2’s bulky new arm.

“I’m glad you’re back,” he says. His throat squeezes hard. “I’m sorry.”

K-2 tucks his chin in towards his new chest. “I do not see why.”

“You died,” says Cassian. “Because—because of me. You died.”

“That is nonsensical,” says K-2. “I have backups. On multiple drives.”

Cassian blinks, hard and fast. He can’t speak, for a moment. “Go and help Bodhi.”

“If I must,” says K-2, and then he lopes off after Bodhi, up into the body of the shuttle.

On the shipping container, hands curled around the edges of the hard plastic, Cassian shuts his eyes, and breathes until he steadies out again.

Chapter Text

When she dreams, she dreams of Jedha.

They’d only been there a day and a half. Part of it had been on the ship. Part of it had been wandering the city, around and around and around. Waiting for Cassian’s contact. Street food and dust and history and time. This city’s about to blow. There’s the girl in her arms, screaming, screaming; she crumbles to dust against Jyn’s chest, fragments edging into her clothes, through her skin, into her ribs. Soot and smearing bone. Jyn looks at her hands and they’re slick with rain, with ash, with blood. We came, and they burned. The girl, and her mother. The whole of the Holy City. NiJedha, gone. The Jedi would come here to craft their lightsabers. Saw. The temple collapsing into rubble. Have you come to kill me? There’s a flash of fire and smoke and her father’s lying dead on the ground. My stardust. Her mother, stretched out in the reeds. Trust in the Force. A star burns too hot in her chest. Bodhi. Chirrut. Baze. K-2. Dead. Gone. Dead. Dead. The desert merges with canyons, with oceans, with the darkness of her hidey-hole, the clang of the hatch door closing. The pain of that loss is so overwhelming I risk failing even now. Galen, crumpled, soaked, lost. Krennic, the ghost of her nightmares. Who are you?

I am Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen and Lyra—

The blaster goes off, and she’s falling, falling, and the Rebels are falling with her. Sefla, brevetting her on the battlefield; Melshi from Wobani, Tonc, Pao, all of them, screaming, bleeding white as death, bleeding green as the Death Star’s light, bleeding flame, and she can feel it crackling away underneath her skin—

Baze, Chirrut, Bodhi, K-2—

You lost them, her father says, and he exhales fire, green fire, kyber crystals roosting at the back of his throat, you lost our only hope—

Cassian, falling—

“Jyn!”

She wakes, and can’t breathe. For a second, she can’t tell where she is. Blankets tangling her boots. Storage crates, empty now. When she shoots up off the floor, a heavy blue coat pools in her lap. It smells of smoke, Jedha, carbon scoring, something like the spices she’d caught in the Rebel base, warm and yellow like sunlight. Ship. Hyperspace. Bodhi. Rebels. Cassian’s on his knees beside her, and he looks wan, edged in ink around the mouth. There are marks on his cheek like the grating of the nearest bench. “Jyn,” he says again, and cups both hands to the back of her neck, turning until she looks at him, until she reaches out and touches him, cheek, chin, chest. Heartbeat. His fingers are warm on her clammy skin. She’s panting, and she can’t stop. “Jyn, you’re all right. It’s all right.”

She gags on spit and snot, heaves another breath. K-2 and Bodhi are nowhere in sight. Bridge. Piloting. Right. “It’s all right,” Cassian says again, and she twists her hands into his shirt, drags in air. Control. Get it under control. “We’re safe out here for now.”

Jyn shakes her head, and rests her head to his good shoulder. Risky, trusting a murderer, but it’s Cassian. He smells familiar. Like bacta, maybe. Like the softness of a shirt dried in jungle sunlight. When he rests a hand to her it’s at the back of her head, thumb over her hair, half-fallen out of the knot.

“You’re all right,” he says again, low, and puts his mouth to her scalp. “You’re all right.”

She’s not, but when he says it like that, steady and soft like that, she half-believes it. Jyn shuts her eyes tight, and finds his hand, and Cassian threads their fingers together. Something thunders in her guts that might be terror, or grief, or hope. Or all three.

They’d cleared Yavin IV with less trouble than she’d expected, and it makes her twitchy. Things don’t go easy. Things never go easy. Things have never been easy. I was born in prison, and it’s followed me all my life. Sitting in a cramped storage container that smelled of rotting fruit for an hour while the shuttle manifests were mixed up and confused and K-2 clomped around muttering under his breath about probability of the whole lot of them being caught hadn’t exactly been easy, but it’s still much easier than anything else that’s happened so far. The worst had been breaking with their Rebel escort, her and Cassian crammed into the shuttle’s solitary escape pod while the containers were shifted from one ship to another, one planet to another. Praying K-2 would keep out of the way, keep his mouth shut. Crossing her fingers that no one would notice their change in coordinates. Cassian had shut his eyes at the clang of the hatch, and Jyn had found his shoulder and dug in with her nails, and they’d sat together in the dark until Bodhi made the jump to hyperspace. Simple, she thinks. Too simple.

Jedha. Eadu. Scarif.

“Was it your father?”

She thinks that if he’d asked that before Eadu, she’d have broken his nose. Now she just looks at him for a long time, wondering if he knows how much he’s asking, to explain what’s in her head. Judging from the look on his face, he knows very well. “My father,” says Jyn. “And—and Jedha. Scarif. Saw.”

Cassian passes a hand through her hair, and says nothing.

“Why are we alive?” she says. It’s such a stupid question. She doesn’t ask questions like that. Sometimes there’s no meaning in a death, or in a life. You simply exist until you don’t. But this—Cassian shifts, mouth and chin brushing her hair again—there has to be meaning for this. There has to be a reason why she, of everyone in this fight, is still alive, and others are not. Why she is alive, and Saw is not. Why she is alive, and her father is not. Why she is alive, and Selfa, and Melshi, and Pao are not. Why she is alive, and the little girl from Jedha is not. “Why are we alive?”

Jyn waits for another lie, but all he says is, “I don’t know,” and that’s better. When she lifts her head, Cassian draws the backs of his fingers down her cheek. “Maybe there’s still something left for us to do.”

She considers that, weighing all the angles, hunting out flaws in a gemstone. It smells like the same kind of platitude she’s hated all her life, ever since her mother sent her away and died in the mud. But he’s right, in a way. The plans are still out there. That’s her goal. That’s her purpose. She’s too sharp and cold for anything else.

Her kyber crystal is lying against the top of her shirt, burning warm between them. She could hide it away again, but that would mean letting go of him.

“They died for the Rebellion,” says Cassian. “For the cause they believed in. They gave all they could. It was what they wanted to do. If the Rebellion was destroyed, everything—everything they’d done would have been for nothing.”

Everything I’ve done would have been for nothing.

I can’t be your absolution, she wants to say. I can’t be the one who grants you forgiveness for what you’ve done, Cassian. Just like he can’t forgive her for what she’s had to do, for what she did when she ran with Saw. She’s not sure anybody can. Don’t make me your redemption.

“They chose and they died knowing we’d get through,” he says. “It was their choice.” 

We nearly did too. She swallows it back, tips and knocks her head to his again. We nearly died and when I saw you on the top of that tower you were the most beautiful thing in the universe. You came back for me. No one’s ever come back for me. I don’t know what to do with that. We’re alive and they’re dead and you came back for me and I don’t know what to do with any of it.

“What?” says Cassian, and she shakes her head again, for very different reasons. Jyn wipes her damp eyes with the cuff of her sleeve.

“Nothing.”

She thinks he might want to say something. There are words on his lips she can’t make out. Then there’s a clang of the ladder, and Cassian leans back. Slowly, questioning, but he leans back, still close enough that his hand is on hers, that their knees touch, but far enough away that she can’t feel him breathing any longer. Jyn clears her throat, turning her face away from Bodhi when he pokes his head in. “Forty-one minutes to Onderon. We’ll be docking in Sector D-17, if we get permission, and then we can go and find your—” He stops. “Your friend, Jyn.”  

“Thank you,” says Cassian. He doesn’t look away from her. There’s a scorch to it that leaves her airless, that leaves a supernova bursting through her chest, breaking it apart.

“K-2 says he wants a blaster,” says Bodhi. “I told him I didn’t know where you left them. He’s asking.”

“He doesn’t need a blaster,” says Cassian, and he shifts back on his heels, stands. His fingers slip through hers, until he’s out of reach. “That’s a Zed he’s running around in. He’s a walking shield.”

“A shield with a hole in it,” says K-2 very loudly from the top of the ladder. “All stunners in this unit have been disabled.”

“So defend yourself,” says Cassian. “I’m not giving you a blaster.”

Bodhi peeks at Jyn, and then vanishes back into the cockpit. The jacket in her lap is heavier than it looks; it weighs on her legs like a living thing, or nearly, and when she touches two fingers to one of the pockets, she can feel the outline of a vibroblade. Jyn looks up—Cassian’s not paying attention—and confiscates the blade. She has her baton, and a blaster to replace the one she’d lost on Scarif, but a knife helps. It steadies her out. She breathes, with a knife in her hand. It’s only once it’s tucked up her sleeve, into the pocket she’s sewn there just for that reason, that she folds the coat over her knees again, and presses her back to the cold, sharp metal of the ship.

Cassian comes back after what could be a minute, or an hour. He drops down next to her on the blankets, close but not touching, and holds out a hand. “Ration bar,” he says, and she looks at the bar, and then at him, before taking it. Jyn doesn’t open the packet. She looks at it, at the silver foil—no maker’s mark, no logo, nothing—before finding Cassian’s gaze, and holding it. He shouldn’t be on his feet. She can see it when he sits, the exhaustion, the pain etching in deep around his mouth. He should be in bacta, not out here with her.

She wants to cram into the same space and not come out of it again. She wants to wrap around him and not let go. She wants, quite desperately, to hold him the way she had on Scarif. It clings, the wanting, leaves an ache in her like a chest cold.

“You sure you want to do this,” he says, and she snaps out of it.

“We need a clean ship,” says Jyn. “If the Rebellion catches up with us then we’ll never find the plans. Magva will get us one. If she’s there.”

“If?”

“Saw had a protocol,” she says, and swallows before her throat can close up. “If he died, the Partisans were to retreat to Onderon and regroup. Elect a new leader. Continue the work. Most of them will have scattered, but Magva is—loyal. If she survived Jedha, she’ll have followed orders.” Jyn finds her blaster, and holds it for a moment. “If she’ll see me, that is. I hadn’t seen her since I was sixteen, before Jedha.” 

“Why Onderon?”

“Saw was born there,” says Jyn. “His sister died there. The Partisans started there. I spent the first four years I lived with Saw on Onderon. We had to leave once the Imperials figured out who was leading the Partisans, but people remember.”

“And if she didn’t survive?”

“Then we get a new ship some other way.”

“Great,” says Cassian under his breath. “This should be fun.”

She weighs the pros and cons for a minute or two before shifting to rest her head on his shoulder, keeping her eyes open. Cassian sighs, tight through his nose, and then puts his cheek to her hair, jaw tickling at her scalp. Jyn doesn’t fall asleep again—she can’t—but she rests, and eventually she takes her hand off her blaster.

.

.

.

The plan is simple, so far as plans go. Get to Onderon. It’s not Alderaan, not by any means, and it’s Imperially dominated, which means they have to be careful who sees their faces, but on Onderon they can find a clean ship, ping the Alliance that they’ve left behind the shuttle here. (“We’re not stealing it,” says Bodhi, aghast. “We’re borrowing it.” 

K-2 mutters something that sounds like what kind of rebel are you, and hits a switch on the dash.)

Leave the shuttle behind—with its memory scrubbed and the data banks wiped, just in case the Imperials come sniffing, but leave it behind nonetheless—and pick up a new ship, a clean ship that the Rebellion can’t track. Pick up information, too, if they can, since if anyone in the galaxy knows anything about the missing plans outside of Alliance Command, it’ll be Saw’s men and their moles in the Imperial machine. Start backtracing the princess’s ship from Alderaan. There are only a few ways the pilot would have calculated a hyperspace jump from Scarif to the Core, and all of them mean darting around the Outer Rim. Start at Alderaan, send a message to Baze so he can come meet them if he can, then work their way back, find the plans, deliver them to Alliance Command, and then—

She doesn’t know what to do with the and then, so she shoves it aside for later inspection.

It’s not overly complicated. It’s just plagued with ifs. If Magva agrees to meet with them. If they get a new ship. She’s not above stealing one if it comes down to it, but that draws attention she’d rather not have. If none of them collapse before it’s done. If the Imperials don’t recognize them. If Magva has intel, and if she agrees to pass it on, and if they manage to land on Onderon at all, which is another question entirely.

“Shuttle RM-09183, this is Sector D-17, please state your destination and cargo.”

“D-17, Shuttle RM-09183, hauling no cargo, only passengers. Stopping off for refuel and supplies en route to Coruscant. Requesting docking platform.” Bodhi pauses. “Please.”

Please,” says K-2, deeply disgusted. “Who says please.

“Repeat, Shuttle RM-09183.”

“Nothing,” says Bodhi. “Confirmation requested, D-17.”

Cassian, fiddling with the last of the scan-docs, lifts his head, and watches the top of the ladder.

“Confirmed, RM-09183,” says the voice on the comm. “Proceed to bay 12-B, dock 89. Present scan-docs and ship registration upon entry. Welcome to Onderon.”

“Acknowledged, D-17.”

“Well, that was unexpected,” says K-2. “I feel obliged to point out that the likelihood we have been discovered to be Alliance is currently at sixty-four point seven percent.”

“Thanks, K,” says Bodhi absently, and then raises his voice, as if this shuttle isn’t already too small, as if they can’t all hear each other, crashing and coming together again. “We’re docking. Let’s see if they fry us like malta weed.”

“Now you sound like a proper Rebel,” says K-2. “Well done.”

“Thank you.”

“Jyn,” says Cassian, and offers her one of the docs. It’s marked with the name Riella Sput. He hands her Bodhi’s, too—Bodhi, who is now Lanner Fe—and slips his own—Bendren Gloss—into one of his jacket’s many pockets. “Just in case.”

“Who’s Riella Sput?” says Jyn, and he shrugs.

“Riella was the name of the first ship I had,” he says. “Sput was a Mandalorian who taught me how to use a knife.”

“Where is he now?”

“Dead,” says Cassian, and slots a power core into his blaster. “And the Riella went down on Jakku.”

She’s never visited Jakku. All she’s ever heard about it is that it’s a horrible, barren old place. Full of sand and waste. A place for scum, Saw had said. No hope at all. “How did you get off Jakku?”

“Bartered,” says Cassian. He checks his gun one last time. “The Alliance will have realized we’re not back by now. We’ll need to move quickly before they catch up.”

Jyn resettles her gun in the holster she’d scrounged from Cassian’s stash, and checks to make sure that her baton is within easy reach against her leg. When she passes him, she comes just close enough to rest a hand to the back of his bad shoulder. Cassian looks up at her through his bangs, and says nothing. His mouth turns down.

“It’ll work.”

None of the tension leaks out of him, not really. He can see the doubt in her, too, and doubt’s never good for reassurance. His eyes, though. Something around his eyes gets softer. “If you say so.”.

Jyn squeezes once, gently, and then lets go.

Onderon is a jungle planet, hot and filthy and sticky on the back of her neck. Like Yavin IV, it shrieks with life. Unlike Yavin IV, Onderon has been (consistently) settled for centuries, and much of the encroaching foliage has been cut back to allow for further expansion. Jyn pushes her hair back out of her eyes. Jyn Erso wears her hair up. Riella Sput wears it down, and suffers it falling into her line of sight, because Riella Sput doesn’t need to worry about checking for snipers before walking down the main street. When Bodhi clatters down to meet them on the ground, newly dressed in clothes of Cassian’s that are just a few centimeters too small—the arms don’t fit quite right, nor do the legs—she claps his new identity into his hand.

“Hello, Lanner Fe,” she says, and Bodhi blinks rapidly before nodding.

“Hello.”

“There is still a thirty-four percent chance that we will be caught and executed for treason,” says K-2, and traipses after Cassian down the gangplank. He seems to be hovering just in case Cassian falls, and when he turns his head to Jyn, Jyn nods once. K-2 may not like her, but she can at least depend on the fact that K-2 will keep Cassian from killing himself before the day is out. “Just for everyone’s reference.”

“Maybe don’t talk until the Imperials are gone,” says Cassian, and takes a spot at her shoulder. “Lanner, you take K-2 with you, you’ll need him to carry the supplies once we link you coordinates to the new ship.”

“Yeah,” says Bodhi. He straightens up. “Yes. All right.”

“Why must I carry supplies?” says K-2. “We are changing ships.”

“We’ll need supplies either way,” says Jyn, and wonders when her life came to this, managing an irascible droid while Imperial customs officials stroll towards them, gossiping. One of them has her hair down, and far beyond Imperial code length. They’ve turned lazy since we left, she thinks, and the ten year old who’d fought for Saw Gerrera sneers inside her. Lazy and stupid in the thirteen years the Partisans haven’t been around to bite their tails. “And it’s easier than explaining why we’re carrying a police droid around.”

“It’s not like I chose to look this way,” says K-2 plaintively, and they all hush him at once.

Cassian stays back. So does K-2, thankfully. It’s Bodhi and Jyn who come forward, who chat with the customs officials—“ran out of fuel on our way to Coruscant,” says Bodhi, and when he goes to offer more information she bumps into him, ever so slightly—and it’s Bodhi and Jyn who wave them off ten minutes later, after they’ve gone through the ship, checked the obvious compartments for illegal materials, and tested the air inside the shuttle for hints of spice. Neither of them say anything about Scarif; neither of them give her or Bodhi more than half a glance. The one question outside of routine is a vague inquiry about K-2, which is easy enough to explain away with junk shops and cheap repairs. Too easy, Saw says in her head, too easy, Jyn, there’s something wrong here, but then they leave, and a final once-over of the Alliance shuttle shows no evidence of trackers, no trace of anything left behind.  

“I’ll send a message to base, let them know where the shuttle’s disappeared to,” Bodhi says, once they’re out of earshot, and vanishes back up the gangplank into the belly of the shuttle. Jyn resettles her scarf over her head, tucks her hair beneath it.

“With any luck, the Imperials think we’re dead,” says Cassian. He winces when he stands up straighter, and K-2 hovers, fretting, nudging at Cassian’s elbows with the very tips of his fingers. “We’ll still need to keep our heads down.”

“Right,” says Jyn. “You ever been to Onderon?”

Cassian shakes his head.

“Guess you’ll have to be the one following me, this time.” She checks to make sure her kyber crystal is tucked away, out of sight, and then she hooks her arm through his. “It’s not far.” If they haven’t moved. If they haven’t found a new meeting point. If. There are too many ifs. But it’s the only plan they have.

He hisses through his teeth when he takes a step, shuts his eyes. At least he’s not doing her the discourtesy of trying to lie, Jyn thinks, in a part of her that isn’t suddenly struck numb with fear. At least he’s being honest, now. “Far is relative, at the moment.”

“That’s encouraging,” she says, and lifts her chin. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

My name is Lanner Fe, and I’m looking for supplies.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep track, of who he is and who he isn’t. He’s doing much better, he thinks, much, much better than he could be—his mind isn’t entirely in pieces anymore, and he can tell who and what, where and when much better than he could after Bor Gullet—but having a new name is confusing. Having a new identity is confusing. He has to wrestle to keep things straight for the first half an hour or so, and it takes almost all of his attention, sorting reality from lie and truth from fiction.

K-2 doesn’t say much of anything. He lurks. He helps carry the solitary shipping container that they’ve only half-filled with materials—a few guns, a few things of ammunition, the duffel that Jyn had brought with her from Cassian’s hiding place, her tails gone, her lips thin and her eyes set—and then he sets it down on the dock and he stands by it, hovering, streaked red and grey, while Bodhi retreats back inside to wipe the ship’s memory and its comm station. The red Zed paint is peeling off him in places, leaving the durasteel to shine through, and the effect is like bloodstained walls. It makes Bodhi’s guts clench up.

“Could you maybe not stand there?” he says, and closes up the ship. They’ve left nothing behind. “It looks like you’re arresting me.”

“Likelihood of your arrest is currently resting at about—”

“Don’t,” says Bodhi. He peels off the gloves, and scratches absently at one of the scabs on the back of his hand. “No more percentages, please.”

“Fine,” says K-2. “Not as though I was designed for that, or anything.” 

Bodhi ignores him. K-2’s babble is soothing, in a way. It helps his brain settle. If they get new paint for him, he thinks, then K-2 won’t be quite so obviously a repurposed Zed. Paint and a scrubber to get the Imperial mark off his shoulder, maybe a few other scraps to ruin the distinctive bullet-shaped head of the police units. Really, K-2 ought to be waiting in the ship, but they might need to move fast, and it hasn’t been too bad, yet.

He scrapes off a scab, and blinks when he realizes he’s bleeding.  

“What was your role on Scarif?” K-2 adjusts one of the guns inside the shipping container, as delicately as he would shift a baby bird. “Cassian does not want to talk about what happened on the planet. I believe he is uncomfortable with the idea that some form of me perished, no matter the fact that I am easily backed up onto different drives, and thus my programming is retrievable.”

“Humans don’t think like that,” Bodhi says. He finds his new scan-docs in his pocket, pats them just to make sure, and then goes back to watching the trickle of people up and down the dock. A cluster of Bivall step down out of their cruiser, take one look at K-2, and scoot as fast as they can to the other end of the docking bay. “I don’t know exactly what happened, but—but they left with you, and they didn’t have you when I picked them up. I figured something, y’know. Something happened. And humans can’t back up like droids can. It might—might take him a while.”

K-2 shifts the gun again, to no purpose that Bodhi can make out.

“Scarif was only a few days ago,” says Bodhi. “It’s—it’ll take him a while.”

“I don’t understand.”

“We all nearly died.” He rubs at the scabs again, at the raw scars. “I think—I think Chirrut would say it was only thanks to the Force we survived. If he were here.”

“Did the Guardian die?” says K-2, flatly.

“Not yet. He’s still in bacta, like Jyn said.”

“I do not trust Jyn Erso,” says K-2. “I do not understand why Cassian does, now. He did not want her to come along in the first place. Now because of her he is badly injured, and he still trusts her.” If K-2 were human, Bodhi thinks, he’d be making a face. “None of it makes any sense whatsoever.”

Bodhi watches as K-2 goes back to fussing with the guns, the duffel. “I’m the pilot.”

“I am aware, Bodhi Rook.”

“No, you—you asked what I did on Scarif, that’s what I did. I’m—I was the pilot. Still the pilot.” He yanks at his sleeve. “We barely made it out.”

K-2 straightens up, puts his shoulders back. He watches Bodhi for a long time. “Then they are alive because of you,” he says. “That is unexpected.”

“They’d have made it out without me.” Bodhi shifts, twitchy all at once. He’s never been good at compliments. If that can be called a compliment. “All of them. They’re much, y’know. Better at this than I am. Me, I’m—I’m nobody. I’m just the pilot.”

“You are surprisingly complicated, Bodhi Rook,” says K-2, and fixes the blankets over the top of the guns. “And unlike Jyn Erso, you are far less likely to get us all killed or temporarily disabled. I suppose this means you are a benefit to the Alliance.”

Bodhi doesn’t quite know what to say to that, so he mumbles something unintelligible.

“There are Imperials coming this way,” says K-2, and lifts his head again. “Should I shoot them?”

“There are what?”

K points, and he’s right. At the end of the dock, Stormtroopers—six of them, he counts, though there could be more; there are always more—have started a slow march down towards No. 89, rifles on their shoulders. Identity check, Bodhi thinks, and his skin goes cold. Scan-docs in his pocket, yes, and they’ve been cleared through customs, but K-2 is scarlet and screaming police and they’re in an Alliance shuttle and what if the ‘troopers decide to investigate and find their last known jump point—

You erased the data banks. They can’t see where you came from. And if there’s an emergency he can send a message to Jyn and Cassian on the comm in his pocket, he can do that, that’s simple enough, they’ve lived through worse—

This is Admiral Raddus of—

Bodhi gropes for the edge of the shipping container, and swallows back bile. He can’t breathe.

“Bodhi.” It’s K-2. He rests a heavy hand on Bodhi’s back. “I suggest retreating into the ship.”

“No, that’ll look like running.” He wipes the back of his hand across his mouth. “Don’t—don’t say anything. No matter what I say, K.”

“Bodhi—”

“I can handle this,” says Bodhi, and takes a breath. “I can handle this.”

My name is Lanner Fe, and I’m looking for supplies.

.

.

.

I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.

He drifts, and the Force drifts with him.

I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.

It swirls, silky bright, around his tank. Chirrut blinks, slowly, and realizes in the blinking that he is awake. And alive, for he’s sure that those who have become one with the Force no longer have true eyes to blink. There is a rebreather in his mouth. Oxygen, scented with rough plastic, with old bacta, leaks over his tongue. Alive. Healing. Who knows for how long. When he stretches out, reaches as far as he can, he brushes past something familiar, glimmering with life. The jungle. Yavin IV. He, at least, has survived. The Force is bright, here, brighter than he’s sensed since the Temple in NiJedha was taken by the Imperials, and it stings at his senses like white lightning. He sweeps his hands back and forth, back and forth. He’s been stripped, mostly naked, old scars and the flickering tattoo of the NiJedha temple bare on his hip. There are new marks on his skin. Some are still sore, aching. Not blaster bolts. He can’t remember blaster bolts striking him. Something else.

I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.

The Force swirls, and it sings. Baze is absent. A thorn of ice melts in his chest when he catches hints of him, around the base of the tank, outside the door. He was here. Now gone, but he’s here, and alive. Chirrut blinks, and stretches out farther with his senses, listening. He’s no Jedi, he’s never learned how to use the Force the way the knights did, but he can at least do this—stretch, expand, sense. He lets it take him where it wills, winds up in the oddest places at the oddest times. At the Temple, before the Imperials had come, he’d sometimes wake to find himself in the garden, brushing frost off of fragile plants, or out in the street for no reason that he could determine. His Guardian before Baze had called him a sleepwalker, but it had been the Force, every time. Tiny things. Little joys. The importance of life in the desert. He stretches out now, and lets it speak.

Three sleepers beyond the far door, one of them close to consciousness. Another space. A droid, maybe. There’s a space in the Force that feels metallic. Medical droid, that’s what common sense is telling him. If he’s in a bacta tank, there’s a medical facility. And beyond the next room, hundreds of souls, spinning and colliding, bright with promise. Waiting for something. Frightened of something. Fear turns the Force sickly, taints its flow. And beneath it all, something ancient. Something dark.

Chirrut pushes at the glass of the bacta tank, and regrets it. His shoulders twinge. So does his chest. When he touches his ribs, he finds a dent, deep. A hole, or the remains of one. Jagged at one edge. Shrapnel? Maybe. He presses down, ever so lightly, and regrets that too. So that’s what being stabbed feels like. Unpleasant and cold.

The Force is with me. Chirrut flexes his fingers. The Force is with me. And he’s alive, so there must be something more, something left for him to do. Something that he’s needed for.

—as if millions of voices—

It fades, whatever it was. A dream, a nightmare. Something beyond. It fades before he can catch it. Chirrut can’t shake the feeling that it’s important. Then, or now, or sometime after now, sometime soon, but he’s no Jedi; the Force doesn’t show him visions, doesn’t give him hints. He gets scraps, at the most. Bursts of voices. The sense of a kyber crystal that burns as bright as a supernova.

I have to get out of this tank.

He floats, for a while. Bacta tanks have emergency releases, from what he can recall. It’s been a long time since he’s been in one, a long, long time since he’s been damaged enough to need bacta, but most tanks do have an emergency cord just in case the patient is left inside too long, or there’s a failure in the electrical lines that keep the system running. It eats away at him, the movement, seeking it out. Not along the edges, but the lid—there’s a handle on the lid, one that he can turn if he tries hard enough. It makes the muscles of his shoulders and chest ache and burn, makes the half-healed wound between his ribs scream. He tries once, and then stops. Again, and he stops. Air leaking in.

There’s a whisper, a murmur. Not yet. Not yet. Wait.

Wait for what? He spreads out in the Force as best he can. What is it you want me to wait for?

The Force is silent.

Chirrut settles in the bacta again, eyes closed, meditating. He waits.

.

.

.

“Where have they gone?”

Baze leans back in his chair, and watches the ceiling. It hadn’t taken long, after Andor had vanished, for the Rebels to come for him. Children, playing at games of life and death. They’d pulled a hood over his head—he doubts they’d enjoy comparisons to Saw Gerrera’s Partisans, but it had felt much the same—and pulled him from the bacta immersion chamber, down through the depths of the ziggurat. He’d heard very few people around him, even as he’d measured the turns. Three rights, one left. A lift, who knows how far down. His ears had popped with the pressure. Then another right, and the snick of a lock. Back ways, maybe. Unused parts of the ancient temple. It makes his skin crawl, the depth of this place. This was the palace of a Sith Lord, centuries ago. The murk remains, he’s sure. Baze has no talent with the Force, but the stench of Sith is hard to scrub clean, even hundreds of years later.

Where have they gone?” Draven rests both hands on the tabletop, fingers splayed. His teeth are just barely bared. Draven isn’t a man accustomed to losing his temper, Baze thinks. It scrapes away at him like a carved shell.

Baze tips his chair back onto two legs. There are carvings in the ceiling, inverted spirals. Like the Temple in NiJedha, but reversed. That’s how the world looks, Chirrut had said once. Those spirals, that’s how the Force flows through us all. Winding in instead of spiraling out. If you can follow its currents, then you can follow the future.

You follow the future, Baze had said. I’m staying here.

Chirrut had laughed, and touched his hand to Baze’s shoulder. Nonsense. You’ll come along. And Baze hadn’t had it in him to argue with Chirrut laughing.

“I won’t ask again,” says Draven, and Baze looks at him, down the length of his nose. Draven looks like a man at the edge of his rope, dangling. “Where did they go?”

“Did someone go somewhere?” says Baze, and rocks his chair forward again.

“Jyn Erso,” says Draven, through his teeth. “Cassian Andor. Bodhi Rook. Where have they gone?”

“No idea,” says Baze. “They don’t tell me anything.”

“You helped them escape. Where are they going?”

“Were they in custody?” Baze finds a bead, knotted tight into his hair by one of the other Guardians. He lets his hand drop. “I thought they were heroes of the Alliance.”

Draven doesn’t turn scarlet, the way Baze thought he might. Instead he goes dead-flesh grey, his lips pressing razor thin. “Don’t play games with me.”

“Who’s playing?” He tilts the chair again. Two cameras, upper west corner, upper east corner. Two chairs, one table. A locked door. The cameras are off. Interrogation room, maybe. If the feed has been cut, then Draven doesn’t want this recorded.

Torture, Baze considers, and then discards that. Not entirely, but for now. If it was going to be torture, there would be restraints. He’s unbound. Safe, for a while longer at least. His cannon is gone, though, as is Chirrut’s quarterstaff. Whatever they’ve done with the weapons, they’d better not be scratched.

“They’ve gone after the plans, we know that much. They’ve stolen an Alliance shuttlecraft and disobeyed direct orders, gone rogue—”

“I thought that was what they did,” says Baze.

“Guardian, you have no idea what you’ve stepped into.” Draven folds his hands behind his back. “You did the Alliance a great service on Scarif, and on Eadu. On Jedha, too, when it comes down to it. We owe you a great deal, for all of it, and we thank you for that—”

“You’re welcome,” says Baze, and drops his chair back to the ground.

“—but if Captain Andor and his companions have gone rogue again, we must know where they’re going. They are vital to the efforts of the Rebellion. They can’t keep running after lost chances and impossible hopes. They’re needed here.

Baze puts his hands behind his head, and stares up at the ceiling again.

“What Captain Andor and the others have yet to understand is that they are moving targets.” Draven blows out air. “Intercepted Imperial communications list them as dead, alive, or captured; that the attack on Scarif is a hoax, over-exaggerated, or the opening salvo of oncoming war. The more attention they draw to themselves, the more attention they draw to the Rebellion. Their recklessness is putting us all in danger, just as it did on Jedha. You’re a smart man, Malbus. I know you’ve realized that.”

Baze doesn’t turn his gaze away from the spirals.

“The Imperials have taken everything from you, haven’t they?” Draven settles in the chair opposite, rests his hands to the table again. He knits his fingers together. “Your city, your temple, your way of life. Last I heard, before the Holy City was destroyed, the Guardians had become nothing more than rabble-rousers, causing trouble for ‘troopers, botching a few shipments. Nothing more.”

“For a spy,” says Baze, “you’re not very convincing.”

“They took everything from you,” says Draven, and there’s an intensity to him like magma, ready to boil over. “NiJedha is gone. The Temple there is nothing but contaminated rubble. The Alliance can’t return what you’ve lost, but if you were to agree to join us, you would be able to take revenge on the ones who turned your home into a chunk of smoking rock.”

There are sixteen separate spirals on the ceiling, twisting into each other. There had been twenty, in the Temple at NiJedha.

“I’m offering you a choice,” says Draven. “Tell me where Jyn Erso and Captain Andor have gone, and you’ll be accepted into the Alliance. You can fight for Jedha with us at your back, the whole of the Rebellion. You’ll have justice for all the lost souls of the Holy City, for the destruction of your precious temple. If you don’t—”

“You’ll kill me,” says Baze. “I suppose.”

“Of course not,” says Draven, and he actually sounds disgusted with the idea. Baze weighs that, carefully. “But then again, nobody’s really expected you to stay, once your companion—recovers. Or dies, whichever happens first. If you were to disappear before the award ceremony Mothma is organizing, then no one would be particularly surprised.”

He stands, then. Draven’s at the door, his back turned, when Baze clears his throat. “General.”

Draven turns.

“Seems like a lot of trouble to go to,” he says. “Just to pull three rebels back into the fold.”

“They’re important,” says Draven without inflection. “They’re heroes.”

“Are they?”

“You would know. You were on Scarif.”

Baze looks at him for a while, and then says, “Hm.”

“I’ll leave you to think,” says Draven. “You have two hours, Master Malbus. When I return, I want an answer from you.”

“How’s the head, General?” Baze says, baring all his teeth.

He relishes the way the door slams, sudden and sharp as a slap.

Chapter Text

They pick up their first tail three blocks from Bay 12-B. They’re small, a scrap of an Ithorian far too young to determine the gender, dressed in rags, but they’re dedicated; they keep three stalls back, and turn whenever Cassian shifts his gaze back. When he squeezes Jyn’s arm, she lifts her chin in half a nod.

“Rooftops,” she says, and collects an indeterminable fruit from the nearest stall, squeezing to test ripeness. When he leans next to her, cuts a look up through his hair, there’s another raggedy urchin, humanoid this time. The hair’s chopped short, but if he had to hazard a guess, he’d say female. “They’ve been on us since three blocks back.”

“Pickpockets?”

“Maybe.”

She passes the fruit to him, and picks another. Cassian turns it between his fingers. Soft, and green, though it’s not something he’s seen before. There’s a curious sour-sweet smell clinging to his fingers when she takes it back from him. She doesn’t look at him. In her scarf, with the bruises under her eyes and the lines around her mouth, she’s a ghost. She doesn’t want to be here, and Cassian can’t blame her. According to what little information they’d been able to gather on her, she’d broken with Saw Gerrera at sixteen or seventeen, seven years ago now. I’m not used to people sticking around when things go bad, and she could have meant her father, or Saw and his people, or anyone, really, that she’s ever had contact with. Every loud noise has her near-flinching, stopping herself at the last moment to shake away the vulnerability. Her nightmare clings.

“You up for this?” he says. Jyn scowls out of the corner of her mouth.

“No choice.” She tips her head. “This way.”

Jyn pays for the two bits of fruit, and tuck them into her bag, slinging her arm through his again to draw him along. He leans more than he should. She hasn’t asked—not about his limp, or about his back, the way he cringes when they stop, or sit, or walk—but she keeps giving him half-glances, little dipping looks that rebound off his face and his bad shoulder, where the collarbone still bends if he presses on it too hard. There’s a space at the small of his back that feels as though someone’s driven a vibroblade into him, and with every step it digs deeper. When they stop so a cart can pass, drawn by a large, noxious animal that leaves fumes like burning hair behind, Jyn wraps her hand around his wrist and squeezes.

“Fine,” he says. “I’m fine.”

The look on her face says liar. “Not much farther,” she says, and they step off into the street. Their urchin stragglers step with them. “Two blocks.”

And then they can sit down. He should be flat on his back in a hospital somewhere, but there’s no time. Cassian steps closer to her, and when she slows, he doesn’t comment on it. The slower he walks, the easier it is to keep his balance.

D-17 is dense, packed to bursting; parts of it are like Jedha, and other parts like Coruscant, closer in to the Core Worlds and brighter, flashier, than the Holy City could ever be. A Twi’lek girl in chains lounges in a nearby doorstep, and arches her foot like a dancer as they pass. Down an alley, a pair of Stormtroopers knock in a door, and drag an Ithorian out into the mucky street. His droid follows in the next second, a cleaner with soap spraying out the back. There’s a jammering from down the alley, watch it, leatherneck, and please, please, and Jyn fists her hand up around his wrist like she thinks he’s going to reach for a blaster.

“Some flag,” says Cassian, and she cuts him a look like a knife. “Some galaxy.”

“This way,” she says, and draws him down another alleyway. The Ithorian is sobbing. It echoes after them, a curse.

The street they’re on is small, thin. It winds, and the hair rises on the back of his neck at the twistiness of it, the inability to see what comes next. Laundry hangs in great lines over their heads. Jyn has to duck to miss some of the blankets; her scarf gets pushed back by a leg of someone’s trousers. Cassian’s taller, and his back won’t let him bend; he lets it clip him in the face, walks around it when he can. Jyn draws his arm close against her ribs as they pass an open bar filled with ‘troopers, one that has what looks like a Toydarian fluttering behind the counter. Illegal spice roasts the air raw. Out of the corner of his eye, the scrap of a human girl leaps from one rooftop to another, and keeps on them. 

“When Saw and his people were here,” says Jyn, not looking at him, “he’d use children at the docks. Keep an eye on the loading bays, tail anyone suspicious. ”

He’d done similar things as a child, on any number of planets. Anyone interesting. Anyone clearly important. Cassian turns his head, puts his lips to her ear. “And what makes us suspicious?”

Jyn lifts both eyebrows at him, but all she says is, “We came in with a police droid.”

“Good point.” Across the street, a human woman dumps an unfinished pot of stew onto her neighbor’s stoop. “You think they’re Magva’s?”

“I think children are good spies,” she says. “This one. Watch your back. They don’t like Alliance.”

“Better and better,” says Cassian under his breath, and leans harder on her shoulder.

The door’s unmarked, heavy. Jyn knocks twice, and then again, and steps back. There are voices beyond, raucous and screechy, a cacophony of alcohol and quarrelling spouses, and when the door opens it’s a scraggly human beyond, blinking at them with bloodshot eyes. “What?”

“Kestrel Dawn,” says Jyn. “I’m here for Magva Yarro.”

The man looks at them, from Jyn to Cassian and back to Jyn again. He calculates. There are still ‘troopers within earshot; they’re not too far from the Toydarian’s bar, and any blaster bolt will draw attention, no matter how muffled. He could push the man back into the bar and kill him there, if he had to. It’s still his first instinct, and it makes his tongue curl under bile, but he can’t help thinking how easy it would be. Push the man back, drive a vibroblade between his ribs. Let him slip down the wall. No fuss, no sound. No danger at all. “No Magva Yarro here.”

Beyond the door, people stop, and turn. The voices don’t drop, the noises don’t end, but people are staring now. The Ithorian child comes to a halt a few doors down, and clambers up the closest gutter.

“Tell them the Angel’s Kestrel is here,” says Jyn, and untucks her arm from his. Easy to grab her blaster, now, if she has to. Her face is set and cold. “Tell her I have information that concerns Saw’s final wish.”

The man stares hard at Cassian. Cassian doesn’t recognize him, though he’d seen very few of Saw’s rebels through the grating of his cell. It could be someone from Jedha. It could also be a stranger. Finally, he steps away from the door, jerks his head. Jyn doesn’t push her scarf back; she steps forward, and so does Cassian, and the door closes, shutting them into the smoky, spice-scented room with a dull, unhappy creak.

Some of these faces he knows. The Talpini in the corner, the one that slips off their stool and disappears into the back, they’d been on Jedha. So had one of the human men at the rearmost table, the one drinking from a glass much too large for him. A few others. All of them, he notes, have blasters. A good half of them have knives, tucked up their sleeves. All of them are staring. His skin crawls with eyes.

Door shut. No way out. This is a killing ground.

“Sit.” Jyn presses him down into an empty bench, and stays standing beside him. Cassian draws his hand out of hers. “We’ll have to see.”

“See what, if they kill us now or later?”

She wrinkles her nose at him. “Keep your voice down.”

“Old friends, I’m guessing,” Cassian says, and tips his head towards another man, one with long dreads and smearing paint around the eyes. He’d been playing cards in the catacombs outside Jedha, and nearly knocked Cassian down on his rush to get out of the caves and escape the blowback from the Death Star. Jyn presses her lips thin.

“At least we know they’re here.” And not on another planet. Or in another system entirely.

“Right.”

“Don’t talk to anyone,” she says. “You’ll just make them angry.”

“I’ll make them angry,” says Cassian. Jyn blinks at him.

“Was that a joke?”

“You don’t have to look so surprised.”

“I just didn’t know you made them,” she says. His back hurts. He wants to lie down and fall asleep, wants to hide away from the world for a while. Instead, he shifts, and leans back. It eases the pinch in his spine, just a little.

“Once in a while.”

She scuffs her knuckles against his good shoulder. Not even an infant could have called it a punch, but he rocks into it nonetheless. “Shut up.”

“Jyn Erso.” The man with the dreads, with the knife, lifts his head. He’s tall, long and lanky; nearly two meters, scars on the backs of his hands, burns shiny on his wrists. Blowback from an X-wing engine. He drives his blade into the table. “And her Alliance pet. You have a lot of nerve showing your face in here, after what you did.”

Cassian considers how long it would take him to draw his blaster, and decides it’s too long. Jyn’s face goes flat again, mirror-smooth; she pushes her scarf back off of her loose hair. “Euwood Gor,” she says. “You survived Jedha.”

“No thanks to you.” Euwood spits onto the floor. “You or your Imperial friends. The Holy City’s blood is on your hands, Erso. The whole galaxy’s talking about it.”

“I’m no friend of the Imperials,” says Jyn. Her voice stays steady. “I never was.”

“And why should we believe anything you say when you walk in here with the Alliance?” says Euwood. There’s a shifting in the room, then, a murmuring. A few people put their mugs down. Cassian drops his hand to his blaster, beneath the wood of the table, and Jyn grips his good shoulder hard enough to ache. Her knuckles shine white through her skin. Don’t, it says. Don’t. “The Alliance is nothing but a bunch of useless cowards, babbling in politics while good people die on the front lines. They’ve never done a damn thing for the galaxy. Only ever managed to get the rest of us killed.”

Her nails bite sharp as teeth into his collarbone. “We’ll agree to disagree,” she says.

“How did you survive Jedha?”

“Same way you did,” she says. “Had a ship. Barely made it out clean.”

Barely, she says.” Euwood sneers. “We lost half our X-wing squadron. Plus fifteen fighters loyal to the cause you abandoned.”

“I didn’t abandon anything, Gor. I was left behind. Saw ditched me and never came back.”

“Because you were dangerous.”

“Think what you want,” says Jyn. There are lines around her mouth that weren’t there before, deeply carved. Saw ditched me and never came back. “I’m not here to fight with you. I came to speak with Magva. I have information for her, and only for her. If she’s not around, I’ll go.”

“If she’s dead, you mean.” Euwood spits again. “Why shouldn’t we kill you right now, Jyn Erso? Now that Saw isn’t here to protect you anymore.”

“Because I’m the one with news from the Alliance,” says Jyn. “She’ll want to hear this.”

“So tell me, and I’ll take it to her.”

“I’m only talking to Magva. Or to whoever took lead, if it wasn't her.” She folds her arms over her chest. Cassian doesn’t let go of his blaster. If he’s aimed right, and he thinks he has, he can take out Euwood’s knee with one shot. It should buy him enough time to get the gun out from under the table, buy Jyn enough time to draw a weapon. “Take it or leave it, Euwood. But I promise you, she won’t be happy if you mess this up for the Partisans.”

“Since when do we take the word of an Imperial?”

“Since I’m not the one with two friendly fire notches under my belt,” says Jyn. “Or is it three now?”

The whole place goes dead silent. Gor turns sickly green. He clenches his hands into fists. Right to the bone. Cassian looks up at Jyn’s face, at the way the corners of her mouth have gone deep. Right to the marrow. Sharp and cutting and dangerous.

You might as well be a Stormtrooper.

Gor shoves the chair aside, and slams the door to the back room behind him. Jyn glares at the rest of them, and one by one, they all turn away from the viciousness on her face, the cruel slant to her mouth. Right to the quick. Knife-blade words. She drops down onto the bench next to him, back to the edge of the table, boots splayed on the rough floor.

“And you said I’d make them angry,” says Cassian, half under his breath. Jyn’s hands are shaking on her knees, and there are still razors on her lips. “I’m surprised they haven’t gutted us by now.”

“They can try,” says Jyn. “I beat half the people in here in close combat before I was sixteen. They know better than to fight me.”

Cassian looks at her. He weighs that image, of Jyn in the ring up against Euwood Gor, against anyone in here, the brutal efficiency she’d used on the Stormtroopers in NiJedha, and his mouth goes oddly tacky. “I’ll take your word for it.”

Jyn looks at her knees, and taps her foot to the floor in a rhythm, heel, toe, heel, toe.

“He left you?” says Cassian. “Saw Gerrera.”

“It was a long time ago,” she says, and stands again. “I’m getting a drink. Don’t touch anything they give you, and we might come out of this in one piece.”

“Fine,” says Cassian. “Anything else?”

She considers that very seriously for a moment. “Try not to look like a spy.”

“Right,” he says. He can’t help it. “Easy.”

Jyn wrinkles her nose at him again, and stalks off towards the bar.

.

.

.

Bodhi’s never visited Onderon before. The cargo runs he usually flew for the Empire were fairly direct. Shipping between different Imperial facilities, primarily weapons development or training centers. Sometimes he knew what he was carrying; sometimes he didn’t, and he’d always followed the rules, never once opened the crates in his hold, no matter how he’d been tempted. Once on site, he was never allowed to wander around; occasionally he was allowed into the mess hall, or around the shuttle bay, to talk, to joke, to refuel. He’d met Galen that way. Galen, who’d spoken to him once or twice in the mess, once or twice on his way into the shuttle. You’re a good man, Bodhi Rook. I can see that. You have to listen to what you know is right, Bodhi. Please. You’re the only one who can help me.

The thing is, though, Imperial identity checks run about the same way on every planet, and he’s been in the Imperial machine. He knows the checklist of questions, front to back. Or he did, anyway. A few are gone, now, spiraling away in the fractured pieces of his mind he still can’t grab, but identity checks, customs officers, he knows these people because they are his people, even behind masks. Even carrying blasters. Even in shining armor.

This is Rogue One—

“Bodhi Rook,” says K-2, and Bodhi jerks his head up. He’s been staring at his hands for the better part of the last ten minutes, running through all the things he used to know. He’s grabbed most of them, thankfully. “We are next.”

Bodhi wipes his hands on his borrowed trousers, and stands. They’ve already hit the hidden button on their shipping crate, deployed the false bottom. All the guns are hidden. The duffel with the fake scan-docs, the rifle in its sniper config, ammunition, even—his palms had started to sweat at the sight of them—the grenades that someone had brought along (his money is on Jyn) are all buried beneath the cheery white bottom of the shipping container, compressed down into a space almost too small to be noticed. The only way you’d know is if you picked the container up, and the only one strong enough to do that is K-2, and K-2—

“I have a plan, okay?” says Bodhi.  

“Very well,” says K-2, slow, dubious. His innards rattle. “What should I do?”

“Stay—stay standing there. Don’t say anything right away.” Bodhi wavers. “And if I ask you a question, I need you to lie, okay? You’ll—you’ll know what to say.”

“I’m afraid I’m not a very good liar,” says K-2.

“I know, that’s—it’s okay. It’ll be okay.” He’s saying it more to himself, he thinks, than to K-2, but it helps either way. Bodhi draws himself up, and tries to pretend his knees aren’t shaking, just a little. “Okay. Okay. We’re—okay.”

“The more you say that, the less okay it seems, Bodhi Rook.”

“Shh,” says Bodhi, and goes back to fretting with the cuff of his too-short sleeve.

Six Stormtroopers. Five regular ‘troopers, and one lieutenant, which nearly sends him into hysterics when he realizes it. Hello, Lieutenant ‘Trooper. I am Lieutenant Rook of the Rebel Alliance, nice to meet you. Bodhi scrubs his sweaty palms on his trousers again. He’s no spy, not like Cassian, and he’s not a warrior like Jyn or Chirrut or Baze; he’s definitely not anything more than a pilot, really, no matter what he’s done, but he can do this. He can do this. He’s done this before.

Not exactly this, but same difference, right?

“Afternoon,” he says, when the ‘troopers are in earshot. His voice cracks, just a little. “Something wrong?”

“Ident-check.” The lieutenant steps forward first. They’re all the same size, these ‘troopers, and for all that Onderon’s been under Imperial control for the past thirteen years at least, and the officers have turned lazy, the ‘troopers have their armor shined like coins, and their guns are gleaming in the jungle sunlight. “Scan-docs, please.”

Bodhi hands over the false docs, and prays that his hands aren’t shaking. He’d never believed in the Force, as a boy on Jedha. Never had. Never, never. Never seen the point. Scarif hasn’t changed his mind much, even if Chirrut—even with what Chirrut did, he hasn’t really seen anything, no real proof, but he prays, and if it’s to the Force and the Force hears then maybe they’ll make it through this alive, and focus, Bodhi, they’ll see it on your face. “Hell of a day to be wandering around docking bays.”

“Hell of a day to be standing on one for no reason,” says the lieutenant. “Registration.”

Bodhi hands that over too. “Not my ship,” he says. “It’s my sister’s. Her name should already be on the customs check.”

“Hasn’t come through yet.” He’s always thought Stormtrooper helmets look like skulls. Like death’s head, come to swallow souls. “What’s her name?”

“Riella,” says Bodhi. “Sput.”

“Different surnames?”

“Different fathers,” says Bodhi. "She's younger."

He says it, and it shocks him. He’s older than Jyn Erso. She’d be twenty-three, says the Galen in his head, and Bodhi’s twenty-five, and he doesn’t know what to do with that information. Twenty-three and twenty-five, and he has no idea how old Cassian is but he knows that Baze and Chirrut are at least as old as the Empire, they have to be, they look so sad when—

I’m the pilot, he thinks, very hard. I’m the pilot.

The lieutenant looks down at the scan-docs, and then up at Bodhi. “And your name?”

I’m the pilot. “Lanner Fe.”

“Coming from?”

Scarif, he nearly says. Yavin IV. “Ryloth,” is what comes out his mouth. It’s what Jyn had said. Ryloth to Coruscant. “On our way to Coruscant.”

“Where’s your sister?”

“Shopping.” He shrugs. “She didn’t want to take the droid with her. He’s persnickety. Doesn’t like her fiancé at all.”

Next to him, K-2 comes to such abrupt attention that he nearly knocks Bodhi over, and swivels his head around to stare at the ‘troopers.

“His name?”

“Bendren Gloss?” Bodhi bumps K-2. “He and K don’t get along, and we can’t turn him off, it’s always fifty-fifty if he comes back on again. So I stayed to babysit, and they went to shop.”

All six death’s head ‘troopers look at him at once. A cold sweat breaks out on the back of his neck.

“Why the Zed unit?” says one of the regular ‘troopers finally. “He looks like hell.”

“Bought him cheap at an auction a few years ago. He’s a bit messed up, but he’s a good worker and he takes orders, so we decided to keep him.”

The lieutenant looks down at the scan-docs again, and then up at Bodhi.

“We call him Partner,” says Bodhi, and suddenly his heart is in his mouth, beating fast and hard, and he could swear they all see the lies on his face, because how is he supposed to keep this straight, he’s not Lanner Fe, he’s Bodhi Rook, but he’s not Bodhi Rook, he’s the pilot, I’m the pilot, keep it together, Bodhi, come on— “Sitting around out here with Partner keeping an eye on things is way better than wandering around a hellhole like Onderon with nothing better to do than watch my wallet. It’s more interesting here, so long as I’m on commission.”

On commission. It’s what undercover customs agents say, what undercover officers say when they don’t want ‘troopers to bother them too much. He’d caught it a few times on Coruscant, a few times on Alderaan, and every time he’d wondered why they’d pick such an obvious passphrase, but it’s like sending a blasterbolt through all of them at once. The ‘troopers snap to attention. “I don’t have a note on my passboard,” says the lieutenant, icicle sharp. “Since when have you been here?”

“Since we came in this morning,” says Bodhi. “Like it says on the customs sheet. Lanner Fe, Riella Sput, Bendren Gloss. And Partner.” He bumps K-2. “Right?”

K-2’s eye shutters so fast it almost buzzes. Bodhi wonders, in the part of him that’s not absolutely swallowed in blind panic, whether K-2 realizes how many human behaviors he’s picked up from Cassian. Then, in a very confused voice, he says, “Yes?”

Lieutenant ‘Trooper scoffs, and hands Bodhi his scan-docs back. “You people could have picked a droid less obvious than a beat-up Zed,” he says. “Makes it look like you’re being arrested.”

“Nobody suspects the criminal,” says Bodhi. He nods to the other ‘troopers. “I’m clear?’

“You’re clear,” says the lieutenant, and Bodhi has to lock his knees to keep from melting into the pavement. “Have a good day.”

“You too,” says Bodhi. “Stay cool.”

“Like hell,” says one of the other ‘troopers under their breath, and then they’re wandering away. Clear as day, he hears one say, “I wondered why I knew the guy’s face, there must have been an alert or something,” and he almost drowns in relief. K-2 watches the lot of them march down to dock No. 90, to a group of Twi’lek that Bodhi’s almost certain are carrying spice, and then he turns his head to Bodhi again.

“Now what?”

“Just stand and—and watch people.” Bodhi swallows hard, over and over, and then goes to lower the ramp back up into the ship. He needs somewhere to hide, immediately. Right now. He needs to sort through who he is, and who he isn’t.

I’m the pilot, he thinks, and as soon as he’s in the cool dim light of the ship, he says it aloud, in a whisper. “I’m the pilot.”

Chapter Text

They turn over their weapons at the door.

“You meet Magva? You go in with nothing.” Another human male, shorter hair, face still smeared with black paint, offers a bucket that smells as though it’s seen better days. There’s a tattoo on his shoulder that Cassian can’t make out underneath the grime of his sleeve. He thinks it might be a wheel of some kind. “Unless that’s too complicated for Imperial spawn.”

They look at each other, him and Jyn. She doesn’t have to say anything. It’s in her eyes. Cassian draws his blaster, and leaves it in the bucket. The vibroblades too, when he’s prodded. The stash in his boot goes untouched. They hadn’t found it last time; they won’t this time. It leaves him with one blade and his lockpick kit, which isn’t enough in the best of times. Jyn hands over her blaster, her stick, a vibroblade. She meets the Partisan’s eyes. Slime runs down his spine.

“All of it,” the Partisan says.

“That is all of it,” says Jyn. “Unless you want to strip us nude.”

The Partisan sneers. He turns away, the bucket with him. “Take them in,” he says to the Talpini. “Maybe they’ll come out dead.”

The Talpini laughs. When they shut the door behind them, the lock turns, and clicks.

The back of the bar is somehow even less clean than the front; there’s a table set up, an old game of cards left behind. Used mugs, abandoned. One lies on its side. Upend the table. He files that away. Use the mugs as weapons. Pick the lock. There’s another door at the back of the room, probably a private way out. If they can hide the sounds of a fight from the Partisans outside, at least, that would be their escape route. Crates, empty storage containers; shields against blasters.

“Magva,” says Jyn. “Been a while.”

Magva Yarro is a human woman in her late forties, early fifties at the most. It’s difficult to tell; it’s dark in this room, and her face is weathered and tanned, aged by the elements, by agony. Her hair is covered by a scarf, her hands by gloves, but her eyes are bright, hard and piercing, a witchy kind of blue that makes the hair on the backs of his arms stand at attention. Not like Mon Mothma. Like a fire that consumes itself. She tips her chair back, and props her heavy boots up on the table, scraping between her teeth with one long fingernail. There’s still red Jedha dust smeared into the cracks of the soles.

“Jynny,” says Magva, and for the first time Jyn’s eyes narrow. “Still consorting with Imperial trash.”

“Cassian’s a friend,” says Jyn. “He has no love for the Empire.”

“Tell that to the men he shot dead on Jedha.” Magva looks at him, and Cassian stands straight, keeps his face blank. No guilt. No remorse. “Some of our best new recruits. They would have gone far, if they hadn’t been slaughtered.”

“If they were some of your best,” says Jyn, “would they have gone down that easily?”

“You never were very forgiving when others fucked up, were you, Jynny?” Magva sweeps her boots off the table, and stands. She’s even shorter than Jyn, compact, wiry and tough as malta weed. She wipes whatever she was picking at off on the leg of her trousers. A shotgun leans against the table near her chair. “Remember you and Maia fought about that like gutkurrs in shedding season. Drove her nuts when you never grieved.”

“I grieved,” says Jyn. “I just never saw the point in wasting time over it.”

“Angel’s Kestrel,” says Magva. It’s almost a croon, but it doesn’t reach her eyes. “We never could find anyone as good at the sticks as you. Once you left, made things hard.”

“You were in the bunker that day, Magva. I didn’t leave, and you know it.”

Magva starts to pace. Jyn’s still, but the air almost seems to hum, a great, deep, swollen buzzing in the air like the purr of a reactor. He’s waded in too deep. There are too many unknown factors, here, too many variables in Jyn’s hands. They’re almost spilling out the sides, scattering like a game of marbles between Jyn and Magva Yarro. Anyone could slip and break their neck.

It’s not going to work. He steals a look at Jyn. This isn’t going to work.

Cassian starts calculating an escape route.

“I need a favor,” says Jyn, no preamble, no context.

Magva barks out a laugh. “You need a favor?”

“I was the last person to see Saw before he died.” Jyn swallows. For a second, her eyes glimmer, far too bright. Then she blinks, and the grief is gone. “He gave me a message, smuggled by the Imperial pilot, you remember him?”

“I remember.” Magva takes up her shotgun, and sets it on the table. It’s smeared at one end with dust. “The one Bor Gullet drove mad. Tell me, is he dead? Better for him if he is. The scraps Bor Gullet leaves behind don’t make for much of a mind.”

“He died on Jedha,” says Jyn, flatly. “In the same blast that killed Saw.”

Cassian keeps his eyes on Magva, his face still and uncompromising. Magva watches him, head just slightly tipped, before snapping back to Jyn. “I see.”

“The message he brought was only half-finished,” says Jyn. “My father—”

Galen,” Magva says, and spits just the same way Euwood Gor had, outside.

“—left the second part of the message hidden on the Outer Rim. The Empire’s looking for it. I know you’ve heard about that.”

Magva’s eyes flicker. “Maybe I have.”

“What have you heard?”

“Nothing more than that,” says Magva. “There’s something the Empire’s looking for. Other than that, pfui, nothing.

“Not even a location?”

Magva shrugs. “You think if I knew we wouldn’t be out there searching?”

“The Alliance is looking for it too. We’re supposed to get it first.”

“And this message is what, exactly?” Magva’s lips curl. She cracks her shotgun open, and peers down the barrel. “A birthday card?”

“The key to destroying the weapon that destroyed Jedha,” says Jyn. Magva doesn’t twitch, not outwardly, but her eyes dart to Cassian again before she huffs through her teeth. “If the Empire finds it before we do, there’ll be no way we can fight it. It’ll strike again, and again, and again, and none of us can stand up to it, not the Partisans, not the Alliance, not anybody.”

“And you need a new ship because?”

“Ours is too hot.”

“Bully for you,” says Magva, “but we don’t have a ship to spare. Go steal one yourself. I know you know how to.”

“And go after the Empire in a ship that’s been flagged stolen? We’d never get within range. The Partisans are the best in the Rebellion at scrubbing ships clean. We could get in and out and break this thing at its roots and no one would ever know we were there.” Jyn breathes deep, in and out. “And I figured you owed me for saving your life on Rajtiri. Two mynocks.”

Magva’s eyebrows clench together. She looks ready to bite noses off. “You never learned when to hold your tongue, Jyn Erso. Never did.”

“You’re alive because of me,” says Jyn, “and you know it. I need a ship. Big enough for six people. No history, nothing. And it has to work. You do this for me, Mags, you get this ship for me and my people, we’re square. Debts gone. You never see me again.”

“I just told you,” says Magva. “We don’t have a ship to spare.”

“You can’t expect me to believe that Saw didn’t leave a fleet of them stashed in the jungle.” Jyn rests her hand and her hip to the edge of the table, stretching. “He always planned to come back to Onderon. He wouldn’t have left without preparing for that. You have spares.”

“And you can’t expect me to just hand one over to you for nothing in return.” Magva bares her teeth. “You have to do something for us, first, Jynny. That’s how it’s always worked.”

“We don’t have time.” Jyn scoffs. “Besides, I don’t think that’s how a life-debt works, Magva.”

“If it were just up to me I’d give you the ship to get rid of you, and celebrate after,” says Magva. “But it’s not just up to me. Benthic and Edrio are in charge of the ships. If one goes missing, they’ll know.”

“Two-Tubes?”

“Jyn,” says Cassian. She looks at him, and then back at Magva. “If she can’t help us, we’ll take our chances with a stolen craft.”

“Typical Alliance,” says Magva. She spits a second time. “Always taking the easy way out.”

“Better than starting a fight where children get caught in the crossfire,” Cassian snaps.

“And how many more children are dead because of the Alliance insisting on discussing genocide in a committee before doing something about it?” Her eyes shine starfire bright. “I was on Ghorman. Where was the Alliance then? Where was the Alliance when thousands of innocent beings were slaughtered? Because I sure as hell didn’t see you anywhere.”

“Do you have the ship or not, Magva?” says Jyn, and steps forward, just enough that she can stand between Cassian and Magva, just enough to break the staredown. “Because if you don’t, we’ll look elsewhere. I’m sure there’s someone willing to trade on this dump.”

“I have the ship,” says Magva. “But I told you. You have to do something for us, first. Shouldn’t take long. Not if you’re anything like the girl you used to be, Jynny.”

Jyn looks at Cassian once. Just once. It’s the same kind of look with the weapons, the same kind of look before she’d leapt from the observation platform onto the databank tower. The there’s no other choice look. The I’m sorry but I’m not look. The mission look. He’s not sure if he wants to shake her for it or kiss her or both, but he’s tempted. Cassian grits his teeth, and doesn’t argue any longer.

“What do you need me to do?” says Jyn.

“Steal something, of course,” says Magva. She snaps her shotgun together again. “Come with me.”

.

.

.

“It’s too simple,” says Cassian.

Jyn resettles her scarf on her head, and wraps the ends around her neck, folds them in so no one can use it as a garrote. When he offers her the blaster with the silencer—his, not hers—she takes it, and sets it at the small of her back again, throwing the end of her shirt over it to hide the thing. He takes the one without, and does the same.

“It can’t be this simple,” he says, pale around the mouth, dark around the eyes. “Walk in, take a shipping manifest, walk out again—why haven’t they done it themselves, if that’s all it is?”

“Because if I get killed doing it they don’t have to give us the ship.” She takes her vibroblade from the bucket, and slips it up her sleeve again. Her baton is already in place on her leg. “We don’t have time to look into it deeper.”

Cassian sighs, and rubs at the space between his eyebrows. He’s been looking worse and worse the longer they stay here, the longer he has to move around. He needs to lie down. I shouldn’t have brought him along. Not on this. She should have done this alone. Jyn looks away, but her chest has already started to ache again, hard and raw beneath her ribs. “We can steal a ship.”

“And risk the Imperials being after us from here to Coruscant?” She yanks too hard on the end of her scarf, and nearly chokes herself. “We need a clean ship, Cassian.”

“There are other ways to get clean ships.”

“They all take too much time.” Jyn undoes her scarf again, and tosses it on the table. They’ve been left alone in the corner while the Partisans prep, darting in and out of back rooms, carrying weapons, supplies. A manifest, Magva had said. From the Razna Shipping Company in sector D-20, for a shipment out of Bay 38-L tomorrow. We’d get it ourselves, but we’ve been distracted by other matters. Get the manifest, drop it off with our contact in D-20, and in two hours you’ll have a new ship waiting for you at your dock. I’ll drop it off myself. “I’ll go in, get the manifest. I’ll be back in an hour, tops. If I’m not, go—go steal a ship and keep going, I’ll catch up if I can.”

If I’m not dead. She doesn’t have to say it. Cassian grits to his teeth, and tries to stand. His knees give out part of the way, and Jyn lunges forward, hiding it, cupping her hands to his elbows and easing him back down before someone notices.

“Jyn.” There’s the slightest hesitation in him, now, an almost invisible pause between looking up at her and finding her hand, holding on for the barest instant. “I don’t trust them.”

“Neither do I.” People are watching them, staring. She lets go of him. “I don’t see that we have much of a choice.”

Cassian wavers on the edge of speech. Jyn’s settled her scarf on again, tucked her hair up underneath it and woven it into a wrap, when he says, “I’m—not used to sitting on the sidelines. And you need someone watching your back. In case things go badly. They won’t do it.”

I will. It’s in his eyes, on his mouth. I will. Jyn turns away before he can see what it’s done to her, the simplicity of it. The utterly foreign strangeness of it. She can’t argue with that. She should open her mouth, say something about the plans, because the plans are much more important than either of them could ever be, getting the plans to the Rebellion, finishing her father’s work, that’s much more important than backing her up on something as small and as petty as this, but when she tries to find the words, she can’t. Welcome home is all that comes into her head.

“K,” says Cassian. He’s drawn the comm from his pocket. “We’re going radio silent for an hour. If we don’t contact you by then, go steal something.”

“Understood.” Silence for a moment. The light blinks back on. “Should I be concerned?”

“We’re working on it.”

“That’s not particularly reassuring,” says K-2, and the comm goes dead. Jyn looks at it.

“Whatever comes into his circuits,” says Cassian, with half a smile, and then braces himself against the edge of the table. He sways, when he’s on his feet, but he stays upright this time. “I think they’re ready.”

“K-2 will kill me if you break yourself,” says Jyn. “Don’t be stupid.”

“I’m all right, Jyn.”

“For a spy, you’re a terrible liar,” she says. It’s a weakness, exposing an open wound to Euwood and the rest, but she wraps an arm around his waist and holds on. Cassian’s hand curls into her shoulder, and some of the shadows in his face ease. “Slowly.”

They take a shuttle, all of them. Jyn and Cassian pile into the back with Euwood Gor, Weeteef Cyubee—they grunt, and shuffle sideways on the bench for Jyn, which is not what she expected at all from the Talpini she remembers—Dajo Koda, and other faces she doesn’t know. New recruits. The whole group watches her, and they watch Cassian with looks like hunting beasts, blood-hungry. Every time the shuttle hits a bump in the air, Cassian winces. Eventually, she finds his hand, hidden beneath the fabric of his coat, and lets him squeeze her fingers numb.

Euwood props his chin up against the butt of his shotgun, lips curling up at one corner of his wide mouth. “Too rough a ride, Alliance?”

She wants to bare her teeth and snap. “Keep your jaw shut,” she says. “Before I wire it that way.”

“You could try.”

Weeteef, next to her, says, “I dunno, Euwood. She managed last time.”

Euwood opens his mouth. Shuts it again. He leans back against the rickety wall of the shuttle. Weeteef chuffs something that could be a laugh, and goes back to checking their pockets for grenades. Jyn watches the back of their head for a while, and then bites her tongue to keep it between her teeth. Whatever Weeteef is doing, it’s a help, for now. And if it stops being a help, then they can deal with it.

Or, she thinks, looking at how pale Cassian is, she can deal with it.

D-17 is a poor neighborhood, by Onderon standards. D-20 is a slum. They drop the Partisans off in little clusters, Euwood, Dajo, and one of the new recruits on one block; another trio two blocks further down. Weeteef pushes her on the third stop, jerks their head, and Jyn stands, drops out of the end of the shuttle and helps Cassian get down. There are four Stormtroopers lounging on the nearest corner, talking, their armor smeared with dirt and shit like someone’s been flinging it at them. Weeteef pulls hard on the end of her jacket, and turns down a nearby alley. She wets her lips, and follows, Cassian still at her shoulder. Two lefts, a right and then another left, and then Weeteef produces a keycard from their pocket, swipes it over a lock on a nearby building. “In here,” they say, and Jyn steps back to let Weeteef in first. Cassian next, out of the line of fire. She looks behind them when she closes the door. No ‘troopers. No anything.

Lazy.

“Shipping depot’s across the street,” says Weeteef, and clambers up onto a crate. Talpini aren’t capable of Basic; something about how their throats are set up, how their vocal cords function. Same way humans can’t speak Talpin. Still, it’s easy enough to understand if you practice at it. She just hasn’t had cause to practice in a while. “In and out. Easy. Once you’re done, report to the rendezvous point in D-20 we used to use with you. You remember where it is?”

“Piss off,” says Jyn, and Weeteef laughs again, husky in the back of their throat. She finds a chair at the nearest window, eases Cassian down into it. “Layout?”

“One door in front, one in back. Inside, we don’t know. Haven’t pushed further in than the lobby.” Weeteef digs through the straw-filled crate at their side, and produces a comm. When they chuck it at her, Jyn catches it without looking, slips it into her pocket. “Too many ‘troopers.”

I knew this place was too easy. “And all of you bastards have your faces pinged on Imperial scanners.”

Weeteef wheezes out another laugh. “You haven’t changed, Jyn.”

“Shut up,” says Jyn. The depot’s not as large as she’d been afraid of, but it’s still big. Manifests. Manifests belong in the administration office or with supervisors, in computer systems she won’t be able to hack without a gun to someone’s head. She’ll have to download the whole system, and the chip Magva’s given her is more than capable of that, but that takes much more time than just an in-and-out grab. All of it, not just the one file. If they’d had K-2 with them, she could have asked K-2 to access one of the droids, find it that way, but K-2 is flashy and loud, and Bodhi had needed him more. She folds her arms across her chest, and tries to think. “How many skullheads inside?”

“Last count twelve,” says Weeteef. “On average.”

Brilliant. “Euwood and the others?”

“Distraction.” They bare their teeth. “Boom.

“Fantastic,” says Cassian under his breath. Weeteef chucks another comm at him, and he blinks, but tucks it into his jacket. “More noise.”

“Back’s the best bet,” she says. She touches her fingertips to the lump beneath her shirt that is the kyber crystal. It’s warm, warmer than usual. From the heat, maybe. From the jungle air, from her nerves. “Cameras on this end. Probably fewer back there, or at least more blind spots. You have schematics?”

“We’ve been here less than a week.”

“You’re losing your touch.” Everyone going in and out has a uniform. Not Imperial grey, but some kind of bright yellow nonsense, too loud to pass unnoticed unless you’re in a sea of sunflowers. Shit. “Weeteef, you stay up here, watch the front with a sniper. Be ready to fire if I say. Cassian will come with me. Whatever distraction they have planned, tell them to hold off until I sound the okay.”

“Aye.”

She can’t trust them. She has no choice right now. “What’s in the crate?”

“Toys,” says Weeteef, and she goes to dig through too. Smoke grenades. Charges with a long distance detonator. She takes three of each, tucks them into her bag, and refuses to think about any of it. The detonator goes into the hidden pocket along the front of her shirt, just beneath the fold. “You know the old rhythm?”

“One push for the first, two for the second, three for the third.” She scowls. “I’m not stupid.”

Hah,” says Weeteef.

“Cassian,” she says, but he’s already on his feet again. She throws him a smoke bomb of his own, and he smuggles it away somewhere in his jacket. There’s sweat on his temples. “Bar the door when we leave, Weeteef.”

“Just like old times,” says Weeteef.

Jyn yanks the door shut behind them.

“Four cameras in front,” says Cassian into her ear. “If there are twelve ‘troopers inside, that’s shipping for Imperial reserves. Whatever’s on that manifest—”

“I know.” She presses her fingers hard into his hip as they step off the curb. “You can hold a blaster?”

“It’s my back that’s the problem, not my trigger finger.”

That she knew. She gives him the vibroblade she stole on the ship anyway, pressing it into his hand as she eases him down onto a stoop. It’s decently shielded, if ‘troopers come hunting, but it has a view of the back, of the shuttles flying in and out. She wets her lips. “Don’t fire unless you have no other choice. I’ll be back.”

Cassian squeezes her hand as she straightens, steps away. All at once there’s ocean salt on her tongue, the sunlight of Scarif on her skin. She looks back at him once as she goes, and tries not to think about it.

It’s considerably easier to get a uniform from one of the shuttle drivers than it was to get a uniform on Scarif. The drivers are small, almost uniformly dark, but there are one or two paler-skinned humanoids, and it only takes her fifteen minutes to get the smallest one, the woman, out of line of sight of the cameras and knock her out, drag her into the nearest alleyway pull her uniform on over her own clothes. The woman’s brilliantly scarlet hair is much longer than Jyn’s, the bun at the back of her head much larger; Jyn leaves her scarf on, prays that no strand will snake out, and heaves the unconscious woman in a dumpster. Mul Tannett. My name is Mul Tannett. She stows her first charge under the hood of one of the shuttles, as far away from the unconscious Mul Tannett as she can get, and then swipes the passcard on the back door. The light blinks green. No numerical code. No wonder the Partisans had picked this depot as the one to hit. Low security. Thirteen years of cowed civilians means lax standards. She steps out of the way of a trio of Ithorians. One, two, six, ten, fourteen ‘troopers in bunches around the room. Her palms stick to the comm in her pocket. She slides sideways, watches them for a moment, and then slips into the nearest bathroom, turning her face just enough that the human woman coming out doesn’t register who it is. Jyn locks the door.

“Weeteef.” She bangs open one stall, two, three. All empty. No camera. Jyn sets the second remote charge beneath a sink. “Weeteef, you read?”

One heartbeat. Two. Three. A trick, her mind screams. A trap. They’ve left you here. You’re going to die. The comm crackles. “I read.”

“I’m in,” she says. “Blow them sky high.”

Weeteef laughs, and the comm clicks off. Silence, for a moment. Then there’s a thud, dreadful, concussive, the kind of booming thwomp that makes her teeth ache and her blood race. Mines. There’s a second, a third, and Jyn turns the lights off in the bathroom, presses her back to the door and measures her lungs. Too much oxygen makes you giddy. Keep it steady. There’s rattling outside, the bzzt of the ‘troopers comms. A third explosion, and people begin to scream. What’s happening, what’s going on, is it an attack, I don’t understand

“They’re out,” Weeteef says. “I count six leaving by the front.”

“Five through the back,” says Cassian. “Clear.”

Leaves her with three. She wets her lips.

“Jyn,” says Cassian. The connection sputters. “May the Force be with you.”

There’s no reply she can make to that. Jyn drops the comm back into her pocket. She takes three great breaths—one for sense, one for courage, one for fury, and it’s Saw, murmuring at her, in her head, get out—pulls her scarf over her nose and mouth, and leaves the bathroom. 

Chapter Text

It’s the Force that draws him out of it. Chirrut blinks, and blinks again in the bacta, looping through whorls that have been carved deep into the bones of the planet, spirals buried under centuries of jungle growth. Someone’s activated the hatch at the top of the bacta tank, and bubbles surge up from below, brushing his feet, his elbows, his ribs. He is being watched. One figure, two; a third, small, not humanoid. A Mon Calamari. The Force clings to each of them in turn, tangling. Around the woman, bright as sunlight, a few shaded patches. Around the other human, the man, it turns shadowy, indistinct. It ripples. The Mon Calamari is a knot, a twist. Light and dark merged. A triad.

Light, Dark, Grey. He considers as the droid eases him up out of the tank, prods at his chest, at the divot between his ribs. The Alliance is a thorny knot of Light and Dark and Grey, and whatever he can make of that, he’s too tired to know.

“Sir,” says the droid. “It is good to see you awake.”

“I’m glad to be awake,” he says to the droid. “Am I going to live?”

“Recovery is gauged as optimal. Internal functions restored to sixty-seven percent,” says the droid. It pats at him with a towel. “Dermal damage from shrapnel and burns has been repaired, though some surface marks have remained. You will experience weakness, shakiness, and great exhaustion. You may have nightmares. Lift your arms, please, sir.”

Chirrut lifts his arms. “And the others?”

The droid buzzes. “I have no record of any others.”

Which isn’t unsettling at all. “Thank you,” Chirrut tells the droid.

They put him in a chair. His legs are too weak to take a step, so they put him in a chair, and he’s sure there’s another droid hovering nearby to scoot him around as he directs. Chirrut doubts they’ll let him leave the medical facility anytime soon. The hospital gown is feather light on his skin, and previously used. Washed, but there are still traces. Captain Andor. Chirrut fingers the fabric, and considers that. 

“Master Îmwe,” says the woman. She’s tall, slender. The Force parts around her and merges again, spreading, flowing out, linking her to all. Every one, every thing. Not Force-sensitive, but she steps in time nonetheless, whether she knows it or not. “My name is Mon Mothma. I’m glad to see you back with us.”

“Senator.” Chirrut lifts his face to her, and does not blink. “A senator, a general, and an admiral. I did not expect a welcoming committee so highly ranked as this.”

The general shifts, and the knots of the Force grow tighter around the Mon Calamari admiral. The Senator, though, she tips her head, as if this is nothing more than a casual brunch on Coruscant. “The Alliance owes you a great deal for your courage and sacrifice on Scarif, Master Îmwe. Any less of a welcoming committee would be insulting to what you have done for us.”

The general clucks between his teeth, almost too soft to hear.

“I have to apologize that none of your companions are here to greet you as well, but Captain Andor and Sergeant Erso are away at the moment. Lieutenant Rook as well.” Mon Mothma sweeps her robes out behind her, and sits on the nearest cot. She looks at his face, Chirrut thinks. She looks at his face, even though he can’t look back, and she is steady. Her gaze doesn’t flicker. “I’m afraid we don’t know quite where they are. General Draven has eyes out, but they’re off the grid, so it seems.”

Chirrut hums. “They will turn up eventually,” he says. “Stars never hide for long.”

Senator Mothma blinks once. The general clucks again, louder this time.

“The general doesn’t believe me.” He closes his eyes, resting his head to the back of the wheelchair. “You should have greater faith in people, General Draven. It’s not a bad thing to have.”

General Draven turns, hands folded behind his back, and looks at the wall. The Force coils tight around him, gleaming darkly. Not a star, but a kind of draw to him nonetheless. Not a black hole, either. A hyperspace anomaly, maybe, Chirrut thinks, and rolls his chair back and forth, testing the give of the tread. A great spider tangled in a web. Severance, not connection.

—millions of—

“Admiral.” Chirrut folds his fingers against the fabric of the gown. “I think you are the one I must thank for the air support.”

The Mon Calamari blinks, and shuffles. “Brave thing,” he says. “What the five of you did. Very brave.”

“Six,” says Chirrut, mildly.

“The droid,” says Mon Mothma to the admiral, when the admiral blinks. “There was a droid.”

“Is a droid.” He’s sure of that, even if he’s not sure of much else. He hadn’t felt K-2 fall, not exactly, but there’s a balance that he thinks would be lacking without the droid. “Somewhere.”

“That explains the Zed, at least,” says the admiral, and bumps General Draven as if this is all a big joke. Draven is not amused.

“I am afraid I don’t have any information for you, Senator,” says Chirrut. I can’t tell you where Jyn and the others have gone. I do not know. Even if I did, I can’t be certain I would tell you. And I may have some understanding of the Force, but I am no Jedi. I do not know that I can give you what you seek.”

Mon Mothma considers that. “What is it you think I seek?”

“You are trying to test me.”

“I’ve heard tell from the others in Rogue One that you are very observant, Master Îmwe.” Her lips curl up. “I simply wanted to see if they were right.”

For all her smiles, she’s intent. The streaks of Force around her have turned sharper, cutting. Chirrut says, “Partnership. Trust. Freedom from the jungle.”

Mon Mothma swallows, and leans back, away from him.

“The general wants unity,” says Chirrut. “A unified front. Less dissent. Fewer obstructions. Fewer voices in the crowd. You’re not going to get it, General Draven. Like I said, you ought to trust people more.”

“I don’t know who you think you are,” says General Draven, but the Admiral waves him down. His bulbous eyes roll, from Mothma to Draven, before fixing on Chirrut.

“And me?” he says. “What is it I seek?”

“Sleep,” says Chirrut. “It’s been a very long week.”

The admiral cracks half a laugh. “Whatever you are, Master Îmwe, I’m sure General Draven’s glad there isn’t more than one of you.”

Something squeezes tight around his throat. “As you say.”

“Senator.” There’s a man at the door. Young. He’s sweating. “General Draven, Admiral, I—”

“Spit it out, private.” The Mon Calamari admiral twists, crackles. “What is it?”

“Sirs, ma’am, we’ve picked up a signal from the ‘jacked shuttle, it’s coming—” The boy swallows. “It’s coming from Onderon, sir.”

“Ah,” says Chirrut. “See? Stars don’t hide forever.”

Onderon,” says General Draven. “What the bloody hell are they doing on Onderon, of all the Imperial backwash worlds—get back to your station, private—”

“But sir—” The private seems ready to melt into the floor. “There’s—there’s reports coming in, intercepted Imperial transmissions, the—the Partisans have moved bases, sir. They’ve shifted back to Onderon. So it seems.”

“Right.” Draven fists his hands up at his sides. “Right.  I want a full report by the time I get down there.”

“Yes, sir,” says the private, and bolts off.

“It seems we must leave you,” says Senator Mothma. “I will return tomorrow morning, Master Îmwe, to see how you’ve recovered. There is a great deal I wish to discuss with you.”

“If you wish,” says Chirrut. “I’m not very helpful.”

“Now that, I think, is a lie,” says Senator Mothma, and she presses his shoulder. “Feel better.”

“Good luck, Senator,” he says. “And General, if I could trouble you to let my partner go?”

Draven stops dead in the door, and looks at him.

“Baze isn’t good at enclosed spaces,” says Chirrut. He rolls his chair forward. “He gets antsy. Wherever you’re keeping him stashed, I’m sure his guards are not particularly comfortable.”

There’s a moment of pin-drop silence. Then Draven swears, vicious, under his breath, and leaves. The Mon Calamari admiral starts chuckling as the door slides shut behind them, him and Mothma; they’re still close enough for Chirrut to hear, quite clearly, “—been a while since I’ve seen Draven surprised by anything—” before they’re out of earshot. 

Get out of here, someone shouts, and Chirrut thinks it might be Jyn. He’s not entirely sure. It’s gone before he can grab it.

Baze. He reaches out. Baze, where are you?

.

.

.

She runs into her first ‘trooper on the second floor landing.

Jyn doesn’t wait. There’s no point to subtlety. If the ‘troopers don’t already have news that this is a deliberate attack, they will in a moment; Imperials on Onderon might be lazy, now, lazy and stupid, but it won’t be long until reinforcements arrive, either. She snaps out her baton, and before the ‘trooper realizes she’s behind him, she’s slammed it down on the back of his head, knocked him sideways. When she sweeps his legs out from under him, he goes tumbling over the stair railing, and falls in a great clatter down to the first floor. He’s still, down there, still as death. One. Two left. Her palms are dry, not sweaty. Signs on the doors read as offices, as supply closets. A woman in yellow, dark-skinned as Saw, meets her eyes as they pass each other on the landing, and Jyn turns just enough that her baton is hidden behind the wide fabric of her trouser leg, behind her bag. Outside, she can hear blasters. Not close. In the distance.

“What’s happening?” says the dark woman, her eyes wide and wild. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know,” says Jyn. She drops her voice, makes it hoarse. “I don’t know. The ‘troopers said to go downstairs, they said they want everyone in their line of sight.”

“What about you?”

“I’m checking to see if anyone’s left behind.” Jyn shakes the woman’s hand off. “Go.

She goes. She shrieks a little at the sight of the fallen ‘trooper at the base of the stairs, but she hops over the body and goes to join the others anyway. One down. Two left. Jyn resettles her hand on the baton, and turns. There are still more people darting past her, following orders, and she steps back out of the fray, searching. Office, office, manager, I need the manager, I need—

The manager’s office is at the end. It’s locked, she has no picks, and the card she’s stolen doesn’t work. Two more people pass her, and keep going down the stairs. Come on. Running out of time, come on. Jyn snaps her knife out from her pocket, and pries the lid of the lock off the wall. It’s fairly standard, an automatic locking mechanism, six wires leading into the main power core, come on, come on, she’s out of sight at the moment crouched the way she is but she won’t be as soon as the ‘troopers come up to see what’s happened, and—

Hey!”

Shit. Another ‘trooper, one door over. Two more. I left the other two downstairs. More stationed up here. Jyn lunges away from the door, and rams the baton up under the mask of the first. He gurgles, guttural through the modulator, and there, the fzzt of a blaster charging. She snags his arm, yanks him around, and two bolts sink through his armor into his chest. The ‘troopers have fired on their own. She draws the silenced blaster, Cassian’s blaster, shoots the one coming up the stairs in the back of the head, and then drops. Shots fired, someone says, upstairs, and shit, so much for quick and clean, no wonder they’d wanted to send her in and not anyone else, the Partisans can’t afford to lose anybody else but they can sacrifice her on their altar to freedom. Her comm crackles. “Jyn, come in.

“Little busy,” she says, and shoots a fourth ‘trooper coming up the stairs. That’s it. Jyn turns, fires two shots into the innards of the lock, and the lights go off entirely. The door slides open. She shoots the lock of the next room too, and another office for good measure, and then she’s in.

“More coming in the front,” says Weeteef. There’s a burst of chatter from the comms, Euwood and then Dajo, and Jyn drops down hard into the manager’s chair, skidding halfway across the floor before she catches herself. She leaves the gun on the desk, in easy reach, and slots the chip into the system. “Counting six.”

“I’m counting four,” says Cassian. His voice is too tight. Download: 21%. “Jyn, get out of there, ten ‘troopers coming your way—”

“I’m not done,” she says. A white helmet appears through the railing of the stairs. She aims, and fires once, and it vanishes again. There’s a thump of a falling body. Come on, come on. Forty-six percent downloaded. Jyn drags the last bomb out of her bag, fits it to the underside of the desk, depresses the button. Primed, ready to go. Three of three. “I’m not done, I’m not done, gimme a sec—”

Sixty percent, seventy, and two more ‘troopers have poked their heads up the stairs. Jyn fires, again, again, again, and she manages to hit one, at least. The other vanishes. Eighty-five, eighty-six, eighty-nine, ninety, and there’s another burst from the comms, another tangle of voices. Euwood. She can’t make out what he says.

Cassian swears at her through comms. “Jyn, damn it, get out of there!’

“I’m not done!”

“Garrison’s mustering,” says Magva, and then she fizzles out in a cacophony of blaster bolts. Shit. Ninety-six, ninety-seven, and then a hundred, and Jyn’s just pocketed the chip again and seized her blaster when the ‘troopers pour onto the landing.  

“Weeteef,” she says, “Weeteef, I have the chip, get clear of the street, I’m blowing the first charge—”

Something goes off downstairs. A bomb. Smoke billows up through the stairwell, and she curses, tight through her teeth. Cassian. Stubborn, idiotic—“Weeteef, smoker, top window—”

“Hold your breath,” says Weeteef, and then glass shatters. More smoke billows out. She can make out the ‘troopers only from the reverberating red, the blaster bolts, one, two, six, nine, all of then concentrated at the bottom. She aims, fires once—someone screams—I can’t blow the first charge with Cassian down there, I don’t know where he is

Garrison’s away,” Magva shouts. “Garrison’s away, incoming—”

No time. None left. She lunges out the door, and drives her baton into the back of the nearest ‘trooper. He stumbles, and she whips around, takes him in the head. He’s down. Another shot, and there goes another. Eight. Seven, maybe. Downstairs, another blaster goes off. Cassian. Jyn swings over the railing, drops down hard on the stairs. Her ankles screech at her. She can’t see through the smoke, can’t make out faces. They’re ‘troopers. There are no faces. But there are swathes of yellow, down here, terrified workers, and she can’t blow the charges with them here, she can’t, she can’t—

A sputtering stream of red from behind a knocked-down desk, and there, that’s Cassian, she knows it without question, knows it like breathing, because it’s just what she would do. Jyn fires two rounds into the ceiling, and calculates. Twelve shots left. People shriek, and huddle together.

Get out of here,” she shouts, and people move. They sway in a great school, all towards the front door, and yes, good, yes, she finds the detonator in one hand and holds tight to it, because the first charge is at the back and if she can get them away from the back door— “Everyone out, everyone get out, get out, get out—”

She feels it before she hears it, the bolt to the shoulder. She’s always wondered how blasterfire can feel so heavy when all it is is white hot light. Jyn fires back, and drops, but the damage is done. Scorched cloth, scorched flesh, and it’s gone right into the meat of her shoulder and stopped. There’s a starburst of agony, and shit, shit, shit

“Hands in the air!”

The ‘trooper falls without her having to shoot it. Someone else has taken them out. Cassian. Jyn squirms sideways, finds a desk, tucks herself beneath it. The kyber crystal is burning at her skin when she presses the detonator once, just once.

The whole building rattles. She’d stuck the charge on the interior of an engine, and the whole thing must go out, not up, because there’s one bang, and then another. Windows shatter. A third bang—another shuttle, they’re going off in a line—and then a fourth. A blaster goes off, and another ‘trooper hits the ground. Something looms out of the smoke, and she has her blaster up and primed when she recognizes the face. Cassian.

“Come on,” he says, “come on, come on, we have to move, we have to go,” and she looks just beyond him, at the rush of motion, a skull rearing out of the fumes—she lashes out, her arm over his shoulder, and squeezes the trigger, one-two-three. The ‘trooper goes down. Cassian drags her out from underneath the desk. “Out the back, come on—”

Stop,” shouts a ‘trooper, and she can’t even count how many there are anymore, she’s not sure, she just turns and fires behind them. Cassian does the same, in the same instant, and she realizes that their hands are tangled around her detonator as the ‘trooper falls. One charge down means the next is in the bathroom, and they dart far too close to it, out the back and into flame. All the shuttles are burning, the smoke out here is noxious, oily, clinging; Jyn holds her breath even behind the scarf, and Cassian covers his nose and mouth with his sleeve as they race. They’re out the back, down the steps, around the chaos of the burning shuttlecraft, and it’s only once they’re half a block away that Jyn hits the button twice, and then three times.

The shrieks die behind them, but the flames don’t.

They’ve run six blocks, Jyn abandoning the vivid yellow uniform in a dumpster in an alley she can’t remember, by the time they finally stop. Jyn undoes her scarf, around and around, and she throws it into the nearest incinerator, watches it go up in flames. The detonator goes in there, too. She’s checked to make sure the chip is safe, tucked away, when she finally rounds on Cassian. Her teeth are out and sharp and she wants to tear into something, but there’s nothing left for her to shatter. Just Cassian, and he looks ready to faint, to curl into a ball and die in the dirt. Jyn looks back, and then presses him into a doorway, almost knocks his knees out from under him. “Cassian,” she says, and finds his face with both hands for a moment. Sweat and soot smear on her palms. She could shake him. She could kiss him. She does neither. “Cassian—can you walk?”

Cassian coughs. “I have to.”

“No, just—just a minute, sit here a minute.” She finds the comms in her pocket, in his. She lights one. “Retreating to rendezvous point. Over and out.”

“Understood,” says Magva. Jyn throws the comm in the incinerator, too, and slides down the wall to sit next to Cassian. Her heart’s beating too fast, and her hands are clenching and unclenching, all fire and smoke.

“We need to move,” says Cassian. “Before they catch up.”

She knows. She can’t speak. Jyn leans her head to the wall, and then bumps into him, hard, even with the little wince and the little chuff of pain through his teeth. She fists her hand up around the kyber crystal, and presses her nose to his shoulder. Her own is screaming.  

“You’re all right?” he says, and she nods once. She can stand. She can run. She’s all right.  

“You?”

He nods. There’s nothing more to say. Cassian puts his arm around her ribs, knocks his nose to her hair, and Jyn shuts her eyes. One beat, two beats. Three. She heaves him up.

“We have to go,” she says, and he nods. “K-2 is going to kill you.”

“He can do it later,” says Cassian. “Where’s the rendezvous?”

She has to look up, think. The houses have changed since she left, but most of the larger landmarks haven’t. “East. This way, come on.”   

.

.

.

Baze is almost asleep when the door opens. He thinks Chirrut might possibly laugh at him, if he knew, but it’s not as if there’s anything else to do. The guards have long since left the room—they seem unsettled by his stare—and he’s counted all the spirals, all the ceiling tiles, all the cracks in the floor. There’s no point in not sleeping, especially considering he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to sleep again. He’s crossed his arms and tipped his head back and almost dropped off when he hears the footsteps outside, the low voices. Baze opens one eye, and then shuts it again, just in time for the door to open.

“Master Malbus,” says Draven. He has the voice of a man who’s had a very bad day, and has just discovered something worse. “I trust you’ve slept well.”

Baze peers at him, and shrugs.

“It’ll please you to know that your friend has finally awakened,” says Draven, and Baze ricochets back to attention. He doesn’t move, doesn’t blink, but he stares. “He’s quite talkative. I was under the impression that monks didn’t have a sense of humor.”

Chirrut. He curls his hands under the table, squeezes them into fists. Awake. Chirrut. Alive. Awake. He’s buzzing beneath the skin.

“When I was twelve,” says Draven, settling in the chair opposite him, “my mother brought me to Coruscant with her to see the Jedi Temple. She was a trader. My father died when I was a boy, and usually she left me with my uncle on Naboo, but when the Trade Federation blockaded the planet she must have grown nervous, started taking me along with her. She made a delivery once to the Temple on Coruscant. I remember seeing all the Jedi, in their long robes and their monastic self-importance, and it seemed to me that for a group of people sworn to serve the galaxy and ensure peace, they really didn’t seem to realize the kind of trouble they were wading into.”

“Is there a point to this?” says Baze.

“I’m getting there,” Draven says. He leans back against his chair, unbuttons his jacket. “I don’t know whether I can say I believe in some all-powerful Force. My father did, supposedly, but I don’t remember him. Didn’t keep him from getting his ship shot down by pirates on the Outer Rim, and it certainly hasn’t been what’s kept the Rebellion going for as long as it has. I wonder at people like your friend the monk who are so devoted to it when it’s done little, if anything, for the galaxy.”

Chirrut. Awake. Alive. And for now he’s stuck down here. Baze folds his arms, and looks to the door.

“Do you believe in it, Master Malbus?” Draven’s mouth quirks, just slightly. “This Force. I imagine you must. It must be a requirement, to serve at the Temple of NiJedha.”

“The Force does not require belief,” says Baze. “It exists regardless.”

“That surprises me. You’re a man of action, Master Malbus, are you not? Not a monk, like your friend, no—out of the pair of you, you are the Guardian, are you not? You protect him. Keep him safe. Keep the kyber crystals in their rightful place in the catacombs beneath the temple.” Draven links his fingers over his belly. “Of course, the Temple is gone, now. The kyber crystals mostly harvested for use in the Empire’s superweapon, the city destroyed. I imagine the planet will take decades to recover from the blow to its crust, the radiation. You, Master Îmwe, even Lieutenant Rook, all of the Jehdites are lost. People without a city to call home. And did the Force stop that?”

Baze looks at him, and does not look away.

“Have I made you uncomfortable?” says Draven, with a kind of satisfaction that makes Baze want to shoot him. “I’m sorry. I’m thinking aloud, for the most part.”

“Think to yourself,” says Baze.

“I suppose that you’d say it was the Force watching over Chirrut Imwe that allowed him to throw the switch on Scarif? That enabled you all to survive?” Draven begins to tap his thumb to his opposite hand. A rhythm. One-two, three, stop. One-two, three, stop. “From what Master Îmwe was saying upstairs, I’m sure that’s what he thinks. But we two, we serve as the Guardians of our people, do we not, Master Malbus? I with my work, you with your—respective talents—”

Do not,” Baze says, and lets his teeth show, “compare yourself to me. Do not.

“You know it’s true,” says Draven. “And you know as well as I do that it was only a fluke of the grandest order that your ship ever managed to escape the shockwave in time, let alone reach hyperspace. Luck, and sheer stubbornness, and a particularly good pilot. I’ll be sad to lose him to a court-martial, but as it stands, going rogue twice—” He clicks his tongue. “It’s not something that even the Rebel Alliance can really stand for.”

 “You need to make up your mind, General,” says Baze. “Have them serve or send them away. One or the other. You’re being wishy-washy.”

The tapping stops, just for a moment. Draven’s mouth turns down. He stands. “Well,” he says. “Reports have come in. The shuttle that Jyn Erso and her band of miscreants—”

Rogues, Baze almost says, but he bites it down just in time.

“—liberated has been pinged on Onderon, so either way, you are now no longer useful to me.” Draven waves his hand, and the door opens. “I’m afraid, however, that we may soon be leaving Yavin IV, and as such, Master Îmwe may have to find alternative means of recovery other than those at Base One.”

Rage, hot and white, films in front of his eyes. Baze curls his hands into shaking knots, tree-root knots, the kind that always make his arms ache with the force of it. For a moment, a heartbeat, the space between, he imagines dragging Draven down by the hair, breaking his nose against the table. Knocking him to the floor. He wants a weapon in his hand. Draven’s lips curl again, and it’s triumph, this time. Baze doesn’t care.

Breathe in, he thinks. Breathe out. I am no Jedi. Rage cannot destroy me. I will not let it.

“Where are they going, Master Malbus?” says Draven.

“Away from you,” says Baze, and he follows their example. The guards tail him up the stairs.

The sickbay is mostly deserted, now that Jyn and Andor have fled. There are no guards on the door, no need to sneak through windows. The droid wheels about, tending to a few rebels in other beds, new occupants. The Bothan doctor has been replaced with a new one, a human male, dark as Bodhi and twice as hairy. He looks at Baze, and then tips his head towards the back of the room. “Behind the curtain,” he says. “He said you’d be coming. Expected you sooner.”

Baze doesn’t reply. He blazes past the doctor, past the beds. The curtain is a flimsy thing, easily pushed aside, and then—

“Hello,” says Chirrut. He’d been praying, Baze thinks, in silence. His hands are on his knees. “I thought Draven would let you out sooner. I made him quite uncomfortable.”

Baze can’t speak. He reaches out, finds Chirrut’s shoulder, the back of his neck. Fragile, he thinks. I am one with the Force; the Force is with me. Blaster bolts and terror, true acid terror in his mouth. I am one with the Force; the Force is with me. Alive. Alive. Alive. When Chirrut lifts a hand, it’s to take Baze’s, lift it to his mouth. Light, careful. His fingers are shaking from even that weight. There are new lines around his mouth, around his eyes, that Baze can’t remember ever seeing before. The skin of his temples is thin as silk, and the pads of his fingers are wrinkled. Bacta. Bacta immersion. If Baze holds on too tight, he might shatter him.

“You’re a damn fool,” says Baze, and tries not to listen to the fracturing all through the words. Like the crust of the earth of Jedha, stripped apart. “You’re a damn, damn fool.”

“You’re the one following me around,” says Chirrut, mouth laughing. “So what does that make you?”

“Tired,” says Baze. “Very tired.”

Chirrut finds his cheek. His face is still turned towards the end of the bed, even if he’s smiling. The scuff of Chirrut’s thumb over the stubble of his cheek is like fire. Baze drops down onto the edge of the bed, and kisses him, first the palm of his hand, then his mouth, harder than he should, hard enough to break him. His mouth is all bacta and blood.

“I worried you this time,” he says, when Baze breaks away. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t do it again,” says Baze, and Chirrut puts his hand back to Baze’s jaw. When he finds the skidding scar on his throat, Chirrut frowns, just a little.

“It seems,” he says, “there’s a great deal I’ve missed.”

Chapter Text

They’re waiting at the rendezvous for almost an hour before the sirens die down.

Jyn’s quiet. She sits, the hole in her shoulder hidden beneath Cassian’s jacket, and watches the street. It’s too hot for a jacket, and her hair sticks to the back of her neck. Moisture dribbles down her collarbone, along her sternum. She ignores it. Sometimes she reaches out just enough that she can touch Cassian’s shoulder, or his arm, where he’s sitting with his eyes shut in the corner of their café booth, his forehead crumpled up so tight she can’t smooth it out again. “Fine,” he says, the third time, “I’m fine, Jyn,” and she just shakes her head at him, because she can’t even be angry that he came in after her. She’d have done the same. It’s what he’s done since Jedha. Jyn, come on, we have to go, and she shouldn’t have expected anything else. Even when it makes the mission harder, makes it worse, he comes after her. It’s a perverse little quirk in his make-up. Hardened spy. Stubborn to the end. He should have ditched her on Jedha, and he hadn’t, and she’s still alive because he came after her on Scarif, and she owes him. Over and over, and now again, she owes him. She’s not used to owing people.

She has a funny feeling he wouldn’t believe her, even if she told him how much she owes. It makes her fingers prickle beneath the nails.

The café on Moon 9 Street has always been the rendezvous for drops. She’d delivered here dozens of times as a child, as a teenager, before they’d left Onderon. Notes. Weapons locations. Stolen orders. She’d smuggled a mine in to Saw once, kept it in her boot. Every step had made her think she was about to set it off, blow the whole street up. It had been a dud. The whole thing a test. She still feels like that. Like every step is going to blow the world up, and she’ll be the fuse.

She thinks, sometimes, about the teeth Saw gave her as a child. The weapons he’d taught her to use, the strategies. She thinks about Saw and the Partisans, and how it had been felt to be left behind. The fight is more important than any one of us, my child. In and out. You can do this. He’d taken her away from Lah’mu, and he’d made her into the best sort of weapon, a child with no family, nothing to lose, and then he’d turned her loose on the galaxy with no further hint of what to do, where to go, who to be. And now Saw is gone. Jyn wonders, for a second or two, if Weeteef managed to get away. She hopes they did. They’d pushed back for her when they hadn’t needed to, and she hadn’t realized she still had allies with these people. She hadn’t realized she had allies at all.

“Jyn,” says Cassian. She lifts her head, and follows his gaze. There’s a child across the street, watching them. The tiny human girl from the rooftops. She creeps across, stops just beside their outdoor booth. She’s nine, maybe. Ten. Filthy. Her hair’s cut short and ragged, and it’s so dirty that Jyn can’t tell what color it is beneath the muck.

“You the Kestrel?” she says. Her voice is all Onderon.

Jyn looks at Cassian. Something clenches up hard in her stomach.

“I’m Neera.” There’s a gap between her two front teeth. “Magva’ll be waiting at Bay 11-C for you. Dock 37. She said to tell you that the bird’s yours, if you can get there before sunset. Two-Tubes have agreed.”

“Both of them?”

Neera shrugs. “Edrio said we should kill you. Benthic and Magva said no. They argued. Weeteef spoke for you. You get the bird.”

“What about the others?” Jyn tries to work moisture up into her mouth, and fails. “Euwood, Dajo? The rest?”

Neera shrugs again. “Half of them en’t reported back yet.”

Which could mean anything. They don’t have time to ask. “How old are you?”

Little Neera rears back, and peers down her nose at the pair of them. “En’t your business.”

“Answer me, or you go back empty-handed,” Jyn snaps. “How old are you?”

For the third time, Neera shrugs. “Dunno. Magva says I’m eight.”

Eight. Her world rocks. Eight. Again. Eight again.      

“Have it or no?” says Neera. She sticks out one grimy hand. Down the street, a few ‘troopers bunch together, muttering. “Magva said you did.”

Jyn hesitates. It’s not just the chip she draws out of her hidden pockets, it’s one of the vibroblades, unused, extra. One of the fruits she’d bought in the market. She presses all three into Neera’s hand. The little girl’s drawing back when Jyn snaps her fingers around Neera’s wrist, vicious and fast, yanks her close.

“Take my advice,” she says. “Get away from the Partisans. They’re going to get you killed.”

“Lemme go—”

“Jyn.” Cassian lifts his chin. The ‘troopers are watching them. Jyn lets go of Neera, and she vanishes into the crowd, swallowed whole by Onderon. If she peers, she can just make out a little figure scrabbling up a gutter, darting away over the rooftops.

Her eyes burn. She shuts them, and breathes through her nose.

Cassian touches the back of her elbow. “Jyn.”

She wants to kill Magva Yarro. She wants to find the Partisans and burn them down. A child. Again. A child. She can’t breathe with it. We never should have come back, she thinks, I never should have remembered what it’s like, how it can feel, because it’s intoxicating, the triumph of beating them. Hurting them. Hurting them back. Taking back some of what the Empire’s stolen. It does nothing, she thinks, and tries to settle, tries to breathe. It’s done nothing but get good people killed. How many people were injured when the shuttles went off? She can’t know. How many of the Partisans held their fire for civilians? None. Just collateral damage. Like blowing a convoy in the middle of a street. Magva in charge, Magva and Benthic and Edrio, they don’t care about civilians. The little girl on Jedha is screaming in her head. They don’t care. They’ve never cared.

They use children. She nearly shakes him, nearly shouts. That little girl is going to be me. Don’t let her turn into me. Lost and desperate and cutting herself on her own fangs. All the little girls in the galaxy who have been caught in the in between. This shouldn’t happen. This can’t happen anymore. It can’t.

“Jyn,” says Cassian again. “What is it?” 

“Nothing.” She nearly gags on it. Jyn stands. “We’re getting the hell off this rock.”

She doesn’t know what he finds in her face, but it makes his mouth thin out. Cassian squeezes her shoulders when he puts his arm around her, leaning hard. He’s the one to turn the comm back on, and say, “Bodhi, finish up with the supplies and head to Bay 11-C, Dock 37. We’ll meet you there. Stay out of sight until we give the all clear, just in case.”

Bodhi sighs, says something, but Jyn’s not listening anymore. Something in her ears is buzzing, and she can’t get it to stop.

.

.

.

Jyn falls quiet, once they reach the docks.

Professionally, Cassian’s somewhat impressed with what the Partisans come up with. He’d been expecting something cheap, slapdash, easily stolen, easily modified, but that’s not what Magva delivers. It’s a YKL-37R Nova Courier, old, but serviceable, even if it’s not particularly clean; the paint job is awful, and needs to be redone, but it’s all in working order, including the hyperdrive. “There,” says Magva, when they finally turn up at Dock 37; she stares hard at Cassian, and then looks at Jyn. “Debt paid. Registration’s inside, modify it how you want. She’s called Last Hope.

Cassian nearly blinks at that. It’s almost too apt, like someone was watching, just in case. He looks at Jyn, the blankness on her face like just after Galen Erso’s death, and then clears his throat, answers in her place. “Thank you, Magva.”

“I don’t want your thanks, Alliance,” says Magva. She peers at him. “You look like hell.”

Cassian smiles, thinly. His knees haven’t stopped shaking since the depot. Jyn tightens her good arm around his ribs, drags his closer around her neck, stares at Magva like she’s daring her to comment any further. “Nothing to worry about.”

“Sure.” Magva spits. “Weeteef spoke for you. ‘cause of them that the ship’s so nice. Thank them or not, I don’t care.”

“No,” says Jyn, in an odd voice. “No, you never really did, did you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Where did you find her?” says Jyn. “Neera.”

Magva’s mouth flickers. She screws her face up. “Same as when we found you,” she says. “We’ve given her a way to fight back. We’ve given her hope.”

“You’ve given her hell,” says Jyn.

Magva spits. “My debt to you is paid, Jyn Erso,” she says. “The next time we see you, or any of your Alliance, we shoot you out of the sky.”

With that, she turns and stalks off down the docking bay, and their deal is done. Bodhi creeps out from behind the crowd, K-2 loping at his heels. “We okay?”

“We’re leaving,” says Jyn. She hits the button for the hatch, steps back. “K-2, help me, I can’t get him in there myself.”

K-2 braces his other side. The durasteel’s warm from the jungle sun, almost scorching. The clash of metal arm and human at his back nearly makes him wince. He bites his cheek just in time. “Don’t break me.”

“There,” she says to K-2, and K-2, surprisingly, listens. There’s a cabin for one of the crew just off the main room, the cot already set up with a thin mattress that only smells vaguely of jungle. K-2’s the one to lift his legs, ease him onto his back, flat and straight. Jyn untangles herself from his arm, and sits on the edge of the bed. When she leaves his jacket on the end of the cot, bares her scorched shoulder, Bodhi hisses through his teeth.

“Jyn—”

“It’s fine.” She doesn’t look away from Cassian. “Does this rustbucket have any medpacs?”

“I’ll go look,” says Bodhi, from where he’s peering in at the door, and then he vanishes. Jyn steps away, stands out of reach, her hands knotted into fists. Her shirt is burned straight through.

“As soon as they find out where the Empire’s looking, the Partisans will be after my father’s plans as well.” She presses her lips thin. “Keep him here,” she tells K-2. “I’m going to go start the ignition sequence. Make sure Magva hasn’t left any little gifts.”

“If you say so,” says K-2. The door closes behind her with a snick.

Cassian shuts his eyes.

“She seems unhappy with you,” says K-2. “Did something go wrong?”

“No, everything went fine.” Other than it feels like his spine is on fire. “We have the ship. It all went well. Everything’s fine.”

“Is she angry that you have exacerbated the damage to your back?” K-2 says, in the I am disappointed in you voice that Cassian loathes. “I can’t blame her for that. Your condition has deteriorated from what it was this morning, and even then it was not particularly encouraging. You are not usually this stupid, Cassian. Somewhat stupid occasionally, but not this stupid.”

“It’s not that,” says Cassian. He stares at the ceiling. “I don’t need the riot act from you.”

“It’s not as though we have the facilities to repair it on this new ship,” says K-2. “Unless we do, but I doubt it. You should have been more careful.”

“You could go check.”

K-2 sways back and forth. He settles at the very end of Cassian’s cot, his large robot hands folded over his knees. “Later,” he says. “If I leave, you will get into trouble, and if you do the probability is high that you will damage yourself beyond repair.”

Cassian falls asleep then, sharp as a drop off the cliff. He doesn’t even wake at the jump to hyperspace.

It’s six hours from Onderon to Alderaan on a straight shot, but he either doesn’t sleep for very long at all—the chrono on the wall reads 0920, which belies that notion—or they’re taking the most roundabout way possible to throw off any potential tails, because when he opens his eyes again, they’re still coasting outside of realspace. K-2 is gone. Someone’s left his silenced blaster next to the bed. He can’t move for a minute, for five. It sends bolts of lightning through every muscle in his body to sit up, to stand. The pain relievers in his duffel don’t do much, but they at least file the pain down to something more manageable. Cassian settles his blaster back in his belt, rocks on his feet for a minute or two.

72%. He wonders what the droid would say now.

They’re settled at the table in the mess, Bodhi and Jyn. Talking, quietly. Far too soft for him to hear. There’s a medkit left open and abandoned on the tabletop. Jyn’s in a new shirt, and it takes him a few blinks to realize she’s scrounged it from his duffel. Someone’s made caf, and the smell makes the headache roosting behind his right eye turn into a clawing beast. “Cassian,” says Bodhi, and sits up straighter. “You look—”

Bodhi trails off. Apparently there’s no way to say how he looks without being grievously offensive. Cassian waves it off, and aims for the cupboards.

“K-2 found disposable cups,” says Bodhi, and frets with his empty one, tearing pieces off of it. The bag of cups has been abandoned on the counter. Cassian finds one, and fills it. “In the hold. I think they left it behind on accident.”

“We have water?”

“It’s green,” says Jyn, flatly. His shirt is awkward on her; she’s had to roll up the sleeves to her elbows, even though the shoulders fit, or nearly. “Probably hasn’t been changed in a decade. Bodhi bought water.”

If we survive this, he thinks, in a distant sort of way, we’ll have to get the water tank cleaned. Or warn whoever claims this ship after they’re court martialed to give the water tank an acid bath. “Where’s K?”

Bodhi jerks a thumb over his shoulder. Just within sight, back towards the cockpit, K-2 has taken an entire panel off the wall, and is wrists deep in wires.

“He said the hyper—the hyperdrive could be working better.” Bodhi shrugs. “I told him, dangerous to work on the hyperdrive while in hyperspace, but it’s not—it’s not the drive, he says, it’s the connections, he can fix it without dismantling anything.”

There’s a sudden gust of sparks from the wall of the ship. K-2 mutters under his breath.

“He says,” says Bodhi, his eyebrows pinching together.  

“He’s usually right.” The table’s set with a curved seat around it, worn through in places. Jyn inches away from him when he settles on her other side, closer to Bodhi. “How much longer?”

“Mm, two hours.” Bodhi considers, looks up at the chrono on the wall. “Around—around 1130 standard. Around that. I rerouted the jump to take us around parts of the Core and approach Alderaan from the back, just in case. We can drop out of hyperspace there and send the message to Baze and then—and then make the jump back to hyperspace, back to the Outer Rim. If—if that’s where we need to go. It’s roundabout, but—” He shrugs. “Keeps people from following us.”   

“Thank you,” says Cassian, and Bodhi’s lips twitch up and then down and then up again. He swipes the pieces of his torn-up caf cup, dumps them into the trash compacter.

“I’m gonna go,” he says, “to—to check on numbers,” and then he’s darted off towards the cockpit again. Jyn has her knees drawn up against her chest, her feet curled around the edge of the seat, tucked close to her disposable cup of caf like it’s a shield. She stares at Cassian, half-glowering.

“I didn’t mean to scare him,” says Cassian.

“You didn’t,” says Jyn, clipped short. She’s almost bristling.

“He thinks you’re going to shout at each other,” says K-2 over the clang of the ship. “He doesn’t like shouting. It makes him jumpy.”

“Thank you for answering for me, K-2,” says Bodhi, only barely audible. “That’s—that’s very helpful, thank you.”

“I was only pointing out the obvious.” K-2 turns to Cassian. “Oh. That was the wrong thing, wasn’t it.”

“It was,” says Cassian. He steals a look at Jyn. She doesn’t look up to shouting at the moment. If anything, she looks like a strong wind will crumple her up like a dead leaf, shred her to pieces. “How’s your shoulder?”

“Fine,” says Jyn. She frowns. “You were limping.”

“It’s not bad.”

“The medication’s mostly expired, but there’s pain relievers in the kit that will still work.” She unsticks from her knot, her forehead scrunching up. “I left a bacta patch for you, but we’ll have to open up your back for that to work, and it’ll do more damage than it heals. Turn around.”

Cassian blinks. He listens. Jyn slides off the seat, comes around to his side of the table and swivels the kit around. It’s old enough that there are still marks of the Separatists on the inside of the lid, and half the vials are empty—dumped down the sink, he imagines, or into the compactor—but the hypospray is still functioning. So is the scanner. Her fingers are warm when she shifts the shirt up over the small of his back, presses the cold scanner to the skin.

“You’ve undone some of the new growth around the nerves that were damaged on Scarif,” she says. “That’s why it hurts. I think the bacta treatments you had on Yavin were mainly directed towards repairing that, and that’s why you’re still standing.” She doesn’t say lost mobility entirely. He’s not sure if he’s grateful for it. “But the nerves are raw and the bone’s still too flexible to—”

She stops.

“What?”

“You’ve done some damage,” she says. “To the nerves.”

There’s no inflection to her voice at all. She could be an automaton. Cassian wets his lips. “How much?”

There’s a humming from the scanner. Jyn says, “Enough. You’ll need what’s left of the bone stabilizer. More rest. Bacta when we can get it.” If they survive to get it. She hesitates. “I can numb it before the stabilizer. It’ll sting, with the nerves raw as they are.”

“No,” says Cassian. He grips the edge of the table hard. “If you numb it, I won’t be able to tell if—no.”

She radiates behind him. Frustration. Worry. “Cassian.”

“Just the stabilizer,” he says. This is my hunt, too. This is my life, too. Don’t take the plans away from me when we’re so close to catching up. “Jyn, please.”

She swears under her breath, and readies the hypospray.

The stabilizer burns like acid underneath the skin. Cassian has to dig his nails into the edge of the table, shut his eyes and breathe in through his nose in short bursts. After, she helps him shift, brushes the collar of his shirt aside and presses the hypospray to his clavicle, and he bites the inside of his cheek hard enough to taste blood. He’s not sure how long it takes for the pain to fade, but when it eases just enough that he can blink away the blur of it, scarlet at the corners of his vision, the medkit’s been stowed away, and Jyn’s tucked around her caf once more. K-2 stands near the table, hands folded behind his back.

“I thought she was torturing you,” he says. “It sounded like torture.”

“I’m torturing myself,” says Cassian. “The ship?”

“Argumentative,” says K-2.

“It’ll fit in, then,” says Jyn.

“Not really,” says K-2, and wanders off towards the hyperdrive again. Jyn turns to watch him go, twisting up in the chair, her fingers at her throat. There’s that necklace again, the hooked pale crystal braced against her palm, thumb to the tip. She doesn’t seem to realize she’s holding it. Cassian leans back against the cushion—lightning bolts ricochet through his spine—and finds his caf with both hands.

“He doesn’t like me,” she says.  

“He doesn’t trust you,” says Cassian. “That’s all.”

Jyn twists the necklace between her fingers, and turns back to the table. “Where did you find him?”

K-2 is still fussing with the hyperdrive. If he can hear them, he hasn’t commented yet. Which implies, really, that he can’t hear them. K-2 has never met a conversation that he doesn’t eventually stick his faceplate into, especially if it’s about him. “Coruscant,” says Cassian. It comes easily, somehow. “I was working. Disabled him, took him to see if I could extract any information about the target. He didn’t have any, but I—I rewired him to try and get answers.”

She draws both knees up to her chest. “How long ago was that?”

“I was nineteen,” says Cassian. “Seven years ago.”

Jyn looks hard at the glit of the tabletop. There’s a bacta patch just barely peeking out from the collar of her borrowed shirt.

“I think the mechanic who looked at him after I came back cried when he’d seen what I’d done to the code,” says Cassian, and she lifts her head, peeks at him. “He touched it up a little, but mostly K’s—I made sure they didn’t change him too much.”

Her lips part. Jyn watches K-2 fiddle around with the hyperdrive for a bit longer, fuss with the wiring. She says, “Because he’s honest.”

Cassian can’t look at her after that. She has a tendency to cut right to the heart of something with a dull blade. It’s leaving him shredded into pieces. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t nod, but yes, that’s it, exactly it. That hadn’t been what he’d been thinking at the time—he’d just been trying to get information out of the Security Droid, trying to track down an elusive target—but it had stuck to him.

“There was a droid,” she says. “On Lah’mu. We called him Beetle. I think he was destroyed, but he helped tend the plants. Did chores. He sang sometimes.”

She closes her mouth up tight after that. Jyn tucks the crystal away, and watches her caf, not touching it, not drinking it, just—staring. Thinking maybe. Cassian folds his hands around his cup.

“Once it’s done,” he says, “you could go back for her. Neera.”

Jyn cuts him a look through her bangs. Once it’s done, like there’s a chance they’ll survive. We survived Scarif. Maybe we’ll survive again. He’s not very hopeful. She shakes her head. “She won’t come.”

“You don’t know that for sure,” he says. It tastes sour.

Jyn shuts her eyes, shifts her shoulder. Her mouth puckers. “I do,” she says. “She won’t. She’s—”

Get away from the Partisans. They’re going to get you killed.

Cassian grips the cup of caf too hard, dents the material. She’s you, he thinks. She’s me. She’s us. “You can always try.”

She shakes her head, and winces again. “She has to do it herself,” she says. “She’ll either figure it out or she’ll get killed. If I tried to take her away she’d run away the first chance she had.”

“She’s a child.”

“I was a child,” Jyn snaps. “You were a child. Did it stop you?”

Cassian can’t speak again. He looks at the table, at the wall, anywhere but at her, and Jyn scoffs between her teeth. She stands. “I’m going to go up front with Bodhi, I can’t—dammit.”

She’s dropped her caf. Picked it up with her bad hand, and lost her grip. It spills everywhere, dripping off the edge of the table, running into the cracks. Jyn stares at it, and bites her lip hard enough to bleach the color out of it. K-2 turns to look at her, and then goes back to his work. She seems rooted to the floor, watching the caf drip, so Cassian eases his way out of the chair and finds a scrap of oily cloth, sets it over the spill. She turns her face away from him when he touches her elbow.

“Let me see,” he says, very softly. Jyn peeks at him sidelong, and curls her good hand into a fist. She tips her head out of the way. Cassian finds the collar of the shirt she’s borrowed, draws it just a little to the side. Her collarbones jut out of her, leaving hollows like canyons, and there’s a strength to her shoulders even under the bacta patch that speaks to labor, hard and long. Wobani, but no, that had been her first labor camp, even if she’d been imprisoned before. Even if she’d escaped. Whatever she’d done before then, whoever she’d been, it’s left its marks. There’s a scar arcing up over her shoulder from the back that looks like a gash from a vibroblade. She has to undo one of the buttons at the top of the shirt, shift so the cloth’s no longer in the way, and his throat dries up. Cassian finds the edge of the bacta patch, and eases it off.

It sticks, as it comes. The wound’s deep, but not terrible. It could have scorched bone, and it’s only found flesh, in the soft dip below her clavicle. “Nothing’s torn,” he says. “You just need to be careful.”

Jyn clears her throat. “I have to keep it covered,” she says, still turned away from him. She’s gone slightly husky, and he’s not sure if it’s because she’s trying to keep her voice down, or because of something else. “The bacta helps.”

“Your arm?”

“I can shoot,” she says. “If I have to.”

She had, on Onderon. That’s not the problem. Cassian smooths the patch back down again, leaves his hand on it for a moment. There are freckles dipping down below the fabric of her borrowed shirt. Jyn lifts her eyes, looks at him, and Cassian doesn’t draw back. There are deep shadows under her eyes.

I want to know you. It trembles against his teeth. When she shifts her weight, her hair tickles against his fingers. I want to know you. Her sharp teeth and broken edges. He lets it swallow him. Jyn watches him, unblinking, unflinching, and he’s washed away. When she rests her hand to his sore collarbone, Cassian straightens, and just barely brushes his thumb against the skin of her throat. He wants to know about the life she’d had on Lah’mu, about Galen and Lyra Erso, the droid they’d called Beetle. He wants to know about the Partisans, and about the barracks. He wants to know Lianna Hallik, Tanith Pontha, Kestrel Dawn. He wants to know the woman who’d turned to him at the top of the comms tower and smiled, the one that had bared her teeth and lunged at the fallen Krennic, the one who’d found his hand on the beach. He wants to know every inch of what she is, to wake up to her beside him, warm and close, instead of finding her gone before he opens his eyes. I think you know me. I want to know you. He's never wanted to know someone like this before. They don’t have time for everything he wants.

“You came back for me,” she says. She could mean Jedha, or Eadu, or Scarif, or Onderon. He’s not sure it matters. “Thank you.”

She sounds so small. Cassian braces his hand to the back of her neck, and she sighs when he puts his mouth to her hairline, breathes her in. She’s tiny, Jyn Erso. The top of her head barely reaches his chin. Small and strong and fierce and alone.

She’s me, she’d said. She won’t.

“We’ll go back for Neera,” he says against her hair, and she goes stiff and brittle, nails catching in the fabric of his shirt. “We’ll find her.”

“We won’t. She’ll stay far away.”

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.” He looks down at the part in her hair. “We can find someplace safe for her.”

“Nowhere’s safe until that thing is destroyed.” She knocks her head to his sternum, breathes deep and slow. “I have to finish my father’s work, Cassian. I have to make sure it’s done.”

“You will,” he says, and slowly her shoulders drop back, settle again. Slowly she relaxes. “And we’re with you for all of it.” Cassian hesitates. “I’m with you.”

Jyn’s throat works. When she lifts her head, it’s with such a look on her face that he can’t make it out. Mixed-up. Bruised. Longing. She watches him, and he shouldn’t be so struck with that, he shouldn’t be immobile with it, but she swallows again and Cassian’s lungs catch. He's never wanted to know someone like he wants to know her. He's never wanted anyone to look at him like she's looking at him right now. Not until her.

She says, “Cassian—”

Something shrieks. An alert. Steam billows out of the hallway. “Oh no,” says K-2, in a highly unbelievable mimicry of panic. “Cassian, I seem to have damaged something.”

Cassian’s never once wanted to turn K-2 off and stick him in a corner until this moment. Right now. “I’ll get the extinguisher,” says Jyn, and she walks away. She stops at the base of the ladder, looking back at him. She’s not smiling—it’s not even close to a smile, the quirk to her mouth—but it’s something soft. It sticks to him, and in him, before she’s out of sight.

“You haven’t damaged anything, and you know it,” he says, and waits until K-2’s turned the valve on the pipe before crossing through the last of the steam. “Let’s see if we can’t get this thing to move a little faster.”

Chapter Text

Last Hope is a courier, built for six passengers, two crew. She’d explored parts of it, while Cassian was sleeping—the cargo hold, all the cupboards in the main room, the lavatory—but once the extinguisher’s been delivered, it’s a cabin she returns to, the one midway between the cockpit and the main reactor, right in the center of the ship. It’s small, barely a nook with a mattress flung into it, hardly enough room to stand up in, but that’s where she goes, and she draws the hatch closed behind her.

1100 hours galactic standard time at the back end of Alderaan—she doesn’t know Alderaan’s time schedule off the top of her head, but she’s fairly certain that 1100 standard time would be the middle of the night on the cold side of a planet like Alderaan, with a twenty-nine hour day. She doesn’t know much about Alderaan, other than there are a lot of mountains, and the people are peaceful, and it produces a lot of famous wine. The planet of beauty. Rainforests and hills and mountains and wide meadows full of people with no way to defend themselves. Probably cold, at night.

Of course it’d be cold. She hates the cold. Her mother had loved it. Jyn has very few memories of Lyra; even before she’d boxed them all up, set them aside after Saw, she couldn’t bring herself to look at them. They’d faded. She knows Lyra’s voice. She can remember wandering the apartment on Coruscant, when she’d been very young, three maybe, four, and Lyra taking her away from her game because the Imperials were coming to dinner, and the Imperials didn’t like seeing Jyn around. She can remember the silences between her parents before they’d left the Core, stifled arguments over things that a small Jyn, a young, naïve Jyn, had never understood. He’s lying to you, Galen, can’t you see that he’s lying to you? The one really vivid memory she has is more like a dream: deep banks of snow, long streaks of sunlight painting the world orange and purple and gold, and her mother cupping the snow in her hands, flinging it in the air. Frost on her teeth, on her nose. The way her lips burned after she’d slipped and fallen into a bank. Look, Jyn. Snow. It snowed. Let’s play in the snow. Not on Lah’mu. Somewhere else.

Your mother was a warrior. That’s always how Saw had described Lyra. Your mother knew what was right. It was your mother who wanted me to take you in, if it came to that. She fought with her every breath. Your father was never very good at it. You’re more like her than him. It’s true. Her mother fought. Her mother had given birth on a frozen prison world, drawn a gun on the ghost in white—Krennic, she knows his name, Orson Krennic—and fallen, and Jyn had fought too. Jyn had run, and fought, and gone from frozen prison wastelands to chaotic, furious jungles to broad deserts that ate cities alive, and then back to frozen wastes. Alone.  

How can she say who she’s like? Not like her father. Maybe not even like her mother. She’d had eight years with Galen and Lyra, another eight with Saw, and then another seven years alone. Twenty-three, and half a Rebel. Sixteen, and an insurgent. Eight, and an orphan, because whose daughter was she? No one’s. Like Neera. Her mother had left her and died in the mud. Her father had gone, and would have been better off ending the same. At ten Jyn had been carrying bombs and ammunition taped to her leg under ratty trousers, passing off notes in alleys and markets. At eleven she’d planted a mine underneath an Imperial convoy and blown it in the middle of a crowded street, because that’s what was necessary. At twelve she’d killed a Stormtrooper in close combat and gunned down three more, and Saw had taken her with him when he’d left Onderon, because people were starting to whisper. At fifteen, she’d thought Saw was as good as a father to her, and at sixteen, she’d waited with a gun and a knife in an empty barracks on Rajtiri and he’d never come back. She’d been alone.

She was a warrior. You are too.

Is that why he thought I would be all right? Is that why he’d thought nothing of leaving her behind? I was sixteen, she’d said, flinging it at him like shrapnel, and Saw had been so puzzled. He’d left her alone, with a gun, a knife. Nothing more. Her mother had given her a necklace and nightmares. Her father hadn’t even given her that. Say you understand. She hadn’t understood. Not for fifteen years. She hadn’t understood Saw, and she hadn’t understood her father, and her mother—

Jyn curls on the bed. She draws her knees up to her chest. She’d hated her mother. Some part of her still does. I was a child. I was a child and I was frightened and you left me to go back for him, when there was nothing you could have done. They had to have talked about what would happen if the ghost came, her parents. They had to have known. Why would Lyra go back for Galen?

Why would Cassian keep coming back for me? Over and over and over. Again and again. No matter the cost. I’m with you. Jedha, Eadu, Scarif, and now Onderon, still winding under her skin. I’m with you.

She shies away from that. She cannot think about that. She will not think about that. There’s no time. They have no time. And in the after—

What after?

If the after comes, if by some miracle they survive, if they get through this alive and the plans are recovered and the Death Star is destroyed, what happens? Jyn punches the coat she’d left behind in here earlier, folds it into a pillow. What happens to all of them? A court-martial? Split up? Scattered across the galaxy? No. Not them. Not the Rogues. No. They’re all raw to each other in a way she’s never had, not with her father, not with Saw and the Partisans, not with anyone. They’ve seen her broken and burning, and she’s seen them raw and cracked apart. Cassian’s exhaustion. Bodhi’s shattered parts. Chirrut and Baze, lost. Not them. Don’t take them away.

What’s the plan, little sister?

She doesn’t have a plan. Beyond the plans themselves, she has no plan. She hasn’t had a plan since she was sixteen, since she’d been ditched on Rajtiri, sobbing in the barracks, shattering everything the Partisans had left behind. She doesn’t make plans. She can’t. Before, she ran, and ran, and ran more, ran further and harder and faster, trying to stay out of sight, out of reach, out of mind. All of it alone. It hadn’t worked. Of course it hadn’t worked. None of it ever had. She knows how to plan an infiltration, how to blow up a convoy, how to kill a man with a gun or a blade or half of a pointed stick. She’s not sure she knows how to plan a life beyond fighting. She’s not sure there is a life beyond fighting. Just a series of final stops, for her. Disembark. This is the last stop. There is nothing further for you in this universe, Jyn Erso.

She’d thought it was the end on Scarif. She’d thought they were going to die. She’d been happy to die there, with Cassian. She’d thought she’d done what she was meant for, done all she could. The one good thing she had ever done in her life. But she’s alive still, and her shuttle is still rattling forward, carrying her on and on, to life, to death, to prison, to a tomb. Until they win or they die. If they live. If she lives.

Jyn fists her hand in the sleeve of her coat. The fight that Saw had given her had been desperate, and tangled, and hopeless, blood and mud and gore, and the Alliance—the Alliance isn’t much better, but the Alliance reaches out for the stars. The Alliance reaches out for a peace she’s not sure she’s made for, that she’s not sure she can survive in. She’s not sure Cassian can either. Neither of them are built for it. Neither of them were made for it. Weapons left unused turn dull, shatter to nothing. Peacetime isn’t for them. She tries to picture it, for a moment, what it could be like, not having to fight, not having to run, the possibility of growing old somewhere, with or without someone, with children, maybe, with a family, and it doesn’t mesh. She can’t sort anything out of the murk.

Welcome home. And he’d meant welcome to a fight that means something. Welcome to a cause that we can be proud to die for. Welcome to a world where someone cares when you stop breathing.

Melshi. Pao. Tonc. Selfa. She wants to etch them into her skin. Galen. Saw. Lyra. Lyra. Her mother, Lyra. The woman who’d left her behind to fight for her husband, sent her child to the unknown and walked off to die, to beg him to do the right thing.

I’m with you, Cassian had said. Jyn curls up so tight that her stomach aches.

She wants to see snow. The images come to her like a daydream. She wants to bury her hands in snow. She wants to turn and find him in snowfall, go on her toes and kiss him until his mouth warms under hers and his hands are under her coat. She wants to find snow with Cassian Andor. She’s never wanted that before.

“Jyn.

It’s Bodhi. The comm system by the head of the cot is flashing. Jyn untangles, hits the button, hopes she doesn’t sound too hoarse. “What?”

“We’re dropping back to realspace in about two minutes,” says Bodhi. “Figured you’d want to come up.”

Jyn looks at her hands.

“Jyn?”

“Be right there,” she says.

.

.

.

“We ought to refuel on Alderaan.”

Bodhi, lost in thought, blinks and looks at K-2. “What?”

“We ought to refuel on Alderaan,” says K-2. “The roundabout hyperspace travel has greatly depleted our fuel resources. We may not necessarily have the funds, but we should find some way to refuel.”

“We have enough to get from Alderaan to the first planet on the Outer Rim route from Scarif the princess might have taken.” It’s still so odd to say that. He’s known there’s a princess involved with the Rebellion—pilots talk, and the X-wing pilots love to talk about Princess Leia Organa, for all they’re not supposed to—but it’s just—he’s never considered princesses before. He’s never imagined in his life that he’d ever be in any small way linked to royalty. The title lays odd and awkward on his tongue. “Besides, we’re coming up the back. It’ll be the middle of the night on the back-side of Alderaan right now, nothing will be open. It’ll be easier to just refuel on the Outer Rim.”

“There is more likelihood that we will be recognized, however.” K-2 flicks the decelerator. “Strategically, the Empire will have kept news of the attack on Scarif from many of the core planets. The Outer Rim Territories will be filled with bounty hunters hired by imperial forces, but the Core should present a safe enough place. They would not anticipate it.”

“Or they’d catch us all and throw us in prison to be eaten by wolf-cats,” says Bodhi.

"Technically—"

"I know. You're a droid. You can survive wolf-cats." He resettles in the pilot chair. “Run it by Jyn.”

K-2 makes a noise that sounds more like a scoff than anything.

“Or by Cassian, then.” Bodhi taps at the nav-computer. “Either way.”

“Jyn Erso is not in command.”

“She’s technically a sergeant.”

“The statement stands.” K-2 turns to the screen. “Approaching coordinates.”

“On my mark,” Bodhi says. “Three, and two, and—”

Metal.

Bodhi can’t process, for a second. There’s metal. Too close. Far too close. There where it shouldn’t be. There where it’s never been, there where it can’t be, the whole ‘screen filled with miles and miles of metal. “That’s inconvenient,” says K-2, and he’s stolen the controls before Bodhi realizes it, whipping the courier sideways. Bodhi nearly comes out of his seat. There’s a whine from the ship like a beggar, but she turns, and it’s just in time; if they’d kept on their current course they’d have smashed right into—

Into what? It’s huge, whatever it is. Huge and grey. Man-made. A space station, maybe, though Bodhi can’t think why anyone in the Empire would put a space station right next to a Core planet and especially not next to Alderaan. Certainly not without putting an alert on hyperspace maps.

Down the ladder, Cassian swears. Jyn sticks her head up through the manhole.

“Maybe try not to drive us right into a moon,” she says.

“Alderaan doesn’t have any moons,” says K-2. “That’s common knowledge.”

“Sorry,” says Bodhi, “sorry, there was no—there was no alert on the map, it was just in the way, we can go around it and send the message and then get out of here, it’s fine—”

But Jyn’s gone white. Pasty white, dead around the mouth white, eyes wide and lungs not working white. She opens her mouth, and closes it.

“Jyn?” His voice goes high. “Jyn, what is it?”

“Get us out of here,” she says.

“Get us—it’s a station, Jyn, we just came a little close—”

“Get us out of here.

“What the hell is going on up there?” says Cassian from down below. K-2 turns around.

“Cassian, it is inadvisable for you to—” 

“We can’t be here.” She seizes the back of the pilot’s chair. “Get us out of here, Bodhi, get us out before they realize we’ve seen them, we can’t be here—”

“But it’s just—”

Look at it,” she says, and Bodhi looks. He looks, and looks. On the side of the station, a hangar bay opens. TIE fighters—three of them, six, twelve—take to space.

“Hostiles,” says K-2. “Approaching at high speed.”

“Get us out of here,” says Jyn again, but it fades in Bodhi’s ears. It’s so big. He’d only caught one angle of it on Scarif, only seen it out of the corner of his eye as they’d fled, trying to escape the shockwave, trying to shake whatever tails that had still been able to fly. A curving grey thing, only barely visible in the silvering sky. This isn’t a shadow in the sky, this is the sky. It’s enormous. It’s lethal. This is what Galen built. This is what he died trying to destroy. This is what they all nearly died trying to destroy.

It really is a Death Star, he thinks. Then: It’s huge. How can we beat something so huge?

“It seems,” says K-2, “that they have seen us.”

“Get us out of here,” says Jyn. “Get us out of here now.

“Enacting evasive maneuvers,” says K-2, as she jams her way between the pilot and co-pilot chairs. “Where are you going?”

“If they fire on us,” she says, still dead-lipped, “I’m firing back.”

She grips both sides of the ladder down into the gunnery, hands and feet, and slides down. Doesn’t bother with the rungs. Bodhi doesn’t move. He can’t unstick himself from the pilot’s seat, staring, unable to breathe. Unable to do anything.

You’re a good man, Bodhi Rook, says Galen in his head. You can do this. You can beat this thing.

How can anyone beat this thing?

“Bodhi.” It’s Cassian. He’s clambered up the ladder from the common area without any of them noticing. His mouth is tight, his eyes pinched at the corners. “Get us out of here.”

Bodhi stares out the glass.

Bodhi.” A hand on his shoulder, shaking. “Bodhi, look at me. Bodhi.”

“We have to warn them,” says Bodhi. He can’t really process anything beyond that. “We have to warn Alderaan. We have to—”

“Bodhi,” says Cassian Bodhi hears it, distantly. There’s a fog in his head. Jedha. It’s Jedha. It’s Scarif. It’s Jedha. The neighborhood he’d grown up in. Gone. His mother’s house, gone. His aunt, his cousins. All gone. Gone. All of it. He hadn’t remembered until now. He hadn’t remembered. He hadn’t remembered any of them. The woman at the end of the block they always bought scraps from even though they didn’t need any. Eland. Aunt Pama. All of them, all the girls, his baby cousins. He can’t remember how old any of them were. He gets an image of a gap-toothed child, but that’s years old, dusty and tattered at the edges. All gone. All the houses, all the neighborhoods, all the people, gone. There’d been a restaurant near the docking bays, a place that did stew. The waitress had always remembered him no matter how much time had passed between runs. Her name is gone. He’d known it before. One tends to lose one’s mind. K-2 is talking, Cassian’s at the nav-computer, and he can’t hear them. He looks at the Death Star, and thinks he might see bodies.

“No,” says K-2. “They’d have been vaporized.”

Bodhi looks down at his hands. He’s gripping the controls so tight that his knuckles are bleeding through the skin, shining white. He can’t breathe.

“We have to get out of here,” says Cassian. “We have to get out of here now, they’ll have orders to shoot on sight, they won’t want any witnesses, we have to get out of here, Bodhi—”

Bodhi can’t look away from the Death Star. “We have to warn them,” he says. “We have to warn Alderaan, if it’s here we have to warn them, we can’t—it can’t—if it’s here then—”

“Bodhi.” Cassian plucks at him until he lifts his eyes. There’s panic hidden in Cassian’s face, somewhere. It leaks out at the edges, coppery at his mouth. Cassian’s frightened. Bodhi blinks. He can’t remember ever seeing Cassian frightened. Not like this. “We can stop this. Remember? We can stop this. I’ve input coordinates into the nav-computer, but if the Empire’s out here they’ll have jammed our transmissions before long. I need to send a message to Baze, I need to report this, so I need you to finish the jump to hyperspace. K can’t do it alone. Do you understand?”

He thinks he might vomit. He gropes for something, for anything. “I’m the pilot.” 

“Yes.” Cassian shakes him by the back of the neck, the way a mother cat would. “Yes, you are. You are the pilot. You’re going to get us out of this. Finish the jump to hyperspace when the computer is done calculating. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” says Bodhi, and closes his eyes to Alderaan. “Where are we going?”

“As far away as we can get,” says Cassian, and then he’s gone. There’s a clattering as he slides back down the ladder, muttering something Bodhi can’t make out.

“I’m the pilot,” Bodhi tells himself. He turns back to the nav-computer. “K, divert all auxiliary power to our deflector shields, I don’t want those TIE fighters to get any hits in before we make the jump.”

“Diverting.”

All at once, the ship moans. It’s a terrible, creaky thing, indisputable. When he presses down on the thrusters, it moans again. And again.

“All transmissions jammed,” says K-2. He hasn’t lifted his good eye from the screens in front of him. “Channeling power to rear engines.”

“We’re being towed,” says Bodhi. His lips crack. “We’re being towed. That’s a tractor beam, K, can you—”

“I have already rerouted all power.” K-2 turns to him. His fingers loosen on the switches. “It’s barely making a dent. I do not see how we can escape.”

“Can we make a jump?”

“Even if the coordinates were fully calculated the tractor beam means that the drag on the ship would be too strong to allow us to reach the appropriate—”

“Give me something! You specialize in strategy—”

“I have been running through simulations since arriving at our current coordinates and have found nothing to suggest—”

“No,” says Bodhi. “No. We are not going to die out here.”

“It is difficult to see how we will survive,” says K-2. “Though that may be because I have only one eye.”

You’re a good man, Bodhi Rook, says Galen. I wish you wouldn’t waste it.    

“We are not going to die,” Bodhi says again, and makes for the ladder.

.

.

.

The energy of Yavin has long been left disturbed. It leaves marks in the earth, in the sky. He wonders, sometimes, how none of them feel it, any of the Rebel Alliance, any of their pilots. No one who walks this planet seems to have realized the energy that lurks just beneath the surface of the stones they tread, the rooms they repurpose. The main fighter wing is crawling with it, with life, with misdirected energies. Patterns left behind by Force-users centuries and millennia dead. New growth, old patterns, and they swirl into the old.

“You’ve said that before,” says Baze, and fits a socket back into his project. He’s taken his entire cannon apart, and he’s oiling every scrap of it. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“The Force is simply a field,” says Chirrut, not opening his eyes. “It’s fallen into old habits. It’s had no reason to shift from them until now. The Rebellion is doing good for this place.”  

“Still stinks of Sith to me.” Baze sets another piece aside. The whole sickbay stinks of oil. It makes him think of Jedha, of Baze finding him in gardens and taking the damn cannon apart there, too, cleaning it there though he’d never had cause to use it before the Empire. “You shouldn’t be messing with it.”

“You’re ruining the fun,” says Chirrut.

“You can’t even walk.”

“I don’t need to. You’ve been pushing me around quite well. I think tomorrow if you keep this up they might even let me go outside.”

Baze mutters under his breath, and goes back to his project.

He’s not wrong, though, The Rebellion is doing much more good for Yavin IV than they might ever realize. All the Force ever wants is to be in balance. Usually it is the Jedi who ease it back into place. Sometimes, we can do our own small part, in our own small ways. He’s not nearly strong enough to shift the energies alone, Baze is right about that, but the Rebellion is doing his work for him. They carry the light side of the Force like torches in their chests, nearly all of them, even the ones threaded through with darkness, with shadow. The flood is shifting the flow of the planet. They’ve already brought more life back to the ziggurats than has been here in centuries. Every step seems to be a new imprint in the earth, writing over old stories.

“They all glow like lanterns, Baze,” he says.

“You’ve said that before too.”

“Good to know you’re listening,” says Chirrut.

“You’re an old nag,” says Baze, gruffly, and clasps his ankle for a moment. “Fine way to meditate.”

Chirrut doesn’t respond. There’s a trembling, somewhere. Near. He follows it. The spin of light in his head sticks, wavers on its balance. There’s a knot. Twisted tight. The smell of oil fades. A murmur echoes just beyond his hearing, beyond the door, maybe, down the hall. Maybe Baze, trying to get his attention before realizing he’s sunk too deep for human ears to work.

Human.

He tugs at the knot. This way, that way. He’d heard tell from other Guardians that he fusses with the Force like an old woman with her knitting, picking at twists until they come undone again. Some of them were people, lost when they shouldn’t have been. Some of them were the stray beasts he’d bring in, heal, Baze glowering over a swollen, runny nose at the fur. The brightest thing he’d ever seen had been Jyn’s kyber crystal, and beneath that her heart, dimmed, confused, but glowing nevertheless. So bright he’d imagined this could be what blinding feels like.

He can feel the kyber star, still. He can’t exactly say where she is, or who she’s with, or what she’s doing, but he can at least see that she’s alive. The knot’s glowing with her. She’s not on Yavin. It shouldn’t be. But there’s so much power here, barely stirred in centuries, and it’s all mixed up. It’s no wonder he’s heard more snatches from the Force on Yavin IV than he’d heard in decades before Jedha’s destruction.

Chirrut tugs at the knot again, tugs and tugs. It’s stuck tight. Not old. Very new. A trembling. A wrongness. Something terribly, terribly wrong.

—millions of souls—

—picking up something on the scanners

—odhi. Bodhi. Bodhi, get up—

He pulls, and pulls, and pulls.

—I am the master—

—K-2, can you—

—always come—

—too risky to—

—princess and a guy like me—

—the orders stand. Send the fighters after them. We want no witnesses.

No, says a voice, a terrible voice, and the knot falls apart. No, bring this one in. And capture any jettisoned escape pods. I want the crew alive.

Yes, Lord Vader.

Pain. His mouth is bloody. Baze is shaking him. “—rut, Chirrut—”

“You hit me,” says Chirrut. His tongue is swollen. He can’t work through the syllables. “I thought we decided you were going to stop doing that.”

Baze palms the back of his head. “I didn’t. Breathe.”

“I’m breathing,” says Chirrut, but he’s not, really. He has to think about it before he sucks in air. He can’t breathe through his nose. There’s blood in it, streaming down his lips. A nosebleed. “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh.” 

“Head forward,” says the human doctor. Chirrut doesn’t think he can manage anything else at the moment. His spine has turned to jelly. “Hold that to his nose.”

“I can do it myself.”

“Shut up,” says Baze. He presses a wad of something to the base of Chirrut’s nose. The knot’s already spiraled far out of his reach. The voices in his head are a cacophony. Chirrut breathes, deep, in and out through the mouth.

“Something’s wrong,” he says. “Something’s happened.”

“You’ve pushed too far, is what.”

“No, something—” He scrabbles, finds Baze’s sleeve. “Something with Jyn, something—”

“I’ll find a sedative,” says the doctor.

“Something’s happened with Jyn,” says Chirrut again. “I need Mothma.”

The Bothan in the back puffs up. “Senator Mothma is not at the beck and call of—”

“I think they’ve been captured,” says Chirrut. “Get me Mothma.”  

Chapter Text

They take Cassian first.

“We can’t fight,” Cassian had said, as the hangar bay closed off behind them. “If we fight, they know we’re Alliance, kill us outright. We have to be calm.” And she’d hated it, but it had made sense. If we fight, we’re dead for sure. If we don’t, we live for another five minutes. A chance, and then another, and another. Five minutes at a time. The ‘troopers still come in in a bundle of seven, knock him hard to his knees even with his hands up. Jyn’s next, hands up behind her head, ready for the binders.

“How many of you are there,” the lieutenant says, and Jyn says, “Just us, please, please don’t—”

“Search the ship,” says the lieutenant, and two of the ‘troopers break off to head for the ladder. Bodhi. Bodhi, don’t say a word. Bodhi, don’t breathe. Don’t let them find you. Don’t let them see him, please. She doesn’t know who she’s praying to. Her fingers itch for the kyber crystal. Jyn curls her hands tight into fists, and the ‘trooper searching her confiscates the blaster from her belt, the vibroblade from her sleeve. Another knocks something over in Cassian’s room, shattering it. She’s not sure what it could be, but transparisteel shards skitter across the floor.

“Please,” says Cassian, and she thinks she might be the only one to see the lines of loathing in his shoulders. There’s no trace of the Rebel, now. He’s hidden away beneath Joreth Sward. “Please, we’re just here to see family, we haven’t done anything—”

The butt of the rifle clips his mouth. Cassian hits the floor of the ship, and Jyn can’t help it, she makes a sound, not even a scream but a tiny, awful yip through clenched teeth. The ‘trooper behind her yanks her up off the floor by her bound wrists, shoves her back down beside Cassian. Her hands are bound in front, and when she touches him, his ribs, Cassian lifts his head and spits blood. It smears over his teeth.

“Just here to see family,” says the lieutenant, “with a blaster in your belt.” 

“We came from the Outer Rim,” Cassian says, and Jyn curls her fingers into the thin fabric of his shirt. “There are slavers and pirates all along there, not carrying a blaster is suicide, please—”

“Sir,” says a ‘trooper. “All records have been erased from both the ship’s comms and the navigational system, and there’s a disabled Zed in the co-pilot’s chair. I think they must have sent a virus into the mainframe.”

“Who else is on board?” says the lieutenant.

“No one,” says Jyn. Cassian twitches under her hands, looks at her out of the corner of his eye, watching her. “No one, it’s just us—”

“Clear,” says another ‘trooper, the one that had gone up the ladder. He drops back to the floor, armor clattering. “No sign of anyone else. Trash compactor’s working, though.”

They’d thrown anything incriminating down into the compactor. The false bottom to the storage container was all they had to hide their weapons, but everything else, every hint of the Rebellion, it had been scrapped. The fake scan-docs they’d used on Onderon, the spare ones in Cassian’s duffel. Anything else they’d been able to get their hands on. It had been a blessing that they’d fled the Alliance, too, she thinks distantly. They hadn’t had much on them that could point in any one direction.

“We’re not taking any chances,” says the lieutenant. “TL-2065, check the escape pods. MP-3298, with me. The rest of you, take them down to holding.”

“Aye,” says the ‘trooper behind her, and Jyn lets them drag her to her feet. Lieutenant first, and if she can take the lieutenant’s gun she could shoot the other ‘troopers, blast their way back out, but there’s probably a whole army in the Death Star, a whole fleet. She can’t fight all of them. She doesn’t move. Cassian staggers a little when they get him up, and she’s not sure if he’s faking it, or if there’s actual pain lining his mouth.

“And have the Zed taken down to maintenance to be examined,” says the lieutenant, like this is an afterthought. “It might contain data on their charted course.”

“Yes, sir.”

They could fight, she thinks. They follow, instead.

The hangar is enormous. TIE fighters line the walls like bees in honeycomb, set back into divots in the metal. Men, everywhere. Droids, everywhere. It’s broad, impersonal. Grey. All of it, shades of grey, silver, black. The officers have boots shined to mirrors, and the ‘troopers march in lines precisely measured, step by step by step. This thing isn’t just newly tested, Jyn thinks, as her boots clang on the floor. It’s a whole world all on its own. A hive of the Empire. Durasteel and death. My father’s work. She wants to be sick. Her skin feels smeared. This is my father’s work. There are no other civilian ships in the hangar, not that she can see; a few U-wings, a few shuttles for personnel, for equipment, but nothing like the Last Hope. Nothing else not smeared with the Empire. Are we the only ones that have been captured? She can’t see evidence of anyone else. Why us?

“Where are you taking us?” says Cassian, and the ‘trooper shoves him hard enough to make him nearly fall over.

“Shut up. Keep moving.”

Main Hangar, that’s what the sign on the wall reads. Bay 9. Main Hangar, Bay 9. They get into an elevator, all of them, her, Cassian, their four ‘trooper guards. It’s cramped. There’s a Stormtrooper standing between them, but if she leans, she can catch his eyes. An elevator, all over again. We might die, she thinks, and looks at him. We might be about to die. Why didn’t they just shoot us out of orbit? Cassian shakes his head, oh-so-minutely, and goes sallow when the ‘trooper shakes him by the shoulder, goes sallow and bites his lip and breathes through his nose, deep and slow. There are dips around his mouth that look like black holes. Main Hangar, Bay 9. Their way out is the Main Hangar, Bay 9. The elevator door is going up. Level Six. Level Seven. Up and up.

“Out,” says the ‘trooper, when they stop on Level Nine. “Both of you.”

They follow. There’s no other choice.

The hallway is broad, here. More officers than ‘troopers. They stand out, in their rough clothes, with their dirty faces. Her shoulder throbs. They’ve wrenched her arms too far behind her back, and she thinks the bullet hole might have split, cracked and begun to bleed. It feels hot beneath the bacta patch. Bodhi. Let Bodhi have managed to get away. His Imperial uniform had been cleaned, after Scarif, repaired; he should be able to melt into the crowd if he can get off the Last Hope without anyone noticing. Please let no one notice. Please let K-2 all right. The ‘troopers march, and they stumble along behind, trying to keep up. The hallway curves, ever so slightly, to the left, following the circumference of the station, and when they pass a second set of elevators, the doors open to a fleet of Imperial officers. One of them sneers as he watches them pass, lip twisting up. She catches just a glimpse of his eyes. They’re ocean blue, Scarif blue.

Please let Bodhi have managed to get away.

A right turn. They go through a door—she memorizes the code, 39284—and then another, with a different code—59301, remember it, remember—and then they stop outside a large set of doors, left shut. There’s no keypad. The sign next to the door reads Conference Alpha.

“The prisoners from the captured ship, sir,” says the ‘trooper to the guard by the door. It’s the same kind of suit that Jyn had stolen on Scarif, sharp black helmet, high boots. “As you instructed.”

It must be a woman, behind the mask, because it’s a woman who replies. “Have they been searched?”

“Yes,” says the ‘trooper. “They’re unarmed.”

“Only these two?”

“So far. We’re searching the rest of the ship, but there appears to be no one else.”

“We’ll take them,” says the guard, and keys the button for the doors. They hiss, as they open, sibilant as serpents. Her palms are damp and cold. “Dismissed.”

The lieutenant gives a sharp salute, and vanishes. Jyn leans just close enough to Cassian to touch his elbow before they’re yanked apart again.

The conference room has one wide, round table, empty in the middle, circular and filled in with high-backed chairs. Most of them are empty. Two of them have people. One admiral, she thinks. One general, sitting closest to them. An admiral. A general. Why are we being brought to the highest ranked men in the base? Why are we here? “Prisoners,” says the first guard again. The second one, still soundless, stands at Cassian’s shoulder, hand on his blaster. They’re both taller than Cassian, both taller than Jyn; wider, stronger. The woman has a grip like a Wookiee. “From the captured ship, sir.”

“Names?”

“They weren’t carrying scan-docs.” The guard’s quiet for a moment, as if she’s listening. Then: “Several weapons were confiscated from them upon capture. The ship is registered to a Joreth Sward. All communicational and navigational histories had been wiped from the ship’s memory, sir. There was also a disabled Zed droid in the co-pilot’s seat, it’s been taken to maintenance to see if any information can be recovered from its hard drive.”

“Send someone down from communications, have them to go over the ship’s hardware. See if anything turns up.”

“Yes, General.”

“Well, then,” says the general. “What, exactly, have we brought on board?”

There’s still blood on Cassian’s mouth. When he wets his lips, it smears. “We just came to Alderaan to visit family,” he says. “Please, we don’t—”  

“No one,” says the general, “is going to believe that story. You might as well stop telling it.”

“It’s the truth,” says Cassian.

“Please.” The admiral leans back in his chair. “You Rebels make a mockery of the truth every time you open your filthy mouths.”

“We’re not Rebels,” says Jyn. Her heart’s not fast; it’s slow, beating distantly, out of time with the rest of her, almost out of her body altogether. “Please, we’re just here to visit my parents, we haven’t done anything, please—”

“If you’re not Rebels, then explain this to me,” says the general. He pushes the chair back, and stands. “As of now, you are two unidentified pilots, carrying weapons and a disabled police droid. You drop out of hyperspace to the rear of our station, you attempt to flee. You have no scan-docs and have not identified yourself; your ship’s memory was wiped; the ship itself was quite probably stolen. The way I see it, you have two options to choose from. Either you continue with your story that the pair of you are nothing more than very bad smugglers here to visit family, collect a shipment, or both, or you tell us what you know of the Rebel fleet and its location. Either way, you die. The former option just means your death will be considerably more painful than necessary.”

No. No. No. We haven’t retrieved the plans yet. We can’t die here. No. “Please,” says Cassian again. “We’re just here to visit family. We haven’t done anything. Please.

“Take him down to the cells,” says the general. “See if he’ll be more chatty there.”

“No!” Jyn wrenches at the guard, tries to lunge, but it’s no use. Her shoulder screams, and she can’t pull any further. Don't take him. “No, please don’t, please—”

The silent guard has him out the door before he’s even fully on his feet. Cassian twists, looks back at her over his shoulder, and their eyes catch for the split second before the door closes. She could swear he’s trying to say something, but she can’t hear it. Then the door’s closed, and Jyn yanks again. “Please,” she says, “please, he hasn’t done anything, please don’t hurt him, he can’t tell you what he doesn’t know—”

“I expect there’s very little he doesn’t know,” says the general. “But it’s sweet of you to keep pretending.”

Jyn opens her mouth, and then, quite suddenly, she can’t breathe. There’s an odd numbness to her guts that lasts a moment, too, before fire billows through her stomach. A punch. She’s been sucker-punched. She can’t breathe. She tries to inhale, and gags. Her tongue feels swollen.

“Now,” says the general, fading in and out of her ears, “I find it very curious that you attempted to run. If you have nothing to hide, why fly away the instant you realize what you’ve seen?”

She can’t breathe. Jyn tries to say something, and all that comes out of her is a croak.

“The implication,” says the general, “is that you know what you’ve seen, and know that your only recourse is to escape. Which leaves us with two main possibilities. The first is that you are a Rebel spy. You knew of this station, knew of its power, and you knew that, if captured, you would be interrogated. Like the rest of your kind, your devotion to your cause meant you turned tail to flee before you could give up anything and everything to those who would put you in custody, with a secondary goal of delivering a warning to both Alderaan and any Rebel forces in the area that we were present.” He rests a hand to the back of his chair, looking at her. Jyn wipes saliva off her chin. “The second is that you are still a rebel of some sort, but this was part of a very poorly planned assault on our battle station to attempt to locate a flaw in its defenses. Upon seeing the size of the station, and realizing what you were up against, you decided to abort your mission, but were captured before you could escape. In this case, you would presumably be rogue, and thus your information may not be as useful or up to date, but it could still be valuable if you were pressed accordingly.”

She wants to spit, like Magva. Jyn swallows instead.

“There is, as much as I hate to admit it, a third option,” says the general. “That is, that you are neither a Rebel nor a spy, and simply have had a terrible bit of luck. You and your companion, or your husband, or your partner-in-crime, whoever he is, really are just on your way to visit his parents on Alderaan, and if this is the case, then I am sorry to have to tell you that you will not be leaving this battle station. In fact, it is very doubtful you will survive beyond the next twenty-four hours. Unfortunate, but there it stands.”

“My parents,” she says. “Mine, not his.”

“Right.” The general sighs, like this is all very inconvenient. “Either way, it’ll be a tragedy. Though I doubt anyone will be around long enough to grieve you.”

Jyn doesn’t say anything. She looks at the floor. The general stands, his shiny shoes nearly touching her knees. No one lifts her up off the carpet. When he reaches down, grabs her by the jaw and forces her to look up, it takes everything in her not to sink her teeth into his hand.

“Sad,” says the admiral. “She’s a pretty little thing.”

I am Riella Sward. I don’t have the courage to talk back, I don’t, I’m desperate, I’m frightened, I just wanted to go see my parents on Alderaan, that’s all, that’s all, but someone else leaks through. “Funny,” she says. Not Jyn Erso or even Lianna Hallik but Tanith Pontha, all biting slapbacks of drunks in bars trying to peep down her shirt. “Your mother said the same thing.”  

The admiral turns scarlet. The general lets her go. Jyn thinks that he might be smiling, just a little bit, in the moment before the black-masked guard slams the butt of her gun down between Jyn’s shoulders. She hits the ground with a whine, bitten off between her teeth; carpet rasps against her jaw, her cheek; her shoulder is scorching, pounding, drumming in time with the rhythm of the station; and when she lifts her eyes, she can only make out her own reflection in the general’s shined shoes.

“General Tagge,” says a voice. The door slides shut. “Admiral Motti. I trust you’ve been making our guest comfortable.”

“As comfortable as we can manage.”

“I don’t understand why she was brought here,” says the admiral. Jyn doesn’t lift her head. She wedges her arms up underneath her, her wrists brushing against the kyber crystal, and slowly pushes herself up off the floor. There’s no second blow. Her lungs are screaming. “There are interrogators in every cell block who would be more than willing to get her story out of her without her dribbling on the carpet. I don’t know what Lord Vader is doing with this damn fool scheme, but—” 

“Get her up,” says the new voice, and three hands—all human, two gloved—fist up in the back of her shirt and drag her back into a chair. The guard and the general. Tagge. Tagge. General Tagge. Cassio Tagge. And Admiral Motti. Top Imperial brass, couldn’t have had better pedigrees if they’d tried, both with the ear of the Emperor, what is happening here, if Tagge and Motti are both following orders, then this new man can only be more highly ranked, and if he’s more highly ranked, then that would mean—

“Who is she?” The new man settles in the chair at the far side of the room. “Has she said anything yet?”

Motti sniffs. “Only useless drivel.”

“I’m afraid we don’t know who she is.” General Tagge folds his hands up behind his back, automatic attention. “The only identification of any kind found on the ship was most probably made in a false name. There’s no way to determine who they are or where they came from without further interrogation.”

“I’m sure that her companion will be more than happy to tell us whatever he knows once the proper pressure has been applied.” The governor—a governor, a governor, the insignia bright and glossy on his chest—peers at her down the length of his nose. He has a widow’s peak, and durasteel eyes. Unflinching. Cold. Her organs crumple to shards. Leave him alone. Leave Cassian alone, leave him alone, please— “Lord Vader will be here shortly. I’m quite sure this whole mess will be explained to everyone’s satisfaction once he arrives.”

“That rasping metal gargoyle should be explaining how he still hasn’t managed to find one disk when he has the resources of the entire Empire at his disposal,” Motti sniffs again, and Jyn’s fire all at once. They haven’t found the disk. “For all his parlor tricks he’s had little to show for it.”

“I wouldn’t suggest saying that to his face,” says the governor. “Considering what happened the last time the pair of you disagreed.”

Motti falls abruptly silent. Jyn isn’t paying attention anymore. Tagge, Motti, a governor, and Vader. Her lungs feel cold. Vader. The Emperor’s watchdog. His blade. There’s no air left in the conference room. Why would Vader want us spared? To get information about where the Rebellion’s hidden. Is he that desperate? How would he know? How could he know? He hadn’t been on Scarif. He can’t possibly know who they are. No one can possibly know. He shouldn’t have any interest in us. It had been Krennic, on Scarif, just Krennic, just the ghost and the Death Star looming in the distance, so close, so far. How could Vader know? Why would he want us? Why would—

“Governor Tarkin asked you a question, you useless lump of flesh,” says Motti, and someone, the guard, seizes her bad shoulder and digs her fingers in. Jyn bites her tongue, tries not to scream. “Who are you?”

She thinks there might be blood dribbling down her skin.

“No one,” says Jyn. Her voice cracks. “I’m nobody.”

“Sir,” says the guard. She yanks aside the collar of Jyn’s borrowed shirt. “She’s been shot.”

“Well, for no one in particular, you certainly seem to have someone aiming blasters your way.” Tagge crouches just out of her reach. If she’d had her hands free, she could have stolen his blaster and shot them all before Tarkin—Tarkin, Governor Tarkin, Grand Moff Tarkin—stood from his chair. “If you tell us, we can make it easier for you.”

There’s a stain on the fabric of her shirt, now. Not quite scarlet. Deeper, darker. She thinks the kyber crystal might be smeared. “Does anyone actually believe that?” she says, and shakes her hair back out of her eyes. She can’t see with it hanging loose. “Is anyone actually stupid enough?”

“Talking again, are we?” Tagge doesn’t blink, doesn’t look away. He balances. “Who shot you?”

Jyn says nothing.

“What purpose did you have in coming to Alderaan?”

Jyn says nothing.

“You have a name, at least, I would suppose.” Tagge tips his head. “You’re very young to be doing this, whoever you are. How old are you, twenty-three, twenty-four?”

Jyn says nothing.

“Talking to her is useless, General Tagge. She’ll keep her mouth shut until she’s made to do otherwise.” Tarkin steeples his fingers. “I would have thought you’d known that, considering the work you’ve done. Rebels are stubborn until the end, no matter how swiftly it will come.”

“The Rebellion isn’t to be taken lightly, Governor Tarkin. I’ve no doubt that will become clear to the entirety of the Empire sooner rather than later.” Tagge stands. “Once the news of the battle above Scarif leaks there’ll be a reckoning.”

“As if the Rebel fleet can reckon anything. Their success over Scarif was a fluke.”

“I don’t agree.”

They’re going to kill me. She’d known that. There’s still no way they’d be so open in front of her otherwise. They’re going to kill me. I can’t die yet. I can’t die before the plans are found, I can’t, I can’t. She shifts her wrists in the binders. If she’d had a pin, anything, she could try and work free, but she wouldn’t get more than five feet down the hall without someone catching her. Jyn twists her wrists again, and tries to roll her shoulder without screaming. She can’t get more than a quarter of the way before she has to stop.

“You should watch your fondness for the Rebel Alliance, General Tagge,” says Tarkin. “It’s doing more damage than you realize.”

“I’m not fond of them,” says Tagge. “I’m giving them the wariness they deserve.” He looks down at her again. “As I’ve said. One way or the other, you will tell us eventually, so you really ought to make it easier for yourself. Where is the Rebel fleet stationed?”

Jyn says, “I can’t tell you what I don’t know.”

The butt of the rifle comes down again. Again. Her back screams. Again, and this time it hits her shoulder, and Jyn can’t bite back the shriek that bursts out of her, tears free. There’s a smear of blood on the carpet when the guard drags her back up. She’s going to puke. She swallows, over and over. Copper traces the lines between her teeth. The rifle’s come down again, and again, when Tarkin finally says, “Enough,” and it ends. Jyn rolls onto her back, stares hard at the ceiling, breathing in and out through her nose so she can keep her mouth shut. “There’s no point in staining the carpet. If she isn’t going to say anything, take her to a holding cell. Vader can speak with her there.”

“She should never have been brought here in the first place,” says Motti. The guard seizes the chain between her binders, pulls her up. “I don’t understand what the hell Vader’s playing at, but maybe from now on—”

There’s a beep, and the door slides open. 

She’s never seen a man so tall. He has to be a man. He’s Imperial. They don’t take non-humanoids. She’s not even sure a man can be that tall. He seems too broad to be a man, too heavy. The floor seems to echo in his wake. Black, and broad, and tall, and he swallows up the room, it swallows up the room, the mask, the sound. Jyn clenches her hands on her trousers so her fingers won’t shake. She can see her own reflection in the red eyes of the helmet, smeared, stretched. She doesn’t look human anymore.

“Lord Vader,” says Tagge. He lets his hands drop to his sides. “We were wondering where you were.”

“I had something to look into,” says Vader. Jyn shuts her eyes. “Has she said anything?”

“Not in particular.”

“I don’t understand why she was brought here,” says Motti. There’s a trace of something around the corners of his eyes that creeps under her skin. Fear. Instinctive. Overwhelming. “She’s nothing more than a rebel fighting for a lost cause. There are hundreds like her in the galaxy.”

“And that is why I, and not you, Admiral Motti, have been tasked with locating the Rebel base,” says Vader. “Perhaps if you spent more time thinking, and less time talking, you would understand that.”

Motti turns scarlet, and then grey. He shuts up. The guard slams Jyn back into a chair, and leaves her there, a meteor crammed hot and agonizing into the hole in her shoulder. There’s no space for her to see the door beyond Vader’s cape, his armor. She can’t find an escape route any longer.

“Forgive me, Lord Vader,” says Tarkin, “but this seems more to me as if your failure in interrogating the Princess Leia has resulted in your grasping at straws.”

“The princess will talk,” says Vader. He hasn’t looked away from her. Jyn can’t move. “Given time, she will tell us everything we need to know about the location of the Rebel base. This is different.”

“Explain,” says Tarkin. “Quickly.”

“Prior to Director Krennic’s death,” says Vader, “during his penultimate test of the Death Star, I sensed something. A tremor in the Force. It came again when Krennic’s security failures were revealed, when Galen Erso’s betrayal became known.”

“Get to the point, Vader.”

“That same tremor in the Force was present during the battle of Scarif,” says Vader. “And again when that ship came up on our long-range sensors.”

Motti mutters under his breath, curdling and vicious. “I suppose that means you believe this girl to be the cause of your failure on Scarif and of Krennic’s security breach,” he says. “Forgive me, Lord Vader, but I find that difficult to swallow.”

“I would imagine that swallowing at all is difficult for you right now, Admiral Motti.”

“Vader,” Tarkin snaps. “Get to the point.

Vader straightens. There’s a pressure in the room, now, a kind of living, breathing force that makes her ribs ache and her shoulder throb. Jyn shuts her eyes, but all it does is drag at her throat, at her arms. “The point,” he says, archly, “is that the origin of that tremor was Galen Erso.”

Jyn stops breathing, for an instant, and Vader sees it. He sees it. He hasn’t turned away from her, not since he came in, hasn’t turned those eyes away from her once, scarlet, insectoid, and he sees it. She stares back at him, lips pressed together, and twists her wrists in the binders.  

“Galen Erso was an engineer, not some magic-wielding skeleton.” Motti scoffs. “I don’t know what you’re trying to pull, here, Vader, but—”

“The Force works in many ways, Admiral. Through his betrayal of the Emperor, Galen Erso initiated that tremor. The possibility for change, for a reversal of sorts. Whether he knew it or not, it grew, and spread. It gained power. And he has passed it on.”

Motti is silent.

“You’re saying that you’ve captured Galen Erso’s agent,” says Tagge.

“No,” says Vader, and bends. The faceplate is much too close. Jyn can’t look away. “General Tagge, I would like you to meet Galen Erso's daughter." 

Chapter Text

Bodhi waits. It’s deeply uncomfortable inside the torpedo tube—he can’t help but think that he’s sitting where explosives sit, where killing machines sit, lying flat on his back and staring into the dark like he’s about to be propelled into space, a human bomb—but he can’t move, and he can’t hear very well to know when he can move, so he sits and waits and hopes no one will think of the obvious and peek inside.

They’d thought of that, at least. Loaded a deactivated torpedo in behind him, ejected the explosive core out the airlock and hoped the Empire wouldn’t notice. “Imperial searches come in two waves,” Cassian had said, as Bodhi had clambered in and held still. “First wave is a sight-search. Second is a search with equipment. If you get out between them, you’ll pass unnoticed. And until then, you’ll be safe.”

“Very encouraging,” Bodhi had said, staring at the curving surface of the tube. “Right.”

Jyn had reached in and gripped his shoulder hard before vanishing, before K-2 had loaded the missile in behind him and shut the latch. They’d left it unlocked. He doesn’t feel very safe. He feels scattered. He can hear muffled voices through the metal of the tube, and he can hear muffled voices in his own head, and he’s scattered.

You are the pilot. You’re going to get us out of this.

There’s no getting out of this.

The chrono on his wrist glows in the dark. It’s been fifteen minutes since the ship stopped moving, fifteen minutes since the voices shifted, sharp to muffled. He thinks they must be gone by now, Jyn and Cassian. You can hide, Jyn had said. You can blend in. We can’t. K-2 must be gone by now too, carted off in his temporary sleep. Bodhi only hopes that he comes online again before the Imperials wipe his memory banks, before they rewire his circuits and turn him into something he’s not. He folds his arms over his chest, and then realizes that makes him look like a corpse. There’s nothing outside but murmuring, but the hum of the ship and the buzz of ships outside, and he’s mixed up and messy inside. Bodhi starts to count.

One. Two. Three. If he does manage to get out of the tube without anyone noticing, if he does manage to blend in, what is he supposed to do? Find them again. Find a weapon. Twenty-four. Twenty-five. Twenty-six. Maintenance, first of all. If he can get to maintenance, if he can get to K-2 before K-2 ceases to be, then K-2 can read their mainframe, tell him where they’ve put Jyn, put Cassian. If they’re not dead. If they’re not gone. If we don’t get caught doing it and wound up ejected into space along with the garbage. Forty-seven. Forty-eight. Forty-nine. This is madness. They’re playing with fire. This is the Death Star. This is Galen’s monster, his living curse. A deadly moon, all on its own. This is the thing that destroyed Jedha, and Scarif, and Jedha, he’s inside the thing that turned the Holy City to melted stone, melted bodies. He’s inside it. Panic’s tacky on his tongue. They should be able to see it on his face, all the Imperials, all the ‘troopers. I am from Jedha. I am your enemy. I know what you did. Bodhi digs his nails into his palms, keeps counting. Seventy-two, seventy-three, seventy-four. Pama. Eland. Madame Bredil. How can they do this? How can they beat this?

We’ve faced worse odds, says a voice in his head. It’s Jyn and Galen at once.

Not really, Bodhi tells both of them, both the mad Ersos that he’s somehow come close to dying for, over and over. I’m not sure anyone’s faced worse odds than this.

There had been no getting out of Scarif, either, not really. But here they are. Here he is. He takes deep, steadying breaths, shaky in the echo of the torpedo tube—it’s almost too small for him to fit right, his shoulders bent at awkward angles, pinching at his back—and he waits.

Ninety-nine, one hundred, one-hundred-one.

You are the pilot. You’re going to get us out of this.

Bodhi wriggles around onto his belly, and shoves the torpedo out of the tube.

It hits the floor with a massive clang that makes his teeth ache, the bones of his fingers throb. He’s still, for a breath. One-seventeen, one -eighteen, one -nineteen. Nothing. No one. No hint of anyone at all. One -forty, one -forty-one, one -forty-two. He slithers out, awkwardly, first onto his hands and then into an odd little crouch. There are no ‘troopers in the torpedo bay, no one looking at him. The same in the main room, in the cockpit. No one. No hint of a single person. Two-twenty-three, two-twenty-four. There’s a program running on the computer, a retrieval program. Bodhi deletes the program before scuttling back down the ladder. There’s an escape hatch at the back of the cargo bay, in the airlock; Jyn had found it when she’d been prowling around the Last Hope looking for something or anything to distract her from Cassian being unconscious, and Bodhi and K-2 hadn’t had the energy (Bodhi) or the willingness (K-2) to manage it. No one down here, either. The empty shipping container hasn’t been moved, and the hidden button for the false bottom has been left untouched. He takes a blaster from inside, and then covers the bottom again, sliding the gun into his pocket as he slips into the airlock, undoes the hatch I’ve never used a gun before, I don’t know how, I’ll wind up just shooting myself in the foot and then they’ll catch me and what am I supposed to do with this thing, I’m not a fighter, I’m just a cargo pilot—

The hatch comes up out of the floor without a creak, stands open, and down below is all durasteel.

The sound is what hits him first. Tramping feet. The hum of ships on standby. Rattling voices, rattling droids. Sharp metal scours the inside of his nose, scorches at him. Metal. Cleaner. Imperials. He has to sit there for a second, for a handful of heartbeats, two, eleven, twelve, before he swings down into the hole, pulls the hatch closed, and drops to the floor below.

No one screams. No one makes a sound. His palms are slick with sweat. Bodhi doesn’t look up; he keeps his eyes on the ground, stays low until he can find something, anything, to hide behind. More storage containers. Brought in from Eadu, by the look of the codes on the sides. It’s more than possible, he thinks, stomach churning, that he’d carried some of them in his own ship, before he’d left. I defected. I defected, I didn’t leave, I defected. I’m the damn pilot. It’s only then, when he’s mostly concealed behind the containers, on the other side of the pile from Last Hope, that he dares to look up.

Jyn and Cassian are nowhere to be seen. He hadn’t really expected them to be anywhere (they’d have gone down to cells by now, or into interrogation, or—stop, Bodhi, stop, stay on track, you can’t help them if you can’t move—) but there are no familiar faces. Fleets of uniforms. Shuttle drivers, Stormtroopers, officers, pilots. It’s one bay out of dozens, this place, only large enough for four shuttles and a few other miscellaneous ships, for the carriers and the staff needed to shift materials through the bay, take them to where they need to be. There should be a baymaster, somewhere. A large plane of transparisteel glimmers at the edges of his vision, and yes, there, up above most of the ships, there’s an office suspended at the top of the bay, people watching, overseeing.

How do we get out when there are overseers everywhere and ‘troopers ready to open fire?

Maintenance levels. K-2. The blaster from the storage container almost seems to be smoking against his leg. A piece at a time, Bodhi. One piece at a time. Finding K-2 means that he can find Jyn and Cassian. Step by step by step. And then maybe once they’re all in the same room again, maybe they can come up with something, a plan, anything, a chance—

“Hey.”

He has to bite his tongue hard enough to hurt to keep himself from leaping out of his skin. Bodhi peeks. Not a ‘trooper, the voice hadn’t been right anyway, just a shuttle driver, another shuttle driver, a pair of them, a dark woman with greying braids, a pale man with no head hair at all. Bodhi blinks once or twice, and then says, “Can I help you?”

“It’s not as big as it looks,” says the woman.

“What?”

“The bay. It’s not as big as it looks.” She has an accent that Bodhi used to be able to recognize, but now just sounds familiar more than anything, a rhythm outside the Stormtrooper gibberish. “Not gonna swallow you whole.”

“Oh, I’m, um.” He gestures, feebly, at the crates. “I’m just—sitting. Just sitting.”

“Same as the rest of us, then,” says the pale man. He’s massive, taller than anyone Bodhi’s ever met in his life, and for all that he’s bald as an egg there’s a carefully tended, dyed, and beaded mustache on his upper lip that could be a living thing. “All of us sitting on their asses for whatever the hell they’re doing. No flights out until this test is done. We’ve been cooped up four floors down for the past two days, they’ve been making hyperspace jumps all over the place. Trying to make sure this thing can manage it, I think. Like dragging a cannonball through a mouse hole.”

“Mm,” says Bodhi, who can’t help but wonder if they’d been sitting four floors down while the Death Star had loomed on Scarif, on Jedha. He wonders if they even know where they’ve been, what atrocities they’ve sat and listened to without knowing what to say. “Yeah.”

“At least they let us wander today,” says the woman, and she sticks out her hand. “I’m Trina. He’s Byx.”

“I’m, um.” Bodhi nearly chokes, and then he says, “I’m Reza.” Reza. My uncle, Reza. Reza Rook. He’s dead now. He must be. The rest of them, all of them. They all must be dead. They all must think I’m dead. He jerks back to himself. “I’m, um. New. Just—just came on two days ago.”

“Baby pilot,” says Trina, her eyes crinkling, and jerks her head. There’s a line of ‘troopers coming at them, marching in a line, and Bodhi can’t help it. He shifts so they can’t see his face, can’t look at him. He’s not sure of a lot, but he knows, definitely, that ‘troopers stationed on the largest Imperial battle station in the galaxy will be much better at recognizing mugshots than ‘troopers on Onderon. If his is still circulating. He’s not sure it is. “Thought you might be. Where’s your copilot?”

“Solo run,” says Bodhi. “First—first solo run. I’m, um, I’m supposed to meet with someone on level—level seven, I think they said, but I couldn’t find the elevators, and I don’t—”

“—don’t want to interrupt any of the people with big guns and big sticks up their asses to ask where to go,” says Trina, as if this is unsurprising. She gives him a look that’s more sympathy than pity. “Come on. This way.”

The ‘troopers are closer now, much, much closer. He nods, very fast, and follows. They walk right by, the three of them, Trina and Byx and Bodhi between them, turning to look at Byx as the man says—something—Bodhi’s not paying attention, he’s just listening to the tramp of booted feet, waiting for it, hey, stop, stop right there, put your hands up, he nods and listens to boots and he laughs when Trina does because there are certain kinds of jokes that all shuttle drivers can get, and he waits, and waits, and waits—

“There you go,” says Trina, and he blinks. “Elevators to level seven. This place has hundreds of different elevator systems. You want to go to anything related to shipping bays, look for the one’s marked B, they’ll bring you back here or down to the cafeteria or any of it. ”

“Thank you,” says Bodhi. “I—thank you.”

“’course,” says Byx. “We’re all stuck here for now. Might as well help each other.”

He claps Bodhi on the shoulder hard enough to nearly knock him off his feet, and then he and Trina are gone, off down the hall towards whatever meeting they’d had, whatever reason they’d come to Bay 9 for. Bodhi bounces on the balls of his feet, watches the numbers flicker above the sealed doors, and when it arrives he gets in, scoots to the back through the fleet of officers and droids. Nobody shouts. Nobody shoots. Half of them don’t even look up from their paperwork to let him pass.

The doors slide closed, and they descend. 

.

.

.

K-2SO comes awake exactly on time, fifteen-hundred seconds after the hatch doors of the Last Hope had powered down in the hangar bay of the Death Star, and does not speak.

It had taken approximately—upon review, exactly—two-hundred-sixty-one point seven-five seconds for the Last Hope to be drawn into the Death Star via the tractor beam which had been enacted upon it, which had not granted either his master or the other organic beings aboard the ship much time to generate a plan. Within that selfsame period K-2SO had considered more than four-thousand, dismissing many, prioritizing survival of all, and then mainly of Cassian, cycling through opportunities and strategies. There is little chance, he estimates, that they will all make it out alive or fully functional, and thus he had deprioritized the survival of more than one crew member of the Last Hope. He suspects that Cassian would be disappointed in him for doing so, but he is not exactly planning on informing Cassian of all of his internal processes, especially in considering Cassian’s survival.

Standard Imperial procedures are still as fundamentally a part of him as the core servers that enable his code to keep functioning, and so he knows that the discovery of any disabled, unidentified droid in a captured ship means analysis and dismantling of said droid as soon as an agent becomes available to do so. Any active, potentially hostile droid discovered results in restraining bolts and possible immediate deactivation, so he had chosen the former route. (“Playing dead,” Jyn Erso had called it. It is not so simple as that, but…yes. Possibly. Playing dead.) Statistically, from the size of the Death Star itself and the likelihood of multiple levels devoted to maintenance, not to mention the fact that Cassian and Jyn Erso had both explicitly agreed to not fight back—a decision which had looked to cause Jyn Erso physical pain, and K-2SO wonders why, in this instance, she agreed instead of continuing, recklessly, to endanger all in her path—it would have taken approximately eighteen minutes, twenty-nine seconds for whoever had been assigned to recalibrate a disabled 501-Z unit to deliver it to maintenance and enter the recalibration into the system. To be safe, and to allow for possible congestion of elevators, he had made sure to allow an extra six minutes, thirty-one seconds, and now he is here, and his systems are back online—rerouted as they are through the hole in the back of his chassis—and he is, so far, untouched. An optimal result, by all accounts.

K-2SO does not stand. He does not speak. He sits, curled as he is against the wall of the maintenance bay, and he observes. 501-Z units are equipped with infrared and ultraviolet vision capacities; he can count exactly thirteen organic beings in this wing of the maintenance levels, most ranging between fifteen and fifty yards away from his position against the wall. There is one ten yards away, his back to K-2SO, working on a standing computer and humming under his breath. The hum is tuneless, which K-2SO would have been able to identify even outside of the enhanced aural receptors of the 501-Z. It is not difficult to tell when something is tuneless, regardless of quality of receptors.

It had been suggested by Cassian that he wait until Bodhi Rook appeared to recover him, but K-2SO is not entirely certain this will result in any of them escaping. Bodhi Rook has presented a surprising amount of spine and cunning, particularly on Onderon, but there is also a high probability that he will be caught; Bodhi Rook, out of all of them, has been most known amongst Imperial forces, and there is only a thirty-three percent chance that he will survive the trip from the hangar to this maintenance level, whichever of multiple it must be. He finds, somewhere, that this is disappointing. He does not want Bodhi Rook to die, regardless of the facts and the probabilities that extend from them. He is not even sure he wants Jyn Erso to die, regardless of her erratic, unstable behavior, and the injuries resulting from it. He does not want Jyn Erso to die, and it is not a result of the Mon Cala protocol, though some part of him is still deeply mixed about Cassian’s decision to enable secondary command functions and place them in the hands of Jyn Erso. Unnecessary, he thinks. I do not need Jyn Erso to give me orders. Jyn Erso has not demonstrated herself as a trustworthy individual, and thus he still remains confused as to why not only Cassian, but others—Bodhi Rook, primarily, but presumably the surviving Guardians, as well as other members of the Rebel Alliance—trust her enough to give her the rank of sergeant. He does not understand why Cassian has allowed her enough trust to perform medical procedures without even watching to make sure she does not stab him in the back. He does not understand why they did not just leave Jyn Erso behind on Eadu, or why she had to come along to Jedha in the first place. He does not understand any of it.

Dismissing all of that: he does not want anyone to die. It seems, to him, to be a waste of possibility.

With thirty-three percent in mind, more than anything else, he weighs approximately one-thousand five-hundred sixty-three options for his next course of action. He dismisses most. This uncomfortable, scarlet, alarm-red body of a 501-Z is not made for infiltration or for subterfuge; while there is still a one-percent chance that he would be able to make his way through the entirety of the Death Star without being noticed, that is only a one-percent chance, and thus is dismissed as well. The course of action with the most optimal possible result would be to upload his personality core, his data banks, and his functionality into another droid, presumably one marked with Imperial insignia, and hope—an irresponsible word, a Cassian word, a very human word—that no one would request him to perform certain duties around the Death Star until he managed to locate Cassian, Jyn Erso, or Bodhi Rook. Preferably this would mean installing his systems into a droid capable of actually doing damage to those who would most certainly attack Cassian, Bodhi Rook, or Jyn Erso, if he should in fact come into contact with any of them. The firewalls surrounding the do no harm protocol of 501-Z’s has proven sticky, overcomplicated, and what Cassian might call vengefully uncooperative, and thus prevents him from doing any damage.

He weighs the approximately one-thousand five-hundred sixty-three options, and then calculates. Judging by the rounds being made by the thirteen organics in the room, he will have a window of opportunity in exactly seventeen point four seconds which will allow him to access the system to see if any droid left behind in maintenance will meet his requirements of both stealth and capacity for violence. This would have been more than enough time using his previous body. With the 501-Z, it presents issues. There is no opportunity for error. If he does not succeed this time, he will not succeed at all.

The tuneless man turns, and walks away from the terminal. K-2SO stands, and takes his place.

The tuneless man’s identity and all relevant passcodes associated with his rank and personnel file are downloaded into his memory drives before he fully accesses the system. The Death Star is a massive, twisting thing, like a galaxy in and of itself, and K-2SO sorts through the noise. There are three levels devoted to maintenance, but droid maintenance and information recovery is centered on Level Two, the penultimate level, right at the base of the station; the computer system is separate from that of the prison levels and of administration, and he cannot access them from this location. He scans through lists, and casts aside impossibilities. The battle station is newly operational, for all that the system has been online for years now, an old thing, set in its ways; there are few droids beyond repair ‘bots and protocol units that could fit his code within their systems, and all of them would necessitate traversing the entirety of the maintenance level before he could access them, which would result in his immediate disabling and probable shutdown. The system does, however, have a complete list of all makes and models of droids currently utilized in the Death Star, what areas of the station each type of droid has access to, and relative codes necessary to access said locations.

Security Droids. The detention level is mainly populated by cleaners and Security Droids. It should not excite him. It does. K-2SO weighs chance, weighs opportunity, and then inputs a search for any disabled Security Droids currently in for repair.

“Hey,” says a voice. Tuneless man. His name, according to his personnel file, is Rans Hopper, personnel code 3058371. Tuneless man is a more appropriate moniker. K-2SO does not stop his search program. “I thought this thing was disabled, what are you even doing?”

“Running a search,” says K-2SO. “Obviously.” There is no other appropriate answer to this question.

“Right,” says the tuneless man, dragging it through his teeth. There is a prod in his hand. One which, if K-2SO is not incorrect—doubtful—will deliver an ion charge, disabling his electronics, shutting him down. He is quite certain that he will not wake up, if the ion charge hits his circuits. “Step away from the terminal.”

K-2SO races through possibilities.

“I won’t say it again,” says the tuneless man. “Step away from the terminal. I don’t know what kind of virus has jacked your circuits, bit-brain, but if I have to repeat myself—”

“You sing very badly,” says K-2SO, and slams his fist down on the tuneless man’s head. Not hard enough to kill him—he can, at least, calculate the level of force that would prevent death, and thus slip through a loophole in the 501-Z’s programming—but the disabling is instant. The tuneless man’s eyes roll up into his head, and he collapses to the floor. The 501-Z unit thankfully has a quick enough reflex for K-2SO to catch both the tuneless man and his ion prod before either hit the ground too hard, and draw attention. K-2SO shoves both of them into a nearby closet, closing it up tight, before he downloads the search results into his system, turns off the video surveillance for exactly six hundred seconds, and wipes the computer.

There are three Security Droids currently in maintenance for repair. One suffered a complete malfunction of its lower limbs, resulting in an inability to walk, presumably coming from someone tampering with the electronics of the system or some factory inlaid flaw which leaves it completely impossible to use. The second Droid has contracted a virus attacking its primary speech and understand programs, causing it to reply to all questions entirely in a stuttering form of Huttese. Presumably this is reparable, but if the droid was unable to reroute speech programs beyond the taint of the virus itself, K-2SO would also lack the necessary coding required to do so, and speaking Huttese any of those who had been on board the Last Hope would get him shot without question. It is unlikely, he thinks, that any of them won’t shoot him upon first glance.

Unbidden, an image in his memory rises. Did you know that wasn’t me?

Of course.

He throws it aside.

The third Security Droid is a new arrival. Experiencing loss of motor function in the right arm. Presumed to be physical malfunction rather than code-based. Examination required. Loss of function in the right arm is considerably less of a problem than complete malfunction of lower limbs, or being forced to communicate entirely in Huttese—which he knows Cassian is not fluent in, and doubts very much that Bodhi Rook or Jyn Erso is any better—so this is his strongest option. K-2SO sets his back to the wall, turns off his vision receptors as two of the twelve still-conscious officers stationed to the maintenance deck pass him by. If he can get to the Security Droid, disable it, replace himself in the system, and leave the maintenance levels, then, presumably, he can access a part of the computer system which would allow him to locate Cassian. If he locates Cassian, presumably, he will also locate Jyn Erso. Bodhi Rook, if he has not already been captured, will not be on file, but it is more likely that K-2SO will be able to locate him while mobile, and not colored as brightly as a Coruscanti fire engine. It is not much of a plan. It is still better, really, than winding up in the scrap heap. Or waking up in the junkroom of the Alliance base on Yavin IV.

Chance of success: nineteen percent. Holding steady.

It’s enough. He moves.

Chapter Text

Before Jedha, he’d never been caught. Cassian has an odd sense of pride in that, though now it feels more hollow than it used to. Before Jedha, he’d never been captured, never been interrogated. He’d been seen—it would have been impossible for him not to be seen, what with his trips to Core worlds—but he’d never been identified, and he’d never, not once, wound up behind the locked door of a cell before Saw’s catacombs on Jedha.

This is the second time. It’s about as palatable as the first.

He isn’t blindfolded. This is their first mistake, though he’s not sure they realize it. They’re settled, he thinks, as the ‘troopers shove him into the elevator, in the idea that the station is impregnable. That it’s inescapable. It doesn’t matter if they show him how to get in and out of the prison levels; he is never going to escape, and so whatever strategies he concocts in his few minutes outside of a cell, it doesn’t matter. Cassian watches the elevator flick down through levels, down and down, nine, seven, six. An elevator. The last time he'd been in an Imperial elevator, he'd been with Jyn. The last time he'd been in an Imperial elevator, he'd thought he was going to die.

Jyn. Where are you?  What are they doing, where are you?

He can't go down that road. He can't go down that road. If he goes down that road, he won't come back. 

The doors slide open again. “Come on,” says the ‘trooper at his shoulder, and pushes him forward. A bomb goes off at the base of his spine. Cassian bites the inside of his cheek hard enough to bleed. “Keep moving.”

They turn right. In his head, he can see the panic on Jyn’s face when they’d dragged him out of the conference room. Tagge. Motti. Why bring us to them? The panic, the wide eyes, her hair wisping out of the tie, mouth dark and bruised-looking. No, please don’t, please, and the door had slid closed on her voice. He’d wanted to turn back, to watch her. He hopes that she realized what he’d been trying to tell her. We’ll finish this together. We will. We will. He’s not sure if she realized it, if she’d seen, but he hopes. He has to hope.

They turn right, Cassian and the guard and the three ‘troopers they’d picked up at the end of the hall, and keep walking to another elevator, one marked with a G. He can’t remember what letter had been on the elevator they’d used first. Maybe a J. Jyn. There’s blood on the roof of his mouth. Jyn, still in with Tagge and Motti, the panic on her face. Please don’t. Please. He won’t know where she is, now, if he gets out. He’ll have to look in the system, search through the databanks. I’ll find you. You’ll find me. One or the other, whoever gets out first. He won't leave her behind. K-2. Bodhi. Did Bodhi get away? There’s been no alert, there would have been an alert, no one’s said a word. He must have. And if Bodhi gets away, then there’s hope, even if it’s tiny, even if it’s barely anything at all—

“In,” says the ‘trooper.

He steps in. The elevator doors close. They go down again.

All members of Rebel intelligence are gifted with a cyanide pill upon graduation to active duty. His is in the sole of his shoe. He’d shifted it there a long time ago, just in case his kit was stolen, just in case he’d been stuck somewhere, just like this, with no hope of accessing any of his things, nothing left for him to grab. He’s not sure if they’re going to take his shoes, but none of their searches have discovered it yet. It’s an odd little lump under the ball of his foot, hidden beneath the fabric, like a pebble. Death, right there. He’s walking on death, he thinks, and something tightens in his chest. Or walking with it, maybe. Walking with death in his shoes. They’re going to torture him, he knows, with an odd, distant sense of finally. They’re going to torture him and try to get information out of him, anything they can muster.

I can’t die. The plans haven’t been found yet. I can’t die, I can’t kill myself. I can’t. I have to figure out a plan. I have to get back.

They stop on Level Five. “I’ll take him,” says the guard, and the ‘troopers shuffle amongst themselves, but they stay back when the doors open. The plate on the ceiling reads Detention Block CT-47, and there are three guards—one officer, two black-masked bodymen—standing behind the counter.

“Ah,” says the officer. He’s a sergeant, judging by the bars on his uniform. Cassian looks at him without blinking. “This would be the new arrival. He’s been searched?”

“When he arrived.”

“We’ll have to do another one.” The sergeant folds his hands behind his back, and peers at Cassian. “These Rebels like to hide nasty surprises in the strangest places.”

Cassian pushes the cyanide pill hard into the sole of his shoe with his toe. Something, some part of him that’s come alive since Jedha, wants them to find it. If they find it, then there won’t be a debate for him later, to take it or not. If they find the pill, he’ll have no option but to survive.

There is no option but to survive. K-2 will come through. Bodhi will figure it out. He has to believe that. He has to believe that, with the plans still out there. There is no option but to survive.

On and on until we win or the chances are spent.

He shuts his eyes, breathes through his nose.

“—your problem,” says the guard. “Not mine.”

On the other side of the counter, the sergeant crosses his arms over his chest. “Said in the report that there would be two of them.”

“Top brass want to talk to her for a while longer,” says the guard. “Who knows why. Apparently she's more important than they expected.”

“Right,” says the sergeant, “sign this,” and the guard signs whatever the sergeant hands him. The two bodymen stand, and grip Cassian by the arms. “Take him.”

Cassian doesn’t fight. He follows. The more obedient he is, he thinks, the more relaxed they’ll be when he takes them by surprise. 

His clothes are taken, and he’s scanned. His fingerprints, handprints, and footprints are uploaded into the detention system of the Death Star. So is his genetic history. They give him his clothes back after he’s thrust under a ‘fresher head, and his hair is dripping into the collar of his shirt when they ask his name. He gives Joreth Sward. It’s one of his more fleshed-out false identities, something that they can find if they look it up, something they can compare him to. Nothing of note in the Imperial database for Joreth Sward. There’s some comment over the patches on his skin from the hypospray, but nothing that makes him think they want him to answer. He keeps his mouth shut.

“You’re not very talkative,” says one of the bodymen, as they fit the binders back on his wrist. “You speak at all?”

Cassian doesn’t smile.

“That’ll clear up,” says the sergeant, and the bodymen haul him out and up the steps. CT-47, and there are a dozen cells on each side of the long dark hallway, lights glinting under the wire mesh they’re using as a floor. He can’t tell if they’re occupied or not. The station’s barely operational, why—but of course that’s where you would hide prisoners you didn’t want anyone to know you had, in a battle station nobody knows exists. His socks are damp, now, and his palms itch. Down the hall, and then to the left. They throw him into 3305, instead of walking him down the stairs, and the door slides shut as he hits the floor, the lights dim and red and pain popping like fireworks all up his back, down into his hips, along his arms, inside his teeth. He doesn’t get up for a minute, for two. When he does finally manage to move, he rolls flat onto his back, and stares at the ceiling, at the sharp corners and the steel walls. It smells like cleaning fluid and metal and underneath that a tang of sweat, not his. Someone who had been here before. He wonders who they were, how they’d died.

Until we win or the chances are spent.

Cassian lies on the floor, and watches the ceiling. He tries to think. Imperial interrogations mean mind probes. He’s seen IT-O Interrogation units before, broken into pieces. He’s destroyed a few. He knows, fundamentally, how they work. Mental probes. Injection, agony, revelations, repeat. IT-Os don’t stop until they’re told to, which means even if he has nothing left to say, it’ll keep working until instructed otherwise. They leave almost no physical damage, and can shred a brain in minutes. Bodhi, silent and staring in his cell in the catacombs, unable to focus, to speak. Gone. He’s had a little training with interrogation droids, but there’s no way for someone not Force-sensitive to resist them, not really. Defending against mental probes is for the Jedi. Regular people crumple like old cans.

He curls his hands against the metal floor, and closes his eyes. Breathes, in and out. If anyone’s watching him, they must think he’s mad, lying flat out like this, not paying attention. It’s helping his back, just a little. The cold numbs the pain, and being flat helps it just a little more, makes it easier. There’s no point in pacing the walls. It’s a small room, this cell, and he has nothing to pick the lock, no way to get at the lock anyway even if he did. K-2 will come, if he’s not caught. Bodhi will find them, if he’s not caught. As many ifs as Onderon. More. They’re in the belly of the beast in a way that not even Scarif can really live up to, not like any of his trips to Coruscant or any other mission he’d ever done for the Alliance. We are inside the Death Star, and it is operational, and if we escape, we can download the plans all over again. Get a replacement for the Alliance. Half of him wants to laugh. He can see the look on Draven’s face, if they were to turn up with a whole new disk. Look, you lost the plans, we went to the Death Star and found you new ones. Don’t lose them again, yeah?

This would be the end that Draven pictured for him, most likely. Nameless, in a single cell of thousands. Spies don’t have a very long life expectancy, even good ones. We didn’t survive Scarif for this. We can’t have. Not for this. There has to be a reason. They were captured for a reason. They’re alive for a reason. There has to be a reason.

You know better than that, Cassian. Sometimes there is no reason. No matter what people say about the Force, sometimes there’s just an end.

If and when K-2 and Bodhi come to find him, whether they go after him first or Jyn, whoever they come for, they’re going to have to figure out how to disable the tractor beam. Get out somehow. They could abandon the Last Hope if they had to, take one of the U-wings in the hangar or jack some other ship, but they won’t know that until the beam itself is disabled. If it can’t be turned off remotely, then they’re going to have to shut it down, and the likelihood of none of them being caught doing that is lower still. He has no idea how much time has passed, if it’s been the twenty-five minutes K-2 calculated, if it’s been longer or shorter, if they’ve been here an hour or just a handful of breaths. They’ll leave him, he thinks, to get nervous, to start to pace, to be more receptive to the probe. He has a little time.

He breathes, in and out. Deep and slow. He has to wait. He has to think. The images creep in anyway. Bodhi, captured in the docking bay, killed before he can take more than a few steps. K-2, erased. K-2, dead again. Not again. Not K-2, not again. He can’t handle it again. Something in him is still screaming from the first time around. The snap of the lock closing, the sudden silence on the comms. If they open the shield gate, you can broadcast from the tower, K-2 gone, gone, who knew how many of the others were already dead but K-2 gone, and here they are again, in enemy territory with low chances of survival, and if K-2 is gone again, without him knowing, then—

You have to go, he’d said to K-2 on Yavin IV. We’ll need you. You’ll make us look legitimate. And K-2 had followed, because K-2 never really argued when he knew Cassian wanted him to follow, and he’d been killed, as surely as Tivik had been. It might as well have been Cassian’s hand holding the gun. K-2 had sacrificed himself for them, had died for them, for him, for Jyn, and he can’t remember it. Cassian and Jyn hold that to themselves, alone.

He thinks part of that might have been why he’d been so determined to go with Jyn, on Onderon. Not just to watch her back—he needs to watch her back, she puts it in the line of fire far too easily—but because he still doesn’t know what to say to K-2 about any of it. And now they’re here again, in the heart of the Empire again, and he still doesn’t know what to say. It doesn’t matter that K-2’s a droid, that K-2 can rebuild himself, that he’s recoverable. It matters that he died. Cassian doesn’t know how to explain that to him, and so he hasn’t, and it itches away, eating at the root of his tongue. You died for me. You died for her. You died for us. You kept them back long enough to make sure the plans could be sent on, and the Alliance lost them, and nothing I ever do will make up for the fact that you died for me. And now I’ve dragged you into this again.   

Dimly, through the wall, he can hear someone screaming. Cassian folds his hands on his belly, and listens until they stop.

(Don't, says a small, panicked voice in the back of his head, don't hurt her, please don't hurt her, not Jyn, please—)

He cannot—cannot—get caught in guilt right now. Not right now. He has to think. He has to be ready. They’re all on their own, for now. Him, K-2, Bodhi, Jyn. Easier to sneak around alone. Easier, too, to get captured. He understands why they’d separated them, him and Jyn—splitting prisoners apart means they can’t verify their stories against each other, means they can contradict each other, means they can drive each other into hell without ever knowing—but the admiral, the general, those don’t fit. They’d been taken right from the Last Hope to what must be the highest echelons of the Death Star hierarchy, and the only reason they would do that was if the Imperials had some idea of who they were. In which case, there’s every reason in the world to throw him in a cell, but not to keep Jyn up there, not with Admiral Motti, with General Tagge, in that bleak and empty conference room. What do they want her for? Why her, not him? If they know who they are, Cassian thinks, then it’d be elementary to interrogate him first. Spy, saboteur, assassin. Not Jyn. Jyn who’s fought harder than anyone he’s ever met, survived and grown into something extraordinary. Why Jyn? It digs cold underneath his ribs, like a blade. Why Jyn? 

Jyn is Galen’s daughter. And if they know she’s Galen’s daughter, if they know she’d been on Scarif, if they know all of that, then—

Please, don’t, she’d said, wild-eyed, please

If he shows it, on his face, with his voice, in anything, they'll know. If he says a single word to let them know she means something, they'll use it. If they know what—there's no answer for what. What she is to me. What she could be to me. What I want. It feels like the world shakes with all the impossibilities. 

She can fight this. He knows she can fight this. She’s fought worse. She’s good at it. She survives. Keep going. Keep going. A memory, cartridges hard under his hands, looking up at Jyn, her looking down, the tower. Keep going. Climb. Her eyes on his. Keep going. He’d fallen, and there’s nothing more in his head until the top of the tower, until transmitting and do you think anybody’s listening and the shadows in the elevator down to the sea.

Keep going.

I would do anything, he thinks, I would tell them anything if it meant they didn't hurt her. I would do anything. 

The floor vibrates underneath him. Slowly, at first, and then rattling. Cassian opens his eyes, but does not sit up. He listens. The walls of his cell are soundproofed, he’s certain, but the door shivers in its socket, and when he braces his hands palm-down to the floor, he can feel something, reverberating. Building. It swells like a wave, like a tide, and then it ends, cut off with a knife. The floor goes still again.  

The Death Star.

He shuts his eyes again.

.

.

.

“Tell me again,” says Mon Mothma. “What did you see?”

“I didn’t see.” Chirrut’s pale, his hands knotted into the sheets of the sickbay bed, and standing by the head of the cot, Baze watches his fingers flex in and out and fights the urge to touch him. He’s quite certain that one, if not all, of the doctors have been reporting their behavior to Draven; he’s also quite certain that Draven’s watching them, seeking out a weak spot for himself. “I heard things. A mish-mash. It was like tuning into several different comm channels at once, it all—mixed.”

“Considering how you swear you’re not a Jedi,” says Draven, arms over his chest, “you’re behaving much like one, Master Îmwe.”

“The Force wanted me to hear this,” says Chirrut. He speaks evenly, keeps his voice light, but he’s fretting. He’s picking at his cuticles. If he keeps going at this rate, he’ll make them bleed. Baze stands straighter at the head of the bed. “I am no Jedi, General. If you had ever met one, you would know that.”

“I did,” says Draven. “Several, in fact, before they were all slaughtered. You behave much like them.”

“The Jedi would come for children who could interact with the Force in any capacity, and take them to the Temple on Coruscant for training,” says Chirrut. He scrapes his thumbnail along the length of his index, and does not blink. “I have little strength in the Force, General. They placed me at the Temple in NiJedha because I could hear the crystals. Beyond that, I have no particular ability.”

“And you still expect us to take this report seriously when by your own admission—”

“General,” says Mothma, and Draven quiets. “Mastser Îmwe, I have faith in your abilities. I need you to tell me what you heard, over again. Slowly this time.”

There’s still blood on his chin. Chirrut says, “Many voices. A swirl. Some I knew, some I didn’t. There was one that—”

He stops. His shoulders knot up. Baze doesn’t touch him, but he does shift closer, and Chirrut turns his head just a little to show that he’s noticed. Draven sees it too, and something coolly satisfied curls his mouth into a hook.

“They’ve been captured,” says Chirrut. “You have to send people after them.”

 She has steady eyes, Senator Mothma. She looks up at Draven, and then at Baze, just for a moment. Her hands settle against the fabric of her robes, and she folds it over her thumbs, as if to hide them twitching. He can’t make out any movement beneath the cloth. Baze settles it into the category of nervous habit, like how she smooths her skirt sometimes when Draven isn’t looking at her. “Without a location,” she says, “or even a direction, Master Îmwe, there’s little we can do. I’m sorry.”

“I thought you had people looking on Onderon.”

“We’ve managed to establish that they, or people fitting their descriptions, anyway, collected a ship and departed Onderon again before our team reached the planet.”

Draven scoffs.

“We have also determined,” says Mothma, not looking at Draven, “that there was a hit on an Imperial weapons convoy early this morning Onderonian time by the splinter faction known as the Partisans. As you may or may not know, Jyn Erso had strong ties with the Partisans until she was a teenager; we’re presuming that she went to them for a new ship, and they provided her with one in exchange for help in…liberating the shipping manifest necessary to make the hit on the convoy.”

The Partisans. Baze wants to gnash his teeth. He’d had respect for the abilities of the Partisans on Jedha, but little else. Not when their help did more harm than good. Not when good people died in the crossfire. Because I’m the daughter of Galen Erso, she’d said, so clear-eyed even with the fear in her mouth, and she’d known them, hadn’t she, Jyn, she’d known the Partisans. They’d taken her away to their leader, and the captain had been fretting with the lock the whole time, bolting after her at the first possible moment. Chirrut had listened to him go, smiling a little, like he’d known something the rest of them hadn’t, back then. He is an interesting man, the captain, don’t you think? Chirrut had asked, and Baze had chivvied Bodhi out of his cell and replied, Move your ass before you get crushed.  Of course she’d had history with them. Little sister, what are you doing? “How many fatalities?”

Chirrut lifts his face to him. The others, Mothma and Draven, they both blink. He’s not entirely sure Mothma’s ever heard him speak before.

“We don’t count Imperial casualties,” says Draven. “Approximately half a dozen Onderonians not associated with the Partisans died in the crossfire during the convoy hit. Quite probably more. Reports are still coming in, it’s fairly sketchy.”

“Not during the hit,” says Baze. “During the robbery. How many died?”

The corner of Mothma’s eyes crinkle, just a little. She says nothing.

“So far as we can make out, only two.” Draven shrugs. “An Ithorian the next building over died from smoke inhalation, and then a woman in the shuttle bay was caught with shrapnel when a charge went off. They recovered her remains after the fires were put out.”

Two. Baze looks down at the floor. Chirrut’s lips move in a silent prayer, his eyes closing, fingers curling on his knees.

“Without any more information about where they are or where they’re being held, Master Îmwe, there’s little we can do to help them,” says Mothma. “I’m sorry.”

“Even if there were,” says Draven, “it’s doubtful we’d be sending in a rescue party anyway. They’ve gone rogue, again, and we’ve lost enough troops already over Scarif.” 

“They are your own,” says Chirrut. There’s a low burr in his voice that Baze knows well, from fights in Jedha’s alleys, from taunting Stormtroopers, from daring Imperials in the antechambers of the Temple. Come and take our crystals if you can. “Sacrificing those who have done so much for you and for the Rebellion seems strikingly similar to abandoning troops to an ambush you knew was coming.”

“They made their choice,” says Draven. “They disobeyed orders.”

For the first time, Mothma’s hands curve under the fabric of her robes.

“Neither Mothma nor I,” says Draven, not paying attention, “will be presenting the case of a rescue mission to the Rebel Alliance. There’s too much at stake to spread our resources so thin in attempting to recover them when we don’t even know where they are.”

“If you did,” says Chirrut, “you wouldn’t be sending out a party anyway.”

“The harsh reality is that none of them are high-priority enough to necessitate a rescue mission.” Draven looks as though he wants to pinch the bridge of his nose. Mothma, on the bed, has pressed her lips so thin that they’ve vanished into her face. Her eyes are scalding blue. This one, Baze thinks, isn’t happy with any of this, either. So why does she say nothing? A politician’s practicality? Possibly. She and Draven are allies through circumstance, through their Rebel Council. He’s not sure they like each other very much outside of that. “I will not risk more men to extract them from wherever they’re being held, if they’re even being held, on the off chance that they may, possibly, have some information in regards to the location of the Death Star plans. I have other things to do.”

“Funny.” Baze leans back against the wall. “I would have guessed the Rebellion was above that.”

“I will regret their loss more than you can know, Guardian,” says Draven. His eyes flick to Chirrut, and back to Baze. “I trained Cassian Andor. His death will lose me one of my finest operatives.”

“You’d already lost him.” Chirrut’s lips quiver at the corners, and then smooth down again. “The captain undid the lock to his prison himself, General Draven. It would have been better for you if he had died on Scarif.”

“I will not stand here and listen to this antiquated nonsense.” Draven draws himself up, and smooths his jacket out. “I have other things to do. If you hear anything of actual help, Master Îmwe, I encourage you to share it, but until then, I thank you for your time.”

“Guardians did not abandon their own when the path grew difficult,” says Chirrut. “Neither did the Jedi.”

“Maybe that’s why they all died,” says Draven, and leaves without looking back. Mothma does not. She sits, watching both of them, Baze and Chirrut, as if she’s studying some kind of pre-Clone Wars art relic. Chirrut shuts his eyes, and sags back against his pillows, letting his head rock back and forth along the wall.

“He is a very charming man,” he says. “Don’t you think?”

“General Draven is a remarkable officer and leader,” says Mothma. “He has done great things for the Rebellion, and for its Intelligence service. Without him we would not have come as far as we have.”

“You don’t like him.”

“He is necessary.” She smooths out her robes. “I may not always agree with his tactics and his policies, but he is still essential to the continuing existence of the Rebel Alliance.”

Baze grunts.

“You think they made the right decision,” Chirrut says. “Going after the plans.”

“I think they made a very reckless move,” says Mothma, but her lips quirk. “However, I cannot say I disagree with it.”

“Then—”

“I still cannot approve of the application of manpower and energy to their rescue when we have no clear idea of where to even begin looking, Master, I’m sorry.” Mothma folds her robes over her thumb again. “They are—all of you, in your own ways, are as much victims of the Rebellion as you have been of the Empire. I wish to do right by that, someday. I can’t do that if they’re dead on some nameless moon with none to mourn them.”

Not even Chirrut has anything to say to that. Mothma stands. Her eyes seem overbright for an instant, but when she blinks, it fades. Baze wonders if it was a trick of the light.

“What General Draven says stands, Master Îmwe. If you hear anything at all that may give us a location, a direction, please let us know. I will personally ensure they are recovered, if I am able.” She resettles her robes. “And if you please, do not request me directly. Ask for my assistant, Liss. She will find me once she hears the request is from you. I do not care about the time. I don’t…sleep much, on Yavin IV.”

“And so General Draven’s charm continues on,” says Chirrut.

“Just so,” says Mothma, her lips curving again. “Thank you, Masters, for sending for me.”

She sweeps away. It’s after the door has slid shut and the medical droids have gone back to their business that Baze nudges Chirrut’s knee aside, settles on the edge of his cot. Chirrut finds his hand, drags it between them, propped on the blankets.

“I’m going to have to reach,” he says.

“You’ve already pushed too hard. You shouldn’t.” Baze doesn’t squeeze his fingers. They feel too brittle, between his, like shards of old porcelain. “If you damage yourself—”

“Then it will be as the Force wills,” says Chirrut, fake-cheerful. “After all, it’s lent me so much already. It must want me to hear something.

Baze can’t speak, for a moment.

“If I seem to be going too deep,” Chirrut says, lifting his other hand, finding Baze’s jaw, “then you will pull me out. Only not like you did in the gardens at the Temple.”

“I was seventeen.”

“You broke my nose.”

“Accidentally,” says Baze. “Which you never mention.”

“Because I was grumpy about the fact that you broke my nose. I had an excellent nose, before then.”

Baze sets his thumb between two of Chirrut’s knuckles, and says nothing. He really doesn’t have to. It’s clear enough in the silence.

“I’ll try not to hurt myself,” says Chirrut. “This time, anyway. I trust you to bring me out of it, Baze.”

“Good,” says Baze. “Because no one else ever bothers.”

They both fall quiet for a time.

“Which of them is the friend, do you think?” says Chirrut.

“I thought that was obvious.”

“Mothma,” says Chirrut, and Baze nods. “We can’t lose the star, Baze.”

Baze has nothing to say to that. When Chirrut shifts, he leans, and rests his head to Chirrut’s temple. There’s really not much anyone can say to that, he thinks.

Chapter Text

“You can’t be serious,” says Motti.

Jyn can’t resist it anymore. She spits onto their carpet, and ignores the way Motti’s lip curls afterward, like she’s a smear on the bottom of a janitor’s shoe.

“Galen Erso had no living children,” says Tarkin. Jyn looks down at Vader’s shoes. It’s not any easier than seeing the rest of him, not any easier than looking at those eyes. “His daughter perished on Lah’mu along with his wife. According to Krennic’s report—”

“Orson Krennic,” says Vader, “was a moron, who concealed his military failures with bureaucratic smoke.” He almost bites through it, the rhythm of the words. “He could not find the child, and so had it declared dead. The Rebel Alliance, however, was far better at their job. This is Jyn Erso. She did not die on Lah’mu; she survived, and is now a rebel agent. The Alliance found her, and so have I.”

Tagge lets out a breath. Jyn flexes her hands in and out of fists. There’s no escape for her, not from this room, but maybe, maybe when they take her out again, maybe she can find something, maybe, and then if Bodhi and K-2 manage their parts, then— “While that’s quite a fascinating fairy tale, my lord, if there isn’t any proof, then I’m afraid—”

“Even if there was proof, what does it matter?” Motti scoffs. Tarkin looks between the four of them, Vader, Tagge, Motti, her, and remains quiet. “So the brat managed to keep to herself for the past fifteen years and just had the bad luck to get caught, it doesn’t change the fact that—”

“You have not been listening, Admiral.” Vader’s cape scuffs at his shoes. “That same ripple in the Force, the same disturbance caused by Galen Erso on Eadu, it is here, with her, right now. She has brought it here. She brought it to Scarif, and she has brought it here, her and her Rebel companion. She is her father’s daughter. She is attempting to finish what he started.”

“You’re saying this girl was on Scarif, during the battle, and somehow escaped, only to waltz right into our arms in an attempt to—what, plaster herself to the side of the Death Star through some kind of twisted sense of filial martyrdom?” Motti shakes his head. He stands. “I’m done. I have more important work to do.”

“Admiral,” says Tarkin, slowly, the way a child drags silk through their fingers. “Compose yourself. Lord Vader, you are certain?”

“I am.”

Jyn breathes deep, in through her nose, out through her mouth.

“So she’s Galen’s daughter,” says Motti. “So what? There’s no evidence—”

“The Alliance talks, Admiral. Intercepted transmissions mention a group of Rebels led by the daughter of Galen Erso being instrumental in transmitting the Death Star plans to the Alliance.” Vader breathes, and it creeps under her skin, festers there, itches. Maggoty. “The tremor in the Force has followed her, from Scarif to Alderaan. If anyone knows where the plans were sent, she will.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” says Jyn. “My name’s Riella Sward, I came to Alderaan to visit my parents, please, tell me where—”

“Your obfuscations are useless,” says Vader. “You cannot hide your true purpose. Not from me.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about—”

She can’t breathe. Jyn gags. She can’t breathe. There’s a vice on her throat, stopping up her lungs. It’s not a hand, it’s not—it’s pressure, it’s like rock or stone or durasteel, she can’t scrabble past it, she can’t take a breath. She can’t take in air. She lifts her hands, and finds nothing, there’s nothing there, she can’t breathe and there’s nothing there, there’s nothing, I can’t breathe, I can’t—

“Vader,” says Tarkin, and it ends. Spots dance at the edges of her eyes. Through the blur, she can see Vader’s hand fall back to his side, vanish beneath his cloak. What is he? What kind of monster is he? What did he do to me?

“There are tests that ought to be done, of course,” Tarkin says, “to confirm it, but if she is Galen Erso’s daughter, and she is, in fact, working for the Rebellion, as you claim, then we ought not be overhasty.”

Her lungs rattle in her chest like old gears.

“General Tagge.” Tarkin stands. “Have the princess brought up from the prison levels. Take her to the bridge. There is something I want to try.”

“Yes, Governor.”

“Bring her, too,” says Tarkin. “She ought to see what her father’s efforts have wrought. Perhaps it will make it easier for you to interrogate her, Vader, considering your lack of success with the Princess Leia. Don’t let it become a pattern.”

The pressure’s back. It roars, almost, dragging all the hairs on her arms, the nape of her neck, straight up. Tagge feels it too; she can see it in how his hands twitch against his thighs, how Motti shifts, keeps his eyes on the floor. Tarkin faces it down. There’s a beat, a second, a third, and then Vader’s swept around on his heel and left the room. The door gapes open behind him like a wound.

“Ladies first,” says Tarkin, and the guard heaves Jyn up out of the chair.

If the Death Star is a hive, then the bridge has to be the queen’s chambers. It’s bubbling, somehow, as if everyone in the room knows something beyond Jyn, beyond Vader, beyond Tarkin, something that’s coming that’s been here for an age. These men knew my father, she thinks. They had to have. They knew Krennic. She can almost see a flicker of a white cape to Vader’s black, Krennic at the helm, hands behind his back the way they’d been on Lah’mu. Lyra had shot him, then. Cassian had shot him at the top of the tower. He’d held her back. Tarkin folds his hands, and looks out the transparisteel.

“It’s a beautiful little world,” says Tarkin. “I believe my family once had vineyards there.”

Bully for you. There’s still blood running down her shoulder, her chest. When she wrenches at the guard, she gets a whack to the back of the knee for her trouble, and lands hard.

“Try not to break her, guardswoman,” says General Tagge. “She’s wanted for questioning.”

“Yes, sir.”

The plans would be here. There are screens lit up in every direction, men in uniform. They would be here, somewhere. So close. Parsecs away. She swallows, again and again. Right there. They’re right there.

“Do you know,” says Tarkin. He looks her over, top to toe, the way someone might look over an animal. “Now that I can see your face, I do think there is something of Galen in you. Something about the eyes.”

She wants to spit again. Jyn holds her tongue. At the corner of her vision, Vader crosses his arms over his chest, the mask turned towards Alderaan, its image reflecting in the lenses.

“Despite his eventual misdemeanors, your father has done the Empire quite a service in constructing this machine.” Tarkin rests his hand to the nearest board. “It will serve us for an age.”

“If it works properly.”

“It works,” says Tarkin. “Miss Erso can attest to that, I think. If you are correct, Lord Vader, than she was also on Scarif. She knows.”

She knows. Light, gusting. The world fracturing. Pieces of Scarif, of the sea, of the tower, K-2, Cassian pressing his face to her shoulder, breathing her, all of it, and mixed in there’d only been white death, chasing them, snagging at their ankles like a monster, and they almost hadn’t escaped, they almost—

“Ah,” says Tarkin, and turns. “If it isn’t the Princess Leia.”

It’s a girl. She’s small, even smaller than Jyn, dressed in snow white robes—Mothma, it’s the only thing that Jyn can think for a moment, like Mothma—and her wrists shackled delicately in front of her. Her eyes jump from one of them to the next like she’s picking targets. Vader, then Motti, then Tagge, then Jyn and her guard, and then finally Tarkin, and that’s where her eyes stick. “Governor Tarkin,” says the girl. “I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.”

“Charming, as always, Princess.” Tarkin waves a hand. “I believe you know Jyn Erso.”

Princess Leia is small the way detonators are small, Jyn thinks. They can blast a whole mountain to smithereens from the palm of your hand. Leia cuts her one look, and then drives into Tarkin again, with all her focus, like she’s trying to crack a diamond. “Never seen her before.”

“Are you quite sure? The pair of you seem to share allegiances. Unless, of course, you are still denying your affiliation with the Rebel Alliance, in which case this ceremony will be all the more fascinating for you to witness.” Tarkin waves a hand at the desk jockeys. “Miss Erso is a new guest, and I thought it appropriate that the heir to the architect of this great achievement you see before us be here to witness its finest hour—if you’ll pardon the poetry.”

Leia flicks her eyes to Jyn again, and considers. Jyn stares back. She can’t imagine what the princess sees. Hair falling around her face, bruises, blood on her shirt, hate in her eyes. This is where Princess Leia went. Better, maybe, that they've never met before. It sells it better. 

“This battle station,” says Tarkin, “is fully operational. And as a special treat for you, Princess, you have a choice to make. You have before you two options. The first is to name the system where the Rebel Alliance has their base.”

“You can’t,” Jyn says. She’s not sure if she’s speaking to Leia or to Tarkin, to both of them, to neither. “You can’t, people will die, you can’t—”

The guard drills her baton in to Jyn’s ribs. There’s a pop. She nearly spits up a lung.

“If not,” Tarkin says, as if nothing’s happened, “then I am afraid that I will have no choice but to test this system’s immense destructive power—which Miss Erso, I believe, can attest to—upon your home planet of Alderaan.”

Leia’s lips part. Her pupils blow wide. All the color fades from her face. “No,” she says. “No—no, Alderaan is peaceful, you can’t—”

“If you would like to present another target, Princess, then name the system.”

Leia looks at the screen. Then, strangely, impossibly, she looks at Jyn. She’s pale and young and alone, and they both know. They both know.

I know where the base is, Jyn thinks. And so do you.

A planet, a whole planet, or the Rebel base. She can’t breathe. The kyber crystal scorches hot under her shirt. We have to destroy it. She's not Alliance, not really, she hasn't dedicated her life to this the way Leia has, she's not a Rebel, only half of one, a quarter, not even. She'd come here for the plans, and this choice isn't a choice. Either way a planet is destroyed. Either way thousands of people die. Hundreds of thousands. The Rebellion. Hope. Hope would die.

Rebellions are built on hope.

A planet. A planet. A whole planet, millions of people, billions, and she can’t breathe all over again only this time it’s her own body shutting down on her, panic, fear, I can’t let a whole planet die, I can’t, I can’t, not with this, I can’t watch it happen again, but the Alliance, the hope, she can’t kill the hope, she can’t, she can’t—

“Don’t,” she says again, and Leia looks at her, sharp, panic raw and bright around her edges. “Don’t, don’t—”

“Dantooine,” says Princess Leia. “They’re on Dantooine.”

Jyn doesn’t hold her breath. She doesn’t sigh. She jerks her wrists, and looks at the transparisteel, looks out at Alderaan, blue and green. She lied. A planet, a whole planet, millions and millions of beings, millions of years of history at stake, a planet, Leia’s planet, and she’d lied—

She’d lied.

“You bitch,” she says, and in the moment between Leia rearing back and the guard dragging Jyn away, she can see it, in Leia’s mouth, a curve. You know. I know. We know. “You’ve killed them all, you traitorous bitch, you’ve killed them—”

“Shut her up,” says Tarkin, and the guard jabs her in the broken rib again. Jyn’s knees give out, and she hits the floor hard, coughing. “You see, Vader? She can be persuaded if you apply the appropriate pressure. Commander, you may fire when ready.”  

Leia screams. “What?”

At the same time, on the floor, Jyn tries to shout, tries to howl. She can’t get more out of her lungs than a hiss. “No, you don’t, you can’t, don’t—”

“Dantooine,” says Tarkin, without looking at either of them, “is not effective at all as a demonstration to the galaxy that this battle station is now operational. Alderaan, however, will make an excellent one. Your Rebel friends will be dealt with shortly.”

She’s going to be sick. Jyn’s guard heaves her up again, holds her upright, makes her watch. No. No. There’s a buzzing, under their feet, a wasp’s nest, a hive; it grows, and grows, until her teeth are rattling, until her broken rib and her shoulder and all her insides have fused into a massive knot of pain, roosting in her throat, pressing at the back of her tongue. No, please, no. No. A flash of green, at the edge of the transparisteel, growing, blinding—

“No,” she hears Leia say, or herself, it might be both of them, soft and alone, “no—”

Rock. Stone. There’s nothing else left. It’s been shattered, piece of crust, of dead core, scattering like asteroids in a space that used to be a world, that used to be a civilization, a planet, a home. Leia looks away. Jyn does not. Jyn stares at the pieces, and tries to fit them back together in her head. They won’t link. They’re too shattered.

Gone. Alderaan. Gone.

This is what we didn’t stop, she thinks. This is what my father created. This was never supposed to happen again.

Something coils, low in her belly. Guilt, but not just that. Something burning. Like a blaster bolt. The same thing from Eadu, but more, worse, because it’s not just Cassian holding a sniper rifle to her father’s head, it’s the TIE fighters, it’s the Empire, they’ve killed a planet, she can’t speak with the rage, magma and blaster fire, they’ve killed a planet, billions of people, billions

The little girl from Jedha screams, and screams.  

“Put them back in their cells,” says Tarkin. “I rather think that Miss Erso ought to be near her friend, don’t you? Make things easier for you, Lord Vader.”

The guard grips Jyn by the elbow. She shakes her off. “You’ll pay for this,” she says. “You’ll pay for this, you bastard, you son of a bitch, I’ll make you pay for this—”

“Charming,” says Tarkin again, and waves his hand. “Take them away, please. There’s work to be done.”

“You’ll pay for this!” The guard heaves her off her feet, and Jyn lashes out, kicking. She can’t stop herself. She’s bursting. “You—”

Sparks. The world goes dark.

Silence. 

.

.

.

The right arm is gone.

K-2SO surveys what might, colloquially, be called his prize, and reconsiders. The right arm is gone. It is not absolutely necessary for him to have a right arm, in regards to overall functionality, but when applied to combat or to information retrieval scenarios, it doesn’t comply. His primary interfacing mechanism would be absent, and this is unacceptable, as it would drop rate of success below nine percent. Nineteen is an acceptable margin, or it has become so over the past week and a half. Nine is not.

“Hey,” says a voice, and K-2SO lashes out without looking. Another mechanic hits the ground. He has now disabled six, and—he prods this one underneath the diagnostic table belonging to the disabled Security Droid, moniker shortened to K-8LR—if he continues at this rate he will have decimated the entire maintenance floor without anyone yet raising a full alarm. It speaks well for their chances, if the Stormtroopers are as inadequate. Strategically speaking, it is an unlikely possibility, numbering somewhere in the hundreds of thousands, but it is still a possibility. K-2SO pushes the woman further underneath the table, and rolls K-8LR over, detaching the primary panel on the back of its cerebral unit. He thinks that the others from the Last Hope would call this macabre, he muses, in the approximately seven percent of his processing not devoted to shifting K-8LR and watching for more staff to come running. A droid doing what amounted to surgery on another droid to download into its body and take over. He doesn’t see why, exactly. It’s not as though he has done any damage to the personality or memory cores, just—removed the information on them, downloaded it into the system of the maintenance levels, set it aside in a file for later use.

He may have to blame Cassian for what small part of him finds the images disturbing. It seems very Cassian.

“Hey,” says another voice, but it’s out of line of sight for K-2SO, and there is no indication that the man’s current footpath will bring him within sight. K-2SO continues his work. With a blank personality core, the unit will be available to download himself into, but without a right arm, he cannot download further information or access the Death Star’s intranet to ascertain where to find Cassian, or even find Jyn Erso, regardless of the recklessness of that level of commitment. He could, if he tried, find another arm and replace it, but wandering the halls of the Death Star in a unit missing one arm would draw attention that none of them would want. “Shack, where’d you go? I need those converters.”

K-2SO weighs options. If a working arm was found, then it would be a simple insertion, one that he could do himself. He could then depart from maintenance, presumably without anybody seeing. The video surveillance systems will return to normal functionality within the next two-hundred sixty-seven seconds, and he does not have a great deal of time to complete the process without being observed.

“Shack,” says the voice again. “Come on, woman. I can’t hold this forever.”

Using one of the other Security Droids brought in for repair, the one with a malfunctioning limb system, the one that spoke Huttese, that—possibly. If he can manage it in time. If he can—

Movement on the infrared. The man calling for Shack is coming around the corner. K-2SO lifts the unit previously referred to as K-8LR up in the arms of the 501-Z—it is a strain on the mechanisms in his elbows—and shifts back, out of sight, as soundlessly as he can. The man lets out an odd little noise at the sight of the empty table, at the conspicuous absence of Shack, and begins to swear. K-2SO sorts through the information in his head, the layout of the maintenance deck, the location of the other two Security droids, and chooses the closer; he shifts the empty body in his arms, and backtracks, takes a right instead of a left, continues down a narrow path constructed by shelves layered with parts of droids that he can identify on sight, damage and all.

K-3TJ is at the back of the maintenance deck, powered down to conserve energy, beside an empty work station. There is another diagnostic table. K-2SO lays the empty body down on it, gently, trying to keep the noise to a minimum—one-hundred twenty-three seconds—and then sets to work on K-3TJ. The arm comes away neatly, which is only to be expected. These Security Droids are newly produced, their panels and wires freshly poured, only days out of the factory—thirty-nine days for K-8LR, twenty-one for K-3TJ. Oiled, and clean, and the mark of the Empire still shining on their shoulder plate. K-2SO fits the new arm into the droid on the table, drilling it in, second by second, ninety-four seconds left, projected upload time forty-one point two seconds, hurry

K-2SO slots the interfacing arm into the hole in the head of the empty body.

For a moment, it’s as if he’s seeing both sides at once. He can perceive shadows, out of the 501-Z’s malfunctioning visual processor; a curve, a body on the table. Through the eyes of what had been K-8LR, he sees the head of the 501-Z, one eye gone, scratched and beaten, a scorched chassis and scraped paint. He flexes the fingers of the right hand stolen from K-3TJ, recalibrates. His vision stutters slightly, and then steadies. The arm is functioning. The legs are functioning. If he were anything close to poetic, he might say he feels more at home. The 501-Z’s knees give out, and it hits the ground with such a tremendous clatter that’s as good as a warning klaxon. K-2SO swings both legs off of the table—both functioning; all core processes within optimal range—and steps away, stepping over the body of the 501-Z. If there has been no shift within the range of his internal timekeeper, then there is still forty-nine seconds for him to leave the bay without being seen, and—

“Hey!”

It’s the man who had been calling for Shack. How did he—but there had been a shift in visual capabilities in the transfer between the 501-Z and his new body, the infrared imaging system hadn’t come online until three point nine-two seconds too late. K-2SO does not move. He keeps his fingers curled tight around the edge of the table, calculates. He cannot stop the man in time; if his sensors are right, there is a blaster aimed at his chassis, and while one or two shots will not prove fatal, it is doubtful that he will survive more than that without requiring immense repair. The man who had called for Shack shifts sideways, blaster still raised.  

“Hands up, droid,” he says. “Slowly.”

K-2SO shifts his hands up. If he can get within range without a shock from an ion prod, then he can disable the man, take his weapon—but no, there’s another human approaching, fast from the south. It would be possible, albeit difficult, for him to disable two, but he is unsure whether or not the conflict will result in permanent damage, and he cannot wander the Death Star with—

Despite considerable processing power devoted to the analysis of the infrared data, K-2SO, for a moment, is not sure what he is seeing. The second figure has slowed, stopped. It has picked up a piece of metal from a nearby table. The man who had called for Shack has not noticed. He still has his gun up, fingers trembling. Security Droids can do a great deal of damage, when they are cornered.

“What’s your operating number,” says the man, and then there’s a clang, and he falls. K-2SO waits, for a second, inexplicably, before he turns around.

Bodhi Rook lowers the back panel of a gonk droid, and blinks at him. There’s sweat dabbing his temples. A symptom of many things in humans. Nerves is the most likely explanation. He wets his lips. “K?”

“Yes,” says K. He drops his hands. The backplate of a gonk droid. Unorthodox, he thinks. Undeniably effective. “What were you going to do if I wasn’t?”

“I don’t know.” Bodhi fidgets. “Probably shoot you, I have a gun on me, but I didn’t—” He stares at the still form of the shouting man. “I don’t—I don’t like guns, I didn’t think to use it—can we go?”

“I have to erase the video recordings.” K-2SO heaves himself off the diagnostic table. “I do not understand why it is so necessary for everyone to consider shooting me. Obviously, it could only be me.”

Bodhi Rook makes a noise between his teeth that could be assent, and steals the unconscious man’s boots. The accumulation of a new disguise is a valid idea. K-2SO approves.

“We will need to shift to another location,” he says. “The maintenance levels are cut off from the Death Star intranet. I cannot locate them from here.”

“Right,” says Bodhi. “Yeah, right, just—one second, yeah? One second.”

“Change clothes later,” says K-2SO. “Move now.”

Bodhi moves.

Chapter Text

They find an empty information port on Level Twelve. Bodhi’s still not sure how they’ve managed to come this far without getting caught. It’s written all over his face, the nervousness, the terror. His cuticles are bleeding, his knuckles flaring white where he grips the strap of his stolen bag. (He’d snagged it on the way out of the maintenance levels, shoved the stolen uniform inside. He doesn’t know much about rescues or extractions or anything else spy-related, not at all, but common sense tells him that they’re not going to get either Cassian or Jyn out of here in the clothes they arrived in. Not with Jyn wounded and Cassian so very obviously not an Imperial.) K-2 stays ten steps behind him the whole way there, walking straight with his hands folded behind his back like Cassian. In the dark, misty part of his brain that’s still mumbling in a desert, it makes him think he’s being hunted.

The port, at least, is set aside from a main thoroughfare, out of sight from all the officers and ‘troopers who have been marching past them, barely giving them second glances. Bodhi crams himself into the nook beside the port, probably meant for a droid to charge in—there’s an electrical outlet digging into the small of his back—and breathes deep. He holds the bag tight to his chest, shuts his eyes, and he could be on Eadu again, with the tramp of boots and the announcements and the trilling of cleaner droids up and down the halls. It smells like Eadu, and his skin is crawling with it. 

“If you continue to do that, you will draw attention,” says K-2, as he slots the concealed arm into the port. “Also, it’s irritating.”

Bodhi realizes he’s bouncing, and stops immediately. “Sorry.”

“I am surprised that you have made it this far without capture, considering your obvious nerves.” K-2SO turns the arm this way and that, and there’s a jittering, a vibration that echoes in Bodhi’s back molars, buzzing through the wall and into K-2. His eyes flicker, just a little. “There was only a thirty-three percent chance that you would survive to the maintenance levels.”

“Oh,” says Bodhi. He’s not sure if he should be glad or not, that K-2 had kept that to himself until this moment. “What’s, um. What’s the percentage now?”

“Of your survival?” K-2 tips his head. “Thirty-five. Considerably less if you continue bouncing.”

He’s not bouncing anymore, but he locks his knees anyway. Three officers with crests on their uniforms that mean security give him odd looks as they pass, but the sight of K-2, even K-2 plugged into an information port and not paying attention, moves them along. Security Droids. Bodhi shrinks further back into his corner, and says, “If you haven’t found them yet—”

“I have.” There’s another whirring from K-2’s innards. Down the hall, ‘troopers march in time, and Bodhi scrubs his damp palms on the fabric of his stolen bag. “They’ve been separated.”

“Why—”

“They have identified Jyn as the daughter of Galen Erso, and imprisoned her in Cell Block AA-23, primarily associated with high-class, high-risk prisoners.” K-2SO presses a hand to the wall, as if he’s losing his balance. “Cassian—Joreth Sward. Cell Block CT-47. They are on almost exact opposite ends of Level Five. Access will be complicated.”

“So they’re below us.”

“This is accurate.” K-2SO tips from side to side. “Strategically, it would be wiser to locate Cassian first. The elevator down to C-Block is closer to us, and it is not as closely guarded. Not to mention the fact that there is still the tractor beam to consider.”

“It’s still on?”

“Yes.”

He hadn’t thought about that. Bodhi wants to hit himself. He picks at the scab on his wrist, instead, scraping with his nails.

“Jyn Erso is unavoidably detained,” says K-2SO. “AA-23 is stationed close to a ‘trooper hub. Higher security, higher guard turnover, higher video surveillance. If we were to locate Cassian and turn off the tractor beam, we can escape during a timed distraction.”

“What timed distraction?”

K-2 rolls back and forth on his feet, the robotic equivalent of a shrug. “I will come up with something.”

“That’s—that’s reassuring. Right. Okay.” Bodhi digs his nails into the scabs on the back of his hand, picking and picking. It helps, somehow. Even with blood on his hands. “We can’t leave Jyn here.”

“The elevator door is the only way in or out of the block. There is little to no chance we would be able to liberate her.” K-2 shrugs again. “We do not have a choice.”

“That isn’t a choice, we—” Not Jyn. They can’t leave Jyn. Not Jyn, they can’t leave her. He won’t leave Jyn behind. Galen would never forgive him. Cassian would never forgive him. He’d never forgive himself. “If—if we get Cassian first, then they’ll hear about it, they’ll—they’ll put everything on lockdown. We won’t be able to go back for her, we won’t—we won’t have time to make a new plan.”

K-2 rocks back and forth again, as if to say, Sometimes that happens. “The priority is not drawing attention to ourselves. There is little chance of not drawing attention to ourselves if we march into a high-security detention block and break free the daughter of Galen Erso.”

“No, I know, I know, I—” He pinches the soft skin on the inside of his wrist. “We’re not leaving her, K.”

“Your funeral,” says K-2. “Which it quite probably will be. The current likelihood that you will be shot before we get anywhere near Cell Block AA-23—”

“Don’t say that so loudly,” hisses Bodhi through his teeth. He pinches his nose. “Okay, if—we’re not going to be able to get both of them. Not unless we—we split up.”  

K-2 turns his head. The shiny Imperial mark on his shoulder plate keeps dragging at Bohdi’s eyes, snagging and peeling away at parts of him he can’t quite manage to draw them back into place again. He’d known K-2 was an Imperial droid from the start, he’d felt comfortable with him for that, made sense of his life, in a way, but with the fresh paint—it’s gnawing at him. “You wish to split up?”

“I can’t see how we’re going to get both of them out without the whole place going haywire.” Bodhi chews on his thumbnail. “AA-23. Which elevator do I want?”

“It is marked with an S.”

“S,” he says. “Right.”

“She is scheduled for interrogation in ninety minutes. Apparently she had to be subdued quite forcibly by her guard and is currently unconscious.”

Which just makes things worse. Stims from a medkit, maybe. If Jyn’s unconscious then—focus. Focus. Breathe. “Ninety minutes—how long will it take you to set up the distraction?”

K-2SO buzzes. He retracts the arm from the wall, and leans, for a moment. “Approximately twenty-eight minutes, if I do so prior to recovering Cassian.”

“If you do it after?”

“There are too many variables. Anywhere from thirty to fifty-eight minutes before we are caught.” He makes a noise like a man clearing his throat. “With the deprioritization of the recovery of Jyn Erso, then—”

“There’s a ninety-six percent likelihood,” says Bodhi, “that Cassian won’t go anywhere without her.”

K-2SO’s eyes flicker, dark and light and dark and light. He stands up so straight that for a second Bodhi thinks he’s going to start sparking and go dead. Then, in the most offended voice that Bodhi’s ever heard from him, he says, “You made that up.”

“I—yes, I did.”

“You made that up,” says K-2SO again. “Not as if I have any sort of specialty programming in strategy and probability. You can’t just make up numbers. That’s not how it works.”

“Humans make things up, sometimes, but—look.” Bodhi darts a glance at the top of the hallway again, at the guards passing by, and then lowers his voice. “Cassian’s—he’s not going to leave without her.”

“There is a—”

“K,” says Bodhi, and K falls quiet. “He’s not going to leave without her.”

K-2SO fidgets. “It would be the better strategy to ensure that at least one person escapes alive. If Cassian insists on going back for Jyn, then it is very likely we will all die.”

“He won’t leave her,” says Bodhi. “He—trust me. He won’t leave without her. And she won’t leave without him, either.”

“You have no proof of that. Statistically, Jyn Erso is much more likely—”

K,” says Bodhi. He shuts up, just long enough for a handful of administrative assistants to walk by. “They won’t leave each other. Just trust me on that. We’re going to have to get both. And the only way we can do that is if we split up. Right?”

K-2 folds his arms. “The likelihood of all of us escaping alive is nineteen percent. And dropping.”

“Still better than zero,” says Bodhi, with a confidence he most certainly does not feel. “AA-23?”

“Your rate of survival has just dropped to seven percent.”

“Then—” He swallows. “Then it’s dropped to seven. I’ll go get Jyn, get her out. If—mm. You go set up whatever distraction you’re going to set up, and—and get Cassian. Meet me in an hour at—”

Bodhi stops. He doesn’t know anything about the Death Star, he can’t possibly arrange a meeting place. K-2SO just keeps watching him, the way someone might watch a bomb about to go off.

“Meet me here,” he says. “In an hour.”

“It would be more advisable to find a secluded location.” K-2SO flutters again. He steps away from the wall. “There is an observation deck on Level Four which is locked. The code to enter it is A-49255. Do not forget it.”

“A-49255.” Bodhi nods. “I won’t—won’t forget. I’ll make sure.”

“Bodhi,” says K-2SO. “I do not—wish you to be caught.” 

“I won’t be.”

Something buzzes in K-2’s chassis. “It would be highly displeasing if you were captured, Bodhi Rook. I find you much more tolerable than Jyn Erso.”

“Then I won’t be caught,” says Bodhi again, but he reaches up and knocks two fingers to the Imperial mark on K-2’s shoulder. K-2 rocks again in a question. “You and me, we—we have to stick together, yeah? Defectors.”

“My defection was not willing,” says K-2. Then, hastily: “But I see the point you are trying to make.”

“Stick together,” says Bodhi again. “Yeah? All of us. We’re all, y’know. Rogues. We stay together or we don’t—we don’t win. Scarif taught us that.”

K-2SO looks down at him for a long time. “I do not remember.”

“Mm.” Bodhi tucks his chin in towards his chest. “I know.”

“You are not the one they brought back with them on Jedha.”

“No, I’m—I’m me. Messed up inside. Just good at hiding.” He looks down at the blood on the back of his hand. “Y’know, um. My dad—he left. When I was little. Just my mum, my aunt. My uncle. And Galen—on Eadu, we’d sometimes sit. In the mess. He was lonely, I think. He’d lost a family. And I don’t know what—what he saw, in me, on Eadu, but he saw something, and I think—I think sometimes when he spoke to me he was trying to talk to Jyn. And he—he said, y’know, that—that everyone has something that tells them what’s right and wrong. In their head. You just have to listen to it. And if you do, then—then you can make up for other things. And do something right for the galaxy.”

K-2SO rattles, almost in a sigh. “I do not know what the point of this anecdote is.”

“Means I’m going after Jyn,” says Bodhi.

“Because you feel you owe her your life, after Jedha. And that you owe a debt to her father for filling a role that you never had in your own life.”

“No,” says Bodhi. “Because she’s my friend. Because it’s the right thing to do and I—I don’t want to leave her behind. I like to think she wouldn’t leave me behind, so I won’t—I won’t leave her. Just like I wouldn’t leave—I wouldn’t leave Cassian, either.”

“Because of the little voice,” says K-2. “And Galen Erso.”

“Because they’re my friends,” says Bodhi. “You don’t—you don’t abandon your friends. It’s not right.” 

“I am a droid,” says K-2SO. “The concept of a small voice which informs you what is right and what is wrong is entirely outside my programming. I simply have boundaries in regards to my code.”

“Sure.” Bodhi steals one last look at the top of the hallway, and then steps away from his nook. “You should go. I have to—to find a place to change into this. I brought it for Cassian but—but I don’t think it’ll work if you go wandering around with a bag.”

K-2SO nods, once. “Good luck, Bodhi Rook.” 

“Good luck to you too, K,” says Bodhi. He knocks his knuckles into the mark on K-2’s shoulder one more time—it leaves a little smear of blood, Rebellion red—and then he heaves the bag over his shoulder, and walks off.

Saying a thing, of course, is much easier than doing a thing. He ducks into a restroom, changes into the maintenance worker’s uniform, and then he sits there, listening to people wandering in and out of the restroom, trying to think. He doesn’t really have a plan. He’s never broken anyone out of a cell before; he’d been the one broken out, not the other way around, and that had been the Partisans and not the Empire, and there’d been an explosion, a ruined city, a devastated planet to distract the guards in the catacombs. There’s none of that here. The bag he’d stolen is full of tools, an ID that doesn’t even come close to matching his face, and the shuttle driver’s uniform that he’s discarded. Nothing that he can really use unless he wants to go at someone with a wrench. The blaster is still deep in his pocket, set on safety, a lump like a tumor. It’s simple, his uncle had said. You aim, and you pull the trigger. Bodhi had never liked the feel of them, never really been all that great at aim anyway.

What am I supposed to do with these? He can’t leave Jyn there. He can’t. But with tools, and a single small blaster, and no ID, what is he supposed to do?

You are going to get us out of this, Cassian had said. I can’t do this. How am I supposed to do this? He puts his head in his hands, breathes. The chrono on his wrist says ten minutes of his hour have already wound away into the panic. I need to do something. I need to come up with something. We have to get out of here before—

The rattling, under his feet, the hum, he won’t think about it, he won’t think what that means, he won’t think about it

before they kill us and there’s nothing left to save.

He can probably lie his way into the cell block just with the uniform, but as soon as a guard asks to see identification he’ll be dead. Which means they can’t ask to see identification. Which means they need to be distracted, somehow, from asking. Bodhi looks down at the bag of tools again, thinks of the Last Hope, of K-2 with his arms wound into wires around the hyperdrive computer. Steam. Something big enough to make people uncomfortable, not do any real damage. He can work that out, can’t he? He’s repaired ships all his life. A battle station isn’t so different, not when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the thing. It’s a gigantic ship. Just—moon shaped. If he can get behind one of the panels—

This could actually work.

Bodhi leaves the stall. He splashes water on his face. His eyes are red, his lip is split from biting, his cuticles are raw, his nails bitten down. The scabs on his hands and arms from the burns are peeling. There are hollows beneath his cheekbones, etched in shadow. He looks nothing like he remembers, and everything like he remembers. The Bodhi before is vague, distant. The memories he has of himself now are all this, bruises and scabs and nerves. I’m the pilot. He taps out the syllables on the countertop. I’m the pilot. It’s not a question of can. He has to do this. He has to.

He leaves the restroom.

Nobody looks at him, really. No one ever really looks at maintenance workers, especially not maintenance workers with maintenance bags who look like they’re on a mission to get somewhere. He keeps the cap low, close to his eyes, and he looks at the ground as he follows the directory, finds an elevator marked with an S. The thing is empty when the doors slide open, and he steps in. There’s no keycard swipe necessary, nothing at all. Just a handful of levels marked out on the touchscreen. AA-23 is the last stop for this elevator line. Bodhi looks out the open door of the elevator, at the people threading in after him, and he swipes his thumb over the line just above Cell Block AA-23, a level just marked Crew Quarters B-16. The letters light up bloody red.

On Level Nine, most of the other occupants of the elevator file out. On Level Seven, two new people take their place, but on Level Six they disembark. So does Bodhi. Transparisteel doors, a key-card to swipe in, people talking and laughing. Officers off duty. Probably ‘troopers too. He keeps his head down, passes the stolen card over the scanner, and it lights up green. This is the garrison that K-2 was talking about, the one with the ‘troopers that can deploy right downstairs, and he’s in the wrong place for someone who’d had his hologram plastered all over his home planet. Nobody asks him what he’s doing. Nobody gives him a glance. Bodhi takes a step out of the elevator, past the transparisteel, takes three more steps, turns right, and then he stoops, prying a panel off the wall and setting it aside. Most of it is wires that make no sense, have no meaning to him, but when he shifts them aside there’s durasteel piping, and yes, that. That works. Pipes funnel oil, or water, or steam, or something else that causes a big mess. It’s marked yellow. What would yellow be for? Bodhi looks around, once, just once, careful to mask it with adjusting his hat on his head, and then digs around in his bag. There’s a laser cutter buried at the bottom, and when he makes the tiniest slit in the side of the pipe, something clear dribbles out. When he touches the cuff of his new uniform to it, sniffs it, antifreeze rasps the inside of his nose raw. Flammable. Okay. He debates—there’s no guarantee this won’t blow the whole wall out, won’t back up and level half the room—and then seals the pipe up again. There’s a diagnostic panel just beside it, and when he inputs the code on the stolen ID, it lights up green.

Antifreeze pipe. Most of the wiring seems to be related to the lighting in here. Some of it to the keyswipe on the door, some of it to the lighting, some of it to temperature regulation. None of it connected to the elevator so far as he can tell. Sweat drags down the back of his ear, along his throat. If he can separate a few of the wires off, fray them just enough to spark, clamp the antifreeze pipe so it doesn’t go off anywhere but on this level, then maybe—

“Hey.”

Bodhi peeks out of the corner of his eye. One of the ‘troopers—out of uniform, but he’s a ‘trooper, he has to be, only ‘troopers stand that way—is looking at him down the length of his nose.

“Hello,” Bodhi says after a moment, and goes back to his work, flicking through screens on the diagnostic panel. There’s a shut-off valve for the antifreeze, coming up from the core, and when he hits it, the panel makes a little sighing sound, like it’s exhausted. He finds a clamp, sets it as low into the pipe as he can get, clamping it tight. It cannot go down into the cell block, whatever will happen. “Can I help you?”

“Where’s Shack? She’s usually the one who does repairs up here.”

Shack. Someone had been calling for a Shack on the maintenance levels. Bodhi finds another clamp, drives it into the highest piece of the pipe he can reach, halfway buried in wires. “Sick,” he says, because he can’t see the ‘trooper this way, can’t lose his nerve. “She caught something from an officer, she said.”

“An officer?” says the ‘trooper, and he’s—he’s indignant. “What officer?”

“She just said an officer, she didn’t give me a name.”

Damn it.” He paces, back and forth. Bodhi can feel the vibrations through the floor. More sweat trickles down the back of his neck, under his arms. “You sure you never heard who?”

“Shack doesn’t tell me anything,” says Bodhi, and with one final damn it all the ‘trooper leaves. It’s quite possibly the one and only time he’s ever had a pleasant conversation with a Stormtrooper, and it’s making his lungs crumple. Bodhi slits the pipe again, just a little, just enough, and tapes two wires to the pipe, frays the coverings. Wires to the door, he thinks. As soon as someone comes in, the things should spark, and catch the antifreeze, and as soon as the antifreeze catches, then there should be a fire big enough to make the whole wall smoke. It should go up so fast that nobody will be able to tell, until later examination, that it was intentional, and if the sirens go off down below, too, if the smoke gets bad, then—

Distraction.

He zips the bag up. Bodhi stands, and replaces the panel into the wall. Nobody stops him. Nobody says a word. He walks out, hits the button for the elevator. Waits. There are two officers, a man and a woman, standing in front of the transparisteel doors, talking, not swiping their cards. He bounces on the balls of his feet, watches the elevator flick through the floors. Five, four, three, two—

There’s a Wookiee in the elevator.

Bodhi blinks, and blinks again. Two ‘troopers and a Wookiee, of all the species that could ever end up on the Death Star, stare back at him. One of the ‘troopers waves at the doors, at the Wookiee, shrugs, but Bodhi lifts his maintenance bag. “Cell block,” he says, and the ‘troopers look at each other in silence. “Just one floor, yeah?”

The Wookiee makes a noise that doesn’t seem like it can come from a living being.

“Fine,” says one of the ‘troopers. He jerks a hand. “Get in, he’s antsy.”

Bodhi shuffles in. He keeps his back pressed to the wall, out of the way of the Wookiee. It smells, oddly, like blasterfire, like scorched fur. He looks at the ceiling, and then at the floor.

“Let us go out first,” says the other ‘trooper, the voice younger and lighter. Bodhi nods.

“Go ahead.”

The Wookiee makes the noise again, and Bodhi jumps.

“Twitchy, aren’t you,” says the first ‘trooper.

“What happened to your hands?” asks the second. “They look like they hurt.”

“Antifreeze burn,” says Bodhi. It’s the first thing that comes into his head. “Last week.”

“I’ve had that,” says the second ‘trooper. “It’s terrible, makes your hands all itchy.”

“Mm,” says Bodhi, and goes back to bouncing on the balls of his feet. The elevator settles into place, and the doors open. Cell Block AA-23. He wonders if the officers upstairs have swiped their cards yet.

“Hold the door,” says the second ‘trooper, and Bodhi sets his thumb to the touchscreen as they herd the Wookiee out. He trails after them, and tries not to look like he’s staring around too widely. Three men. Officers. Guards, presumably. Cameras. He’ll have to disable them, somehow. That, or just keep his head down. There must be some kind of wiring in the wall for them, though, and if there’s another diagnostic panel, then—

“Where are you taking this—” The officer in charge, beady-eyed sneering, stops. “—thing?”

“Prisoner transfer,” says the younger ‘trooper. “From Cell Block—”

He’d expected a rattle, or maybe an alarm. He gets a boom that shakes his teeth, that has the Wookiee shrieking and people shouting and everyone losing their balance at once. Smoke billows through the air vents from above. The officers are shouting to each other, trying to figure out what’s going on, and in the midst of it all, the Wookiee screams. Another shout. “Look out, he’s loose!” Blaster fire. Bodhi flings himself down behind the dais, shuts his eyes, tries to breathe. It’s like Scarif all over again, the noise, the smell. Someone shrieks, and a camera goes down, shattering with a burst of transparisteel. Another camera, another shout. Someone starts to cough. “What the hell happened to set the smoke off?”

“I don’t know, but it works.” It’s the younger ‘trooper. There’s a clattering. “Did we get all of them?”

Bodhi presses close against the dais, breathes hard. The Wookiee howls.

“Nah, one left,” says the first ‘trooper. Bodhi wets his lips. His heart’s beating fast enough to burst.

I’m the pilot.

“Don’t!” he says. “Don’t—don’t shoot, don’t shoot. I can help you, please don’t shoot.”

“Blast him,” says the first ‘trooper.

“No, Han, wait—wait, just a second, wait.” It’s the younger one. “Wait, I think—just wait a second.”

“All you’re gonna do is get us both killed, kid, you can’t just—”

“My name is Bodhi Rook,” says Bodhi. “I’m—I’m with the Alliance. Don’t shoot, please. Please don’t shoot. I can help you.”

“The Alliance—”

“I haven’t heard a story that bad since Tatooine,” says the first trooper. Han. Whatever his name is. “Since when does the Alliance do maintenance work for the Imperials?”

“My friend, she’s—” His knees are shaking. Bodhi lifts his hands, gets to his feet. The smoke winds around, gagging everything, casting it all in shades of gray. “My friend is—is down there. Down in one of the cells. I came to get her, I—I can help you. I can help you.”

“Your friend—you’re here for her too?” The younger ‘trooper takes off his helmet. He can’t be more than eighteen, Bodhi thinks, and the world spins. Can’t be more than eighteen and fresh as paint and looking wide-eyed, awed, and what in the name of all that’s good is going on here anymore? “You’re here for the Princess too?”

Princess, what—”

The comm starts beeping. It flashes red, scarlet, blinking in the dark. The first ‘trooper takes off his helmet, too. He’s dark, where the young one is fair, older. Probably around Bodhi’s age. “We don’t have the time to stand here chatting, damn it, this is already way more than I bargained for—”

“You’re a part of the Alliance?” says the young one again, and Bodhi nods once, slowly. He wets his lips, swallows a few times.

“I can get them off our backs,” he says, and lifts his chin, tips his head towards the comms. “I—but you have to trust me. You have—you have to trust me.”

“Look,” says the dark one. Han. “If you think we’re some fresh-off-the-farm backwards milk moochers who can get fooled that easy, then—”

The Wookiee makes another noise.

“What the hell do you mean, friendly—”

“Do it,” says the young one. “Whatever it is—”

“Right,” says Bodhi. “Right—right.”

“Oh, for—" Han scowls, and the look on his face, under those eyebrows, makes Bodhi think of Baze. "You give us up,” he says, "then I shoot you in the back.”

Bodhi stops listening. He can’t listen, if he’s going to pull this off. His hands are trembling so badly that when he snags an ID card out of the pocket of one of the guards, he nearly drops it. The smoke is so thick he almost can’t make out the name. He breathes, in and out, and hits the button. “This is Tam Alcem, ID M-4938750, can anyone read?”

“We read, Alcem, what the hell is going on down there?”

“We have a Sixteen-Twenty-four on the floor above, sir, all appearances of—of some kind of explosion, we couldn't make out what happened and the elevator's jammed. All the cameras were blown out, whole room shook. I think it was some kind of malfunction upstairs. CO’s gone to make sure all the prisoners are still in their cells.”

“We heard blaster fire."

"Visiting 'trooper lost hold of his weapon, all's well. We're at twenty-twenty here, sir. Just a little—a little shook up." His voice trembles. "Looks like none of the doors have opened. Twenty-twenty."

There's a pause. "We're sending a squad down to check, just in case."

"Elevator's not working, sir.” Bodhi wipes his hands on his trousers. “Like I said, electrical failure. You’d better send somebody from maintenance to see what the hell happened upstairs, there’s smoke coming in the air vents.”

When he looks up, the boy's watching him with wide eyes. Like he's impressed. Bodhi stares at the panel again, and prays.

"Whatever the hell maintenance is doing, it isn't enough," says the man on the other end of the line. “Set your air vents to withdraw the smoke from the cell bay, we don’t need any of the prisoners dying before Vader can finish his interrogations.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Update us when you have news,” says the man, and then the comms shut off. Bodhi doesn’t look around. He brings up the maintenance screen on the main touchscreen, switches the draw on the air vents. His fingers are trembling, still. There’s a list of names, too, a lot of names, one for every cell in the bay, and he runs his finger down them, one by one by one—

  1. Jyn Erso.

“Not bad,” says Han. He doesn’t put his blaster away. “Whoever the hell you are. I don't know where you learned 'trooper, but—”

“I need a medkit,” says Bodhi, and steps off the dais. “We don’t have a lot of time before they figure out that was a lie, I need—I need a medkit.”

Chapter Text

He notices the old man three minutes and fifteen seconds after he has set his trap.

K-2SO has no system of comprehension for this. There is an old man—he appears old; the agility of his movements means that he is either trained, younger than he looks, or both—robed and cloaked, a hood against his back, and he is staring directly at K-2SO. There’s no reason for the old man to be staring at him. There’s no reason for an old man to be there at all, not out of Imperial uniform, not in robes that are like Chirrut Îmwe’s but dissimilar, but there’s especially no reason for him to be staring at K-2SO. K-2SO has been careful, this time. He has spoken to no one; he has drawn no attention to himself that he can establish. Speech, he has decided, is his problem. He is a terrible liar, and if he had been queried it would have been a failure in every respect, but he was not queried. He simply had moved as he’d seen Cassian move a million times, with a purpose, and no one had questioned him.

But now there is, impossibly, an old man staring at him. K-2SO looks around, just to be sure, but they are alone. The old man is looking at him, and only at him, and this says terrible things about his chances of moving to Level Five to retrieve Cassian before his disturbance is noticed.

The first possibility is that this old man is an Imperial officer, but no Imperial officer would be wandering outside of established recreational areas without taking the appropriate steps of donning a uniform. The second option is that the man is a guest, of some sort, presumably of Governor Tarkin or some other authority on the Death Star, but if that were the case then he would be escorted, not wandering the halls near the shield generators unsupervised. Neither option explains why he would be skulking, but the man is indeed skulking, for all the gawping he is doing at K-2SO. He reviews his actions, but nothing stands out. There is no reason for the staring, nor the waving, nor the slight smile, and yet the old man is presenting all three as if this is a perfectly natural reaction to the sight of a Security Droid on a high-security level.

K-2SO stares back at him. He does not speak.

“You’re not what you look like, are you?” says the old man.

K-2SO folds his hands behind his back. “I do not know what you mean,” he says. It does not sound genuine in the slightest. “Nor do I know who you are. I must—return to my duties. They are quite important. And…varied in the extreme.”

“It’s all right,” says the old man. The quirk to his mouth has deepened by approximately six percent. “You don’t have to worry. I am no enemy of yours.”

“I do not understand you,” says K-2SO. “And I don’t know what you’re doing up here, but I would advise that you leave me alone. I have things to do.”

The old man rubs a hand over his mouth, his beard, but the smile peeks through, sly as sunlight. “I see.”

“I don’t know what you find so amusing, but I am quite serious,” says K-2SO. “I will disable you if I have to. Thankfully, I am capable of it now. Not that I wasn’t, before. I was.”

He needs to figure out how to stop talking.

“I’m not laughing at you, my friend,” says the old man. “I’m just contemplating.” He has very blue eyes, the old man. Senator Mothma is the only other humanoid being that K-2SO could compare him to. “I go for eighteen years without a single sign and then I get two of them in forty-eight hours, both wrapped up in droids.”

“Are you unwell?” says K-2SO. “You seem to be suffering some kind of mental malfunction. I would be concerned, but I don’t actually care.”

“You seem to be on a mission, my friend,” says the old man. His robes rustle around his feet as he crosses the corridor, settles just in time to avoid a patrol of Stormtroopers crossing the intersection of the two hallways. “Don’t pretend that you aren’t, I know the look of a being attempting something covert. You’re lucky I found you.”

“Considering how much noise you’re making, I wouldn’t call it lucky,” says K-2SO, and the old man laughs like it’s a joke.

“But my friend, if you’d run into anyone else while wandering around the upper levels looking for—whatever you’re looking for, I’m quite sure you would have been scrap.”

“I am not your friend,” says K-2SO. “And I have no reason to become so. I have to go. If you would excuse me—”

“If you go down that way you’ll be caught,” says the old man. “And whoever you’re searching for will not make it out of this station alive.”

It is supremely—astoundingly unlikely that this is true. The rate of possibility is less than one percent, less than anything that K-2SO has ever stopped for before. But still he stops; still he turns; still he watches the old man, spinning through likelihoods, through their dialogue. He has given no clue of his purpose here. He has probably botched his entire cover, but there’s no way that the old man could know. There’s no way. K-2SO has not presented him with enough data to come to such a conclusion. “I don’t understand you.”

“I think you do,” says the old man. “I would get out of sight, if I were you.”

“I don’t see—”

Footsteps. Joints moving in time. Metal, durasteel. He flicks to infrared, and it’s a squad. Not ‘troopers, but Security Droids, twelve of them marching in time, three by four in rows. He steps back, out of sight, and so does the old man, twitching the tail of his robes out of the way as the droids pass their corridor without running any scan. It is highly unlikely he would have escaped scrutiny, had he been noticed. Security Droids are regularly updated with knowledge of each other’s movements purely to prevent two guards from walking the same route. Which he knows. K-8LR’s connection to the unit had been severed when K-2SO placed his personality core into this borrowed form; it is too risky, even now, to link up with the rest of the server. They will register an unknown, and attack.

K-2SO looks back at the old man. The old man has the utter indecency to twinkle at him.

“I do not understand,” says K-2SO. “Elucidate.”

“What in particular?”

“What do you know about me?” K-2SO shifts internal functions, debates. He has no gun. The old man seems fragile enough that a strong strike would do, but that would necessitate body disposal, and he doesn’t have time to find another open closet. The old man seems to want him undiscovered, for some reason, and if it benefits Cassian to some extent (and Bodhi, and Jyn Erso) then maybe—“Have I met you before?”

“I’ve never seen you in my life before,” says the old man. “I haven’t managed to get out much, these past few years.”

“How do you know what I am attempting to do?”

“Mm, well.” The old man rubs at his beard again. “I don’t know the details. You’re looking for someone. To that end, you’ve made your way to this level to disable the tractor beam and thus allow your escape. Am I correct so far, or do I have it wrong? ”

“You are a spy,” says K-2SO. He stands up straighter. “An Imperial spy.”

“No, I’m just an old man who was always too good at his job.” The old man watches him. “You can try to attack me, if you like, but you will not enjoy the result. And your friend won’t make it very far without my help, I’m afraid.”

“That is incorrect,” says K-2SO. “There is a chance.”

“But not a very large one, is there?”

K-2SO wavers.

“I could be of help to you,” says the old man. “You know that.”

“You are not armed.”

“Aren’t I?”

“I see no evidence of a blaster.”

“That doesn’t mean I’m defenseless.”

No, it doesn’t, and this body lacks the special modifications made to his visual receptors to scan for vibroblades or other kinds of weaponry.

“What do they call you?” The old man rests, his back to the wall, hands folded in front of him. He might be more weathered than old, for all his hair is white. His hands lack age spotting. “I’m assuming you do have a name.”

K-2SO considers. If the man is an Imperial, it is doubtful he would know of K-2SO’s extraction and reprogramming, regardless of his Coruscanti rhythms. If he is not, there is no way he could know. Suspect, certainly, but knowing, no. “I am K-2SO.”

“A Security Droid attempting to engineer a jailbreak from an Imperial space station. This is much more eventful than I anticipated.” The man rubs at his beard again. “I’m Ben.”

“How did you get here?”

“Came on a ship, same as you, I’m guessing. I don’t think the sort of reprogramming you’ve undergone happens in a few hours.” Ben strokes his beard. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to make a deal.”

“No,” says K-2SO flatly. Adding another, unknown component to the already volatile mix that is what Bodhi had called the Rogues seems highly unwise. “Not in the slightest.”

“At least you’re honest.”

“I find it difficult not to be.”

“The reprogramming, I suppose.”

“For someone on a schedule, you certainly talk a lot.”

“And you’re the one talking to me,” says Ben, “so what does that say about you?”

“You are arguing in circles,” says K-2SO, and debates the merit of whacking the old man over the head with one fist. “How did you discover my purpose in being here?”

“I have good instincts, and I listen to them.”

“That is extremely unlikely. Instincts don’t provide data, they are simply thoughts and inferences made by the subconscious. The information you have is not something you could have deduced through—through sniffing the air.”

“Are you going to keep talking or are you going to help me, K-2SO?” Ben steps away from the wall. “I could do it on my own, but I have the feeling that leaving you to wander will only result in trouble that we don’t need. Not that you aren’t charming enough on your own, but I doubt Stormtroopers will enjoy your repartee as much as I do. It would get your friends and mine into very big trouble.”

“I do not require your assistance,” says K-2SO. He straightens. “I can manage.”

“Then I suppose even with your distraction you’ll be able to talk your way into a cell block guarded by Imperial Stormtroopers without detection.”

K-2SO says, “I had a plan for that.” His plan had involved a lot of banging things, yes, but it still had a projected success rate of about 58%. Ben’s little smile creeps back onto his face.

“And I can assist you with it, but you must decide quickly. We don’t have much time.”

The man is unidentified. There is a high likelihood of betrayal. He came from nowhere, has no source to guarantee his loyalty. K-2SO skids through a hundred possible scenarios, each ending with blaster bolts to his chassis, to his joints. There is no reason for Ben, whoever he is, to offer his assistance. There is also no reason he should be speaking with K-2SO at all. No alarms have been raised about the destruction in the maintenance bay. There is no possible way anyone could know that K-2SO is in this body, and not K-8LR; there is no reason for anyone to be searching for him, no reason for anyone to suspect him so long as he says nothing, but—

“You don’t have to trust me,” says Ben. “But I promise you this: if you don't come with me, now, then there is a very good chance that all your friends will die. I cannot guarantee that anything will happen to change that, but with me, you have a better chance than without."

There is another squad of guards coming. ‘troopers, this time, not Security Droids, but the danger is roughly the same if he is seen with someone so obviously foreign as this Ben. K-2SO puts his shoulders back. “If you betray me,” he says, “then the consequences will be unpleasant.”

“I’m sure they will be,” says Ben. “Come on. This way.”

They’re around the corner before the ‘troopers cross into the hallway.

.

.

.

He’s been counting heartbeats for an hour when he hears the footsteps just outside the cell door again. In the past hour, it’s happened twice, back and forth and back again, heavy boots pacing the hallway outside as if the door is going to open on its own. A patrol, more than likely.  It’s a patrol, he thinks. Happened twice in an hour, every thirty minutes, back and forth and back, pacing the walls like the doors will open on their own, like the prisoners will magically spring free. Cassian stares up at the ceiling again, and finally, slowly, sits up. The steps are heavier. They’re faster. Intent, purpose.

Time to start the party.

My name is Joreth Sward. He considers his hands. I was born on Corellia. I’m a merchant traveling the Outer Rim. I’m visiting Alderaan with my wife to see her parents. Please tell me where she is.

“This one,” says a voice faintly through the door, and then there’s a hollow beep.

He’s seen Vader once before. Not in person. On a holoscreen while he’d been on Coruscant, rewiring K-2. He’d left it on to keep tabs on the Senator he’d been targeting, keep track of the man’s comings and goings as best he could without a proper game plan. Vader had never said a word. He’d stood behind the Emperor, a tiny dark figure on the tiny screen, and Cassian had wondered, absently, halfway in code, whether the universe would have found him so intimidating without his mask.

He knows better, now. Vader is the mask. Whether he wears it or not is inconsequential. The mask itself, and the rumors that come with it, that’s what fear is. That’s what’s driven half the Rebellion into the mousehole, onto its knees. Praying. The man is the mask. The mask is the man. The man is the monster. All three. There's no separation.

“If you need anything else, please tell me,” says the Stormtrooper, as Vader bends his head and steps down into the cell. He seems to swallow up the light and the space, inhale it like a black hole. “I’ll be right outside the door, sir.”

“Get out,” says Vader, and the ‘trooper hits the button. The door slides shut.

Cassian doesn’t stand.  

Vader crosses his arms. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had the privilege of speaking to a member of Rebel Intelligence.”

Cassian turns his face to the wall. Deep underneath, panic starts winding in his marrow, slow, uneven, staticking. Vader. But no interrogator droid. No unit. If this is some kind of advanced interrogation, it’s not a style he knows. Breathe. Think. Cyanide in his shoe. A story. If it’s intimidation first, then there, at least, he can give them nothing. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You are remiss,” says Vader, “if you think you can fool me. Your story is weak and unimaginative. Your ship is stolen, your droid repurposed, and you are traveling with the daughter of Galen Erso.”

Something leaps up in his throat. Terror. Acid. He doesn’t let it show on his face. Swallow. Swallow it back. “I came to Alderaan,” says Cassian, slow and distinct, “with my wife to see my in-laws. I don’t know who you think I am—”

“You are a traitor, and a spy, and as a companion of Jyn Erso you are a thief and a saboteur as well. You have failed in your mission, and once you have revealed to me all you know of the Rebel Alliance, you will be terminated.”

“My name is Joreth Sward—”

“The Princess Leia claims that the Rebels are based on Dantooine,” says Vader, and Cassian locks it all away, ideas, thoughts, images, memories, knitting them into a box, tucking it into the dark. Joreth Sward. I am Joreth Sward. It’s an old skin. He slips into it easily. Joreth Sward, merchant on the Outer Rim. “This has been established to be false. There was a base on Dantooine, but the Rebels have moved, and as Jyn Erso is currently unconscious, and the princess is soon to be terminated, you are my link to finding it.”

“I’m not a Rebel,” says Cassian. “I can’t give you the answers you want.”

It’s like a whine in his back molars, at first. Something drilling. An ache starts up behind his right eye. Cassian digs his nails into his knees, and tries not to make a sound. There’s something—it drags, like blunt nails, like the edge of a blade. Scraping. Something hot builds on the inside of his lip, and Cassian realizes it’s blood.

“Your loyalty is commendable,” says Vader. “Pity it’s for the wrong side.”

The ache gets bigger, deeper. Wider. Redder. Scarlet. Blazing. Fire. Cassian folds. He’s known how to compartmentalize since he was a child, known how to shut himself away beneath a new identity, a new life. He folds himself up into a corner of his mind, and lets the new man spread out instead. Joreth Sward. I am Joreth Sward. He folds, and it unfolds, tugged apart. He refolds. His lip has split. There’s blood on his teeth.

“So much grief,” says Vader, crackling through the mask. “So much hatred, locked away. So many doubts behind all that determination. Tell me, when did you lose faith in your own cause?”

He tries to speak. He just cracks, deep in the back of his throat. There’s a coal behind his eye. Someone’s pushing. Pushing, pushing. His skull throbs. Pain is a message, Mebwe had said. Tell the messenger to piss off.

“Where did you hide the plans?” says Vader, and the pressure doubles, sharp. He leans back against the wall. He can’t sit up straight any longer, can’t hold himself upright. “Where is the Rebel Base?”

Joreth Sward, he thinks again, but there’s a thousand threads he can’t catch. Spiraling every which way. The plans, gone. Out of reach. Far away. They’d nearly died. The bacta tanks. My name is Joreth Sward. I was born—on the top of a comms tower and watching Krennic fall, bright sun and his back on fire, he tugs it all back beneath the shadows but other pieces bob up like limbs in water, Onderon and the curve of the scarf, the light, her hair against her cheek as she studies the fruit on the stand, the doubt in her mouth when she tells him about tails he’s already noticed, sand under his knees like an old-fashioned timekeeper, broken, lost, over, her hair in his mouth as he fades, waking up in sickbay with nothing but jumbled pieces to turn and see her breathing and know that there was still one thing that hadn’t been shattered by the universe, no, please don’t, please don't look at that, please

The coal fades. Cassian sags, and rasps. He has no air left. He wonders if he’d been screaming, or if he’d just forgotten to breathe.

“Sloppy, Captain,” says Vader. “For a spy to have feelings.”

Cassian touches a hand to his mouth. His fingers are shaking like he’s sitting on an arctic ledge. Red smears on the tips. “I’m not a spy.”

“You’ve been trained well,” says Vader. His breathing is faster. Whether it’s exertion or excitement, Cassian can’t tell. The body language says all predator, but there’s a twist to the gloves that reads anger, anger like this is something personal now, and he can’t think where it came from. “Talented. Devoted to your cause. But she’s dug deep, I can see it. In your mind, in your feelings. She’s rooted deep. And you’ve known her so little." The helmet reflects Cassian's own face back at him, distorted and bloodied. "There aren't many who can do that to you. You're too good at your job for that."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Has she realized you don’t have a whole heart left to give her? Disillusioned and broken as you are.”

He spits. Blood dapples the pale seat that’s meant to be a cot.

“Your hands are bloody,” says Vader. “You’re a shell of what you could have been, and you’ve killed her with your silence.”

“My name,” says Cassian, through bloody lips, “is Joreth Sward. I’m not a captain of anything—”

“You are a captain in the Rebel Alliance, you infiltrated the Imperial base on Scarif to steal the plans for this battle station, and it was Jyn Erso who led you there. But what you don’t realize, Captain, is that you have already lost. The holes that Jyn Erso has cut in you have been your undoing. You are weak, and the Alliance will pay for your weakness.”

The bomb’s back in his head, and it’s so close to going off. Mebwe teaching him how to shoot. The final blaster bolt. Krennic falling. Throwing rocks at Imperial soldiers, screaming. Jyn on top of the tower, his hand around her arm as she lunges for Krennic, drawing her back, murmuring. He can’t remember what he’d said. Fierce pride. The bomb jolts closer, the coal starts cracking, there’s blood on his tongue and it’s from his own mouth, his teeth digging into his lip. I am Joreth Sward. I was born on Corellia. I’m a merchant on the Last Hope, my wife flies with me, and the more time this takes the more time there is for her to live, the more time there is for both of them, the more time, there’s not enough time, there’s never been enough—

“You’re mistaken, Captain,” says Vader, and Cassian can’t tell if the voice is aloud or in his own head, pushing and pushing and pushing. “There’s plenty of time. Jyn Erso will die the same way you will. Your feelings have sealed her fate. She will die, and you will be there to watch. She will leave this world knowing that it was your fault, that she suffered because of you—”

He’s fleeing a krait dragon, and he’s stumbling. His lungs are burning. No. No. He’s folded himself up as tight as he can and there are still fingers prying at the edges, tearing at the corners. Joreth Sward. I’m Joreth Sward. He shoots a man in the back in an empty alley and wonders how he could have pulled the trigger. Jyn’s put her head on his shoulder, his knife in her pocket. Protection from nightmares. Arm and blade. Her hair in her eyes as she slept.

“She will die,” says Vader, “in agony, and in pain, in sadness, abandoned by your so-called Alliance, and it will be because of—”

Vader falls abruptly silent. It’s like a thorn drawn out of his mind, like a cactus ripped free of him. Like a cancer. Cassian’s slid partway off the bench, and there’s blood on his chin, now. His lip is a faint and distant pounding. Vader’s on his feet, quite still, as if listening. He doesn’t say anything, he just leaves, and the door slides shut behind him. Like a rag dropped from a counter, Cassian sags sideways, leans on his shoulder and then on his back, shuts his eyes and tries to keep his breathing steady. His vision’s blurring, and he’s not sure why. He can’t inhale without stuttering. Vader had left. He’d left. With no answer, for no reason. He’d just…left.

He’s distractible, says the only part of his mind that’s not burning, the few scraps that are still folded. He’s distractible and he’s angry.

Jyn, the rest of him says. Jyn. If he goes after Jyn—but she’s unconscious, why would she be unconscious, what’s happened

The plans, the base, the Death Star, he lies there and it all swirls in his aching skull, and he knows, he's sure, Vader could have torn the answer out of him if he'd had just a minute longer, just a second, that Vader had been playing, that—

The door slides open.

“Cassian,” says a voice, and Cassian opens his eyes to see a Security Droid standing on the platform. His heart staggers. “Fine time for you to be falling asleep. We’re running on a schedule, and I’m not carrying you. It won’t work at all.”

“K,” says Cassian, and then he can’t find any more words.

“You are unwell,” says K-2. “And staring. Do you have brain damage of some kind?"

He can’t answer that question. Not really. Cassian pushes himself up, slowly, slowly, onto his feet. He can barely keep his balance. The whole station’s rocking underneath him. "What happened to you?"

"Maintenance," says K-2. "Now follow me. Quietly.

Chapter Text

Jyn wakes to a world smeared with red.

She heaves. Her stomach whirls, a centrifuge, a hurricane. She heaves, and heaves again, and rolls onto her good side to retch at the sudden surge, her heart sprinting, her stomach coiling into a knot. There’s a scorching circle on the flesh of her belly, just above her hip, and she can’t stop it from jerking her around, can’t stop her limbs from twitching. She drags in air, again, again, again. It’s not enough. “Hey,” says a voice, and then there’s a hand on her bad shoulder. Jyn shoves herself away. “Jyn, hey—hey, it’s all right, it’s just—it’s just the stims, it’s adrenalin, that’s all it is, you’re okay, it’s all right—at least, I think it’s all right, I’ve never done this before, but—”

Bodhi. She processes the voice before the face. Bodhi. He blinks at her, wide-eyed, sitting back on his heels. It doesn’t make sense. Bodhi, what is Bodhi doing here? What

“You’re all right,” Bodhi says, “breathe, Jyn, on your back, come on,” and she listens, rolls flat on her back and takes deep gagging breaths until the world stops spiraling into crimson. Fucking hell. Stims. Adrenalin. It’s a wonder her heart hasn’t seized up and stopped. She can’t focus. She’s spinning inside her own head. When she finally manages to look at Bodhi, there are smears of grey around his mouth. “You’re all right,” he says again. This time it sounds like a question.

If I don’t puke all over the floor. Or stab somebody. “Bodhi,” she says, more to see if she can talk than anything. Bodhi hovers, fretting with his fingernails.

“Yes?”

“What the hell—” Her heart leaps up into her mouth like some kind of poisonous toad. Alderaan. Cassian. The Death Star. Alderaan. Cassian. There’s a flash in her head of a closing door, Cassian looking back at her in silence. “How long have—”

“Hour and a half,” he says, and reaches out for her elbows. Then he stops, and draws back. Her stomach roars up her throat, and she swallows it back down. “About—about an hour and a half. Since—since we dropped out of hyperspace. A little longer. Maybe.”

It isn’t the question she was asking, but it’s good enough anyway. “Help me,” says Jyn, and Bodhi reaches out again. He’s been scraping at his hands. There’s freshly dried blood lacing over the tendons, under his nails. “Bodhi, where’s—”

“K went to find him,” says Bodhi, and pulls away from her as soon as she’s on her feet. Her legs tremble underneath her, wobble. She locks her knees, fists her hand in Bodhi’s sleeve until it passes. He stands like a startled animal, wide-eyed and watching her. There’s a blaster in his pocket. She can see it, the awkward fold to the cloth where the butt of the blaster has left its mark. Her eyes won’t stop moving. She can’t stop looking at things, at everything, the walls, the open cell door, the red light beyond. “K-2 will find him, Jyn. You know that.”

K-2 would die for him. She knows that too. K-2 has died for him. K-2’s died for their mission before. K-2 will keep Cassian safe at the cost of himself. Her brain’s jumping, from cliff to cliff to cliff. They’d dragged him away from her. She doesn’t know if he’s alive. If it’s been that long, an hour and a half, longer, what if they’ve already interrogated him, what if he’s dead, she can’t knock the images away, what if he’s gone, what if he’s gone, what if he’s left, what if she never sees him again, what if their time is up, what if there’s nothing left—

“Jyn?” Bodhi says, very small. “Jyn.”

“I’m fine.” She has to be fine. She has to be fine. She has to stand and walk and fight and be fine. If she’s not fine, people will notice, and they’ll die. She doesn’t want anyone to die. It takes her a second to realize that she hadn’t even had to say his name for Bodhi to know who she was asking about. “I’m fine—I’m fine. I’m fine.”

“The stims will fade,” says Bodhi, still half a question. “It’ll—it might take a bit. But they’ll fade, I just—needed you up, we need to move, we really need to go—”

“Handyman, I don’t know what the hell is taking so long for you to get your girl, but—” 

There’s a flash of white in the doorway. ‘trooper white, death’s head white. Bodhi. ‘trooper. Bodhi. She has the blaster in her hand before she makes the decision to take it, has Bodhi shoved aside and the gun up before the ‘trooper’s fully in sight, and it’s only Bodhi lunging forward to catch her arm that keeps her from pulling the trigger.

“Jyn, no—

“The hell—”

“Bodhi, don’t—”

“He’s not a ‘trooper,” Bodhi says, and he’s in the way, she can’t shoot with Bodhi in the way, not with Bodhi standing in front of her and the blaster basically in his stomach, Jyn thumbs the safety back on just in case, because it’s Bodhi, not Bodhi, she can’t shoot Bodhi— “Jyn, he’s not a ‘trooper, I don’t—I don’t know what he is exactly but he isn’t a ‘trooper, he’s here to help us—”

“Get out of the way—”

“The hell is this,” says the ‘trooper, and Bodhi’s shaking on his feet, but his hands, somehow—his hands are cool and still on her elbows.

“Jyn,” he says, and Jyn, who’s been trying and failing to look over his shoulder, trying to see the enemy, jitters to his face. “Jyn, he’s not a ‘trooper. He’s—he’s a friend. I think. It’s okay.”

“Bodhi—”

“It’s okay,” says Bodhi again, and Jyn makes herself loosen her hand on her stolen blaster. She’s jumping out of her skin. She doesn’t want to be touched. Like he’s heard her, Bodhi draws away. “It’s okay.”

“This day just keeps on getting better,” says the ‘trooper. He has dark hair and a mouth used to mockery, and the look he gives her is two-fold, one dismissive, one inquisitive. Jyn stares back at him, her lips pressed together. There’s a knot squeezing tighter and tighter in her chest. The longer she doesn’t know, the worse it feels. “I thought you said she was friendly.”

“I didn’t—I didn’t say that. I did not.” Bodhi doesn’t look away from Jyn. “Just—leave us, for a minute, okay? Let us be.”

“We don’t have that kinda time.”

“A minute,” says Bodhi, and somehow it’s a command. The man in the ‘trooper’s uniform scoffs, but he wanders off, shouting for a kid, for some kind of chew toy. Jyn looks at the blaster in her hand, up at Bodhi, darting glances that she almost can’t manage.

“I could’ve shot you,” she says, because adrenalin keeps her mouth working. “Bodhi.”

“Knew you wouldn’t,” says Bodhi, and the awkward flickering smile hooks the corner of his mouth. “Knew—I knew you wouldn’t.”

If I’d been a Partisan I would have, she almost says. She bites it down, swallows it, a live, wriggling thing between her teeth. She’s not a Partisan anymore. This is Bodhi. Bodhi who’s come back for her. Bodhi who’d saved them all, and who looks to have saved her again. She looks down at the scars on his hands, and then up at him.

“You’ve changed clothes,” she says, stupidly. She can’t think what else to say.

“I couldn’t—couldn’t get down here in a shuttle driver’s uniform.” Bodhi heaves a huge breath. “K-2 went to get Cassian, but there isn’t much time. These—there are people who have come for the princess, I think, they’ve agreed to help us, but we have to move and we have to move now. They said that a friend of theirs was going to shut off the tractor beam, but if he’s failed then—”

We can’t get out. She breathes, sharp through her nose. In and out, lightning quick. She’s not hyperventilating, not exactly. She just needs to breathe fast. “K-2—”

“Jyn,” says Bodhi. “K-2 won’t let anything happen to him.”

Jyn stares at him. She doesn’t want to think about what it means, that her terror’s so easily splayed across her face.

“Jyn,” says Bodhi again, softly, but she shakes her head. That’s only half her question, half her terror. Can I do this, I don’t know if I can, get them out of this, she has to, she has to think, but Alderaan, Cassian, the Death Star, she’s inside her father’s machine, how are they supposed to get out of this, I have to think, I have to fight, keep breathing, Jyn—

“We have to go,” says Bodhi. “We don’t have a lot of time before people—before people realize what’s happening and send a squadron down here.”

She knows that. Her mind won’t settle. The adrenalin is too much.

“Jyn,” says Bodhi, and then he touches her, very light on her shoulder. “Come on, little sister.”

That knocks her mind silly. Jyn takes three deep gulps of air. One for sense, one for courage, one for fury. “Where are we going?”

“Come on,” says Bodhi, “come on, out this way,” and they leave her cell together, Bodhi just a little in front, casting darting glances back at her, like he thinks she’s going to pop.

There are three of them, these strangers. One of them is the dark man with the mocking mouth, tall and grumbling, watching the rest of them like he’s ready to bolt. There’s a young one, blonde, big blue eyes. A Wookiee, and she doesn’t want to think about that, that they have a Wookiee to handle now on top of everything else. Princess Leia is picking over the fallen bodies of three guardsmen for a weapon, for anything. When she stands up straight, she’s still the shortest person in the room.

“Ben Kenobi sent you?” she says.

Bodhi looks at Jyn. Jyn shakes her head.

“I don’t know what kind of coincidence this is that we’re all here at the same time, but from what I can tell it’s only because of him—” Leia points at Bodhi, and Bodhi cringes just a bit; Jyn shifts to stand in front “—that we’re all not eating lasers right about now.”

“Hey, I didn’t sign on for any of this princess rescuing, your worshipfulness, I was just here to bring the kid and the old man to Alderaan, not deal with your delusions of grandeur or your psychotic maid—”

The blonde turns a bit pink, and says, “Han.”

“It’s a wonder you didn’t trip over your own feet and swallow your own blaster with your mouth flapping all the time,” says Leia. She’s eyeing Bodhi curiously. When she looks at Jyn, her mouth narrows. “Did the Rebellion send you?”

“No,” says Jyn. “No one sent us.”

“So no one knows you’re here.”

“No.”

There’s fear around Leia’s eyes. Jyn wonders if she’s the only one who can see it. Han, whoever he is, certainly hasn’t noticed. Neither has the blonde boy—he can’t be more than eighteen, what is he doing here—who shifts, wets his lips. “You—your shoulder, are you okay?”

“Fine,” says Jyn, without looking away from Leia. She recurls her fingers around her gun. “Bodhi, where are we going?”

“A-49255,” says Bodhi, and then blinks and looks pleased with himself. He clears his throat. “Observation deck, Level Four. K-2 and Cassian are supposed to meet us there.”

“Cassian?” says Leia, and her eyes get sharp. “Cassian Andor?”

Bodhi gives Jyn a look of pure panic, and then mumbles something under his breath that could be, “Yes?”

“If the Rebellion didn’t send you, then why are you working with—”

“We’re, um,” says Bodhi. When Leia snaps to him, he jumps. Still, he holds steady. “Rogue.” 

Leia doesn’t speak. She looks back to Jyn.

“It’s not sanctioned,” says Jyn, and checks the power left on her blaster. Her heart’s still stampeding in her chest. She can barely focus. “No one’s coming. We’re on our own.”

Something falls in Leia’s face. She looks at the ceiling, not at the floor. There are marks at the base of her collar, something like bruising, but not the right color. Punctures, Jyn realizes. Puncture marks. 

“You lied,” says Jyn, unable to help herself. Leia goes rigid, and stares back at her. She’s white around the mouth, but she stares.

“So did you,” says Leia.

“Lied,” says Bodhi. “Lied—lied about what?”

Jyn can’t say it.

“Can someone explain what the hell is going on?” says Han, and Jyn whirls.

No,” she snaps, and in the same instant, Leia, detonator Leia, whips around and spits, “Can you keep your mouth shut for two minutes?”

Han puts up his hands, eyebrows slipping up and up and up into his scruffy hair. “Wow,” he says. “Okay, slow down, your worships—”

“I don’t know who you think you are,” says Leia, and somehow she’s puffed up to something twice her size, three times; Bodhi shrinks; Jyn stops paying attention, and kicks over one of the bodies of the guards. Her shoulder feels distant, not attached to her. There are blaster marks on this uniform. She shifts, and kicks another body over. This one, at least, isn’t marked on the top half. She undoes the belt, strips the top off one guard, the trousers off the other.

“What are you doing?”

It’s the blonde. Jyn doesn’t look at him. If he’s not quick enough on the uptake that he can’t figure out what getting a disguise looks like, she’s not about to explain it. She yanks the top of the uniform over her head, and bites her tongue when her shoulder pops, whines back into reality.

“Jyn,” says Bodhi. “What’s the plan?”

“Who says she makes the plan?” says Han.

“Because he trusts her,” says Leia, “and so far as I can tell he’s the only competent one in the room.”

Jyn thinks Bodhi might actually be blushing. Internally, she’s shaking. I’m not a leader. I’m not their fixed point, I’m not, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know how to do this—

“I’m competent,” says Han.

There’s a vibroblade in the second guard’s boot. She steals it, tucks it into the pocket in her sleeve. Gun, blade. Still not safe. When she takes off her boots, Bodhi drops his bag next to her, and she tucks them inside. At least she won’t need to give up her shoes.

“—last I checked, we’re the ones who managed to break you out of your cell, your highness, so unless she stops acting like some kind of automaton and starts talking I don’t see why I should take orders from her or any of the rest of you—”

“Hey,” says Jyn, and stands. She’s taller than Leia. She’s not used to being taller than anyone. “You either shut your mouth, or I break your jaw.”

“I’d like to see you try,” says Han.

The Wookiee makes a noise that promises terrible fates.

She could leave them, Jyn thinks. She should leave them. All of them together is too risky. It’s dangerous enough as it is. Four more beings—five more beings, if they really do have a friend dealing with the tractor beam—and her and Cassian and Bodhi and K-2 already make four, if she sent them off, used them as a distraction, they could be free, they could keep going, and no one would know. No one would know.

She looks at Leia, at the boy, at the Wookiee, at the man. She looks at them, and thinks, That’s what Saw would do.

Jyn steals a glance at Bodhi, and curls her hand around the blaster.

“Your father built this place,” says Leia, and the blonde’s eyes widen, bigger and bigger until they’re large enough to drink from. “Do you know any ways out of here?”

“My father’s dead,” says Jyn, and shoves the blaster into the new holster on her hip. There’s not much she can do for her hair, but at least her face isn’t dirty. She winds the tangles up, shoves them under the cap. “He didn’t give me any hints before the Alliance killed him.”

Leia’s eyes go wide, this time. Her lips part. “The Alliance wouldn’t—”

Jyn looks at her. Leia falls silent.

“There’s—” Bodhi’s hands curl and uncurl. “Elevator’s the only way out. We—we go up to Level Seven, circle around to the elevators marked H, take them back down to Level Four. Observation deck has a password, um. A-49255. We can—we can lock it.”

“So up, around, and down,” says Leia.   

Han opens his mouth.

“Han,” says the boy. “Shut up.”

Han shuts his mouth. The Wookiee grumbles.

“It won’t be long before they realize what’s happened,” says Jyn. If she moves, she can think. If she thinks too much, she can’t move. She’s a twisting circle, a snake eating itself. Her stomach knots. Cassian. Alderaan. Cassian. She touches the blaster again, and again, and finally slips the vibroblade down into her hand to spin it between her fingers. “Up, around, and down?”

Bodhi nods. His ponytail bobs.

“You go first,” she says, and her stomach knots up. “You’re—if they’re there, tell them what’s happening, tell them—tell them we’re on our way. And if they’re not, then—then you won’t be noticed, we’ll be there in a minute.”

“Jyn—”

“Bodhi,” says Jyn. She touches his wrist. Be safe, she wants to say. Don’t die. Go.”

He wavers. Bodhi looks at Leia, at the two fake ‘troopers, at the Wookiee, and then—Jyn blinks—he squeezes her elbow. He’s gone before she can really process it, watching them all until the elevator doors close.

“Right,” says Han. “Send the twitchy one out on his own, that’s fantastic—”

“I will shoot you,” says Leia. “Don’t think I won’t.”

“Excuse me, your worship—”

“You,” Jyn says, and stops. How is she supposed to address this girl? Princess? It sounds ridiculous. Not like this, not after Alderaan, not after any of it. “Leia, go with—”

She stops again, and stares at the blonde.

“Luke,” says the boy. “Luke Skywalker.”

“Go with Skywalker,” says Jyn. She touches her blaster again, and then again. “Keep your mouths shut. Go right to the observation deck. Anyone asks where you’re going, say you have orders because of—”

“—the explosion,” says Skywalker, nodding vigorously, and that doesn’t quite process. What explosion? “Right. Come on—”

“What about you?” says Leia. “You’re—”

“Going with them,” says Jyn, and the Wookiee grumbles again. “We don’t have time to argue about it.”

“But—”

“Go,” says Jyn. “Go.

“Don’t die,” says Leia. “I have the feeling the Rebellion could use you.”

“If they don’t court-martial me first,” says Jyn, and Leia and Skywalker vanish into the elevator.

“I don’t know what the hell your game is, sister,” says Han, as Jyn shifts her feet in her boots, “but I don’t care who the hell you are or where you came from. I don’t care about any of it. I’m not here for your damn Rebellion, and I don’t take orders, so you either work with that, or you get the hell—”

Oh, thinks Jyn. She looks at Han, for a bit, and then at the Wookiee, watching him, watching them, wondering.

“—out of—” He stops. “The hell are you staring at me for, kid?”

Jyn looks up at the ceiling. The cameras are blasted, shattered. Dead men on the floor.

It’s not a problem if you don’t look up.

“What do you call him?” she says, and lifts her chin at the Wookiee. “What’s his name?”

Han stops talking. His eyes narrow, slit. His mouth is all suspicion. “Chewie.”

“Chewie.”

The Wookiee makes a noise, catching it between his teeth.

“You’re not a Rebel,” says Jyn. “I’m not either.”

“Then what the hell—”

“They gave me a choice,” says Jyn. “Like I’m giving you a choice. You either come with me now, and help us get out of here, or the next people coming down that elevator shaft are going to shoot you. There aren’t many options for you, here. We all work together on this, we all survive. Or most of us. We split up, we argue, we die. I know which option I’d choose if I were you.”

When I was you.

Jyn waits. Han looks at Chewie. The Wookiee rumbles something, deep in his chest, and tips his head. Then, slowly, Han nods.

“Get your helmet back on,” says Jyn, and fixes the cap on her head. “And don’t talk.”

.

.

.

The boxes in his head are leaking.

Cassian stumbles. He’d left his cell to find unconscious men on the floor, K-2 alone in the hall. “Quickly,” K-2 had said, and he’d fumbled into a uniform that was almost too large for him, pulled on boots. “Quickly, quickly, there’s not much time.” He can’t work out how K-2 managed to get down here on his own, but he can’t ask, not yet. He’s holding his jaw shut to keep his life from spilling out. His head is pounding, and his back is sore, and every time he tries to fold up into himself the memories sprawl out between his hands. He keeps them locked away, or they eat him alive. He doesn’t think about his past. If he does, it’ll swallow him. Now, though, there are no walls left in his head. Vader’s torn most of them down. The few left standing are the most important, the least important. Yavin IV. The Rebellion. The rest are gone. He sees a ‘trooper, and he thinks, Tivik. He sees an officer, and thinks, Mebwe. He sees another Security Droid, and thinks, K-2.

“Turn,” says K-2, very low, and Cassian turns, automatic. They’ve boarded an elevator. K-2 taps the key for Level Four, and folds his hands behind his back. Cassian tries not to collapse. This feels like Scarif. This feels far too much like Scarif. This feels like Scarif, and like Coruscant, and like every other infiltration that’s nearly gone wrong. He’s not sure how he’s walking. He’s not sure why he’s standing. Walk. Keep moving. Keep going. His head aches. He can still feel the shreds of the walls he’d had built, brick and mortar and bone. When the elevator doors open, he stands and walks, alongside K-2, trying not to limp, and he tries to build them back up, but there’s nothing left for him to use.

“Here,” says K, and he’s stopped by a door. He inputs a code. The room beyond is large, and dark, a huge sheet of transparisteel stretching from one wall to the other. An observation deck. The doors slide shut behind them. There aren’t any chairs, so Cassian gropes for a wall, leans against it and lets the steel take some of his weight. I’m not going to die. I will not die. There’s still something left for me to do. His head pounds. “Cassian—”

“I’m fine,” says Cassian. “Don’t, K.”

“I was not going to say anything about your back,” says K-2, irascible. “Though clearly you can barely stand, so someone ought to.”

“I can walk.”

“Clearly,” says K-2SO again, and flexes his right elbow. Maintenance, he’d said. He must have found a new body down in maintenance, switched out. It’s clever, Cassian thinks. It’d been clever and it’d been proactive and it’d been the right choice. He still can’t quite look at K-2 full on. You died, he thinks. And Tivik died. And Mebwe. So many people dead because of him. “Cassian.”

“What?”

“We are supposed to wait here for Bodhi to return with Jyn Erso,” says K-2. “Once they arrive, we can return to the hangar bay. The tractor beam should still be disabled.”

“You dismantled it?”

“I did not,” says K-2. He hesitates, the way he does when he knows he’s about to say something Cassian won’t like. “I had assistance. A man named Ben.”

“An Imperial?”

“No.” K-2 rocks back and forth. “I do not know what he was. He prevented my discovery and aided me. It was he who drew—who lured Vader away. I believe he may have saved your life.”

Cassian can’t process that. Ben. A man named Ben. An anonymous man. “Where did he come from?”

“I don’t know.”

“You didn’t ask?”

“There was no time.”

His head pounds. Cassian rubs at his eyes, at his beard. His cheeks feel raw.

“Cassian,” says K-2. “If they do not arrive before the alarm is sounded—”

“We’re not leaving without them, K.”  

“It is too risky to remain here for long, not when—”

“We’re not leaving without them.”

“If we do not,” says K-2, “we may not leave at all.”

He knows that. Some part of him knows that, logically. He doesn’t want to accept it. He won’t accept it. Cassian shakes his head, and shuts his eyes. “It’s not an option,” he says. “We wait. If they don’t come, we find them. We all leave here together, K, or we don’t leave at all.”

K-2 buzzes, deep in his chest. “You’re the one who said that sometimes there isn’t any other choice.”

It’s as if K’s punched him in the kidney. Cassian shuts his eyes, and leans hard against the wall.

“We’ve left others before,” says K. “You said back then the mission was more important, that it was necessary. Why is the mission not as important this time?”

Cassian shakes his head.

“You won’t tell me what happened on Scarif,” says K-2, and finally Cassian opens his eyes.

“This isn’t the time.”

“You may die,” says K-2. “If we both remain here, it is highly likely we will both die. Why won’t you say what happened on Scarif?”

“You died,” says Cassian. For a second, he wonders why he can feel a comm in his hand. “The rest of us nearly died, but you were shot. You died. That’s what happened.”

“I did not die,” says K-2. “I am here.”

“You died.

“You are acting abnormally,” says K-2SO, and there’s another punch to the kidney. Why now? Why, when his head is like this, when every protection he’s built in his mind to keep the memories from pouring in is crumbling, why is K-2 picking now for this, why not later, because there might not be a later and you both know it, Cassian, K-2 and you, you both know— “You have been acting abnormally since Jedha, and it is because of Jyn Erso.”

“K—”

“I don’t understand,” says K. “She is unremarkable. Actually, she’s a problem. She is reckless, emotional, unpredictable; she doesn’t follow orders, she actively disobeys, she does not—”

You died for her, K,” says Cassian, and K-2 stops. He doesn’t rock, doesn’t sway. He stops, and watches Cassian, and Cassian stares back at him until he can’t look any longer, until he has to look away.

“That is unlikely,” says K-2, finally. “If I sacrificed myself for anyone on Scarif, it would not have been for Jyn Erso.”

Cassian can’t do this. Not now. “Stop, K.”  

“Why is this different? What is it about her that’s different? Why is she necessary?”

“K—”

“You’ve left everyone else behind,” says K-2. “Why can’t you leave her?”

He can’t say it. It’s not that she’s different. She is different—she’s ferocious and broken and blazing and more powerful than she knows—but he can’t say what it was that first made him hesitate. The mission, yes, but it had been before that. If he thinks hard, then maybe, maybe, maybe he can date it to the ambush on Jedha, the child in the market. He’d shot the Partisans without thinking. It hadn’t been for the mission. He’d done it for her. Every time he’s had the option to turn away, he’s spat on it and gone back for her. He’d aimed at Galen Erso and cast his rifle aside because Galen had her eyes. It’s more than the chance to do things the right way, held out in her fist. It’s more than the mission. It’s more than the similarities, or the differences. It’s more than all of that. She’s cut more deeply than anyone ever has, and he can’t say how she knows the way of it, sliding a knife between his ribs when anyone else would glance off of bone. She can gut him with her eyes. There are parts of him that have been dead for decades that come alive with her. He’s buried those things so deep that they shouldn’t have sprouted again, but now that they have, he can’t pull them free. Even if he could, he’s not sure he would. It would mean letting her die. It would mean leaving her behind. It would mean more than having her death on his conscience like all of the others. It would mean losing a star out of the wide black range of the sky.

I’m not used to people sticking around when things go bad.

There’s going be a time when you’ll want to remember how to be alive, Cassian. Mebwe had said, and laid a hand on his shoulder, ebony and scars. I want you to promise me you’ll try when it comes.

There’s no time.

“Cassian,” says K-2.

Cassian opens his eyes. He breathes, in and out. Stands up straight, steady on his feet.

“It’s not an option,” says Cassian. “Don’t ask again.”  

K-2 doesn’t say a word. He folds his arms, and turns to the transparisteel, looks out at the stars.

They wait in silence.

Chapter Text

He’d been nine when he’d come to the Temple in the Holy City, orphaned and furious and homeless on top of it all. He’d begun training to be a Guardian at thirteen, graduated to his position three years before the Trade Federation blockaded Naboo. He’d just turned thirty-two when the Clone Wars had begun, and Jedha had become a major stop for Republican forces, for Jedi and clones and medical stations all over the desert. The Guardians of the Whills had been left untouched by the Purge. Too distant, he’d theorized, too removed from the core ideology of the Jedi, a little temple on a little moon dedicated to the protection of living crystals no one else really believed in. Imperials had smashed the statues in the desert, shot them down and buried them in the sands, ruined the ancient places and torched the libraries, but they’d left the Temple alone. Too small to bother with, he’d thought. Inconsequential. Untouchable.

He only realized he’d been wrong when Imperial troops had landed to begin the harvest.

Through all of it, Baze thinks, he’s been doing something much like this. Sitting watch over Chirrut. Making sure he hasn’t managed to get himself killed. He’s good at trying to get himself killed, and it’s only because Baze is better at keeping them alive that they’re still walking. They might be the only Guardians left, now, the rest slaughtered or starved or captured or gone, but Chirrut’s survived, and so has he, standing at his back and at his side. Pulling him out of fights he couldn’t win. He’d done it during the Clone Wars when a gang of Separatists had decided that hitting a medical convoy out of NiJedha was the only way to strike a blow to the Republican territory in the system, and Chirrut had insisted on going after them with a stick. He’d done it in the temple when the Imperials had invaded and the Temple Master had sent them away; he’d done it after the temple had been razed and skullheads and rats and Imperial tagalongs had begun to walk the streets of the Holy City, their AT-ATs snapping clotheslines, crushing ancient walls. He’d done it on Eadu, on Scarif, and now here, sitting watch in a sickbay in the center of the Rebellion while their only allies could be walking right into death.

It itches at him, that idea. He doesn’t want any of them to die. Not even the damn Imperial droid, if Chirrut’s right and the thing’s back. Baze has never liked Security Droids—one broke his leg in the Holy City a few years ago—but K-2SO is one of them anyway. A Rogue, he thinks. Not a rebel, not really. Different. A puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit.

He doesn’t even want the damn droid to die. There’s a problem with that, somewhere.

We have to survive, Chirrut had said, even as Jyn had pitched their case to Alliance Command, even as they’d known she’d come up empty. I don’t know why. We have to survive for something. There’s something we have to fight for. We have to trust in the Force, Baze. Whatever it is, we’ll live to hear it. The Force will make sure of it.

I’ll make sure of it, you ungrateful old bastard, Baze had said, and Chirrut’s mouth had curled up. It hadn’t been a real smile. It couldn’t have been, not then. Now, maybe, it could be.

He wonders if this had been the reason they’d needed to live. This jungle planet, the girl with a kyber crystal for a heart. It could also be something else. There’s no real reason to debate about it. They’re still alive, which means there’s still something that needs doing, somewhere.

Chirrut’s been meditating for more than an hour when the sickbay doors slide open again. It’s a Mon Calamari, a species Baze hasn’t seen in person since before the Clone Wars; considering all the humans that have been wandering around Base One, he almost wonders if the Mon Calamari’s another pseudo-prisoner, like them, trapped near the bacta tanks, threatened with expulsion. He’s blotchy, for a Mon Calamari, cloudy-dark and wide-chinned. Has a limp. An old injury, but new pain; he limps in a familiar rhythm but grimaces each time, like it’s familiar and unwanted. Baze spares a single thought for how healing would work, with a Mon Calamari, with their tough skin and soft insides, whether a blaster bolt would crack them or go through them like any other being, and then tosses it aside. The fact that he uses a stick to get around shouldn’t matter. The idea that the Mon Calamari might use said stick to whack him is more relevant.

“I heard your friend had some things to say,” says the Mon Calamari. His voice is very measured, almost scruffy, if a voice can be scruffy. “Does he have any new information on the whereabouts of Rogue One?”

“If he does, he’s keeping it to himself,” says Baze. Obviously. Chirrut’s eyes are closed. Sleep is the closest word for whatever this waking trance is. He’s not sure it matters if he lies. “Come back later.”

The Mon Calamari doesn’t budge. His bulbous amber eyes flick around the sickbay as if he’s searching for snipers. Baze shifts his foot just a little to the side to find his cannon. It’d been a fight and a half to get them back, Chirrut’s staff, his cannon; he’s fairly sure Mothma had been the one to engineer it. He knows Draven would never have released them willingly. “We haven’t met,” says the Mon Calamari. “You were on the ground team, weren’t you.”

It’s not a question. Baze leans back in his chair, and says nothing. A medical droid buzzes forward with a chair, and the Mon Calamari groans a little when he takes the weight off his leg, stretches it out. He’s in some kind of uniform. Baze doesn’t know the difference between ranks in the Alliance, has no idea who he’s speaking to. Someone high up, though. If there’s anything he’s picked up over the last few days, it’s that the Mon Calamari in the Rebellion are leaders, not followers. They brought ships, men, ammunition. They hold positions of power. This one reeks of it. He keeps an eye on the stick, on the leg, and calculates how much effort it would take to snap it apart again.

“Scarif,” the Mon Calamari says, when he notices Baze looking. “The Profundity was disabled before we could make the jump to hyperspace. Vader. Twisted my leg on my way to the escape pod. Miracle one of the Hammerheads picked us up before jumping away.” He shifts the leg. “And the damn dry air doesn’t help.”

Only a Mon Calamari could call a jungle planet dry, thinks Baze, and he nods once, slowly. If the Mon Calamari had had command of a ship, and if Vader hit it, then—an admiral, maybe. It would explain why the droid had brought a chair without being commanded.

“Damn fool thing, what you did,” says the Mon Calamari, but there’s a glint to him that seems almost pleased. “Brave, for certain. But damn foolish.”

Baze shrugs. “I follow him,” he says, and tips his head to Chirrut. “Wasn’t my choice.”

“And who does he follow?” says the Mon Calamari.

“Her.”

“Erso.” The Mon Calamari shuts his eyes, leans back in his chair. He sways his stick back and forth between his hands. “You did what needed to be done. It was reckless and foolish, but it was necessary. Fairly sure Draven would have preferred it if none of you had survived. Cleaner that way.”

That’s new. Baze folds his arms over his chest, and says, “Clean’s boring.”

The Mon Calamari barks out a soggy laugh. “True, true. Don’t say that to Mothma. Her hair will stand on end.”

Baze doesn’t smile. He waits.

“Draven’s tried to recruit you, hasn’t he?” says the Mon Calamari admiral. “Tried to pull you into his little game.” He doesn’t wait for an answer. “The Rebellion needs Draven and his intelligence men as much as it needs Mothma and her politics. The more brutal they are, the better the Rebellion sleeps. The safer it is.”

“I’m no spy,” says Baze. He thinks, for a moment, of Eadu. The captain, leaving the ship. He has the face of a friend, he’d said back then, and that hasn’t changed. Cassian Andor still has the face of a friend. Not a false face, not in that way, though he can lie, and did to all of them. Not a killer. Not by nature. Through circumstance. The Mon Calamari’s watching him as he thinks, unblinking.

“No,” says the Mon Calamari. “You’re a wild card. You attacked Draven, but didn’t kill him. You joined Jyn Erso with no thought of a reward, no prompting. You’re the last of a dying breed. No one knows quite what you are, Guardian. You or your companion.”

Companion, now, not friend. When Baze steals a look at the Mon Calamari, his eyes have rolled to Chirrut. He’s mercurial, this one, Baze thinks. Not like Draven, not that kind of volatile. Moods that come and go like clouds on a windy day. Laughing one minute, deadly the next. But straight, Baze thinks. The first straight-talker he’s found in the Rebellion.

You don’t get to be an Admiral without pulling a few strings.  

“I don’t know what it is to have no home to return to,” says the Mon Calamari. “But I know what it’s like to watch your world malinger because of the Empire. I am sorry for your loss.”

Baze shrugs, like he’s shaking away a fly. He doesn’t want to think about Jedha. He won’t, not with Chirrut asleep.

“Rogue One’s changed the course of the Rebellion,” says the admiral. “Whether the Empire realizes it or not, whether the Council realizes it or not, the Alliance has a new role, now. No one’s stood up to the Empire and survived until Scarif. We won. It was a hard-won battle, at the cost of hundreds of lives, but it was won. Whatever happens now, your team has set the course of history.”

This is not at all where he expected the conversation to be going. Baze doesn’t blink. “We still don’t have the plans.”

“The message has still been sent,” says the Mon Calamari. “The Empire knows we’re a real threat. It’s a new kind of game, Master Malbus. It’s not just a rebellion or a revolt. It’s civil war. The whole galaxy is paying attention. There are going to be a lot of people trying to pull you in every direction from now on.”

“Does that include you?” says Baze, and the Mon Calamari rolls his eyes in his head.

“Who knows,” he says. “Politics are as they are. Right now, I’m just giving you a warning. You’re going to have to choose your side, Master Malbus. All of you. Otherwise you’ll wind up stuck to your neck in a quagmire and no rope to help you out of it.”

“I didn’t know there were sides.”

“Of course there are sides,” says the Mon Calamari, crackling in the back of his throat. “There are always sides. There are hundreds of people in this Rebellion. Each of them has their own side. Anyone who thinks otherwise winds up getting themselves shot.”

“Then whose side are you on?” says Baze. The Mon Calamari doesn’t laugh.

“The side of my people,” says the Mon Calamari. “The side of honor. You’re from Jedha. I think you have some idea of what I mean.”

Baze turns that over in his head, and says nothing.

“Pragmatic,” says the Mon Calamari. Baze gets the feeling he’s being laughed at. “We need more pragmatism around here. There are too many around here who talk just to talk.”

“If you’re recruiting,” says Baze, “then I’m not the one you should speak to.”

“And yet you’re the only one around.”  The Mon Calamari’s eyes roll again. “You’re too dangerous for the old Alliance,” he says. “Officially, anyway. You don’t follow orders, any of you. No, whatever you Rogues are, Master Malbus, you’re something new for a new era of Rebellion. I’m just trying to figure out exactly what.”

“Like I said.” Baze crosses his legs at the ankle, stretches out. “I’m not the one you should be talking to.”

“Fair enough,” says the Mon Calamari. He crackles in the back of his throat as he gets to his feet again, leans all his weight on his good leg until he gets the stick under him properly. “But if you get into contact with that crew of yours, you might want to let them know there are new players on the board. If they live that long, at least.”

Baze watches him go. It’s only once the door’s closed, and the droid’s shifted the chair away, that he lets himself begin to think.

.

.

.

She’ll say one thing for the Wookiee, at least. People get out of the way when there’s a Wookiee involved. It would have been a short trip alone, a shorter trip if anyone had thought to ask where they were going, what they were doing, but there’s still smoke billowing in the elevator shaft, and that’s far more interesting than even a Wookiee for the Imps. There are too many maintenance men, too many ‘troopers trying to get away from the devastated barracks on Level Six for anybody to be paying much attention. Medical staff and droids are lining up to get into the elevator. Nobody gives them a second glance as they leave. “I’ll give him some credit,” says Han, half under his breath, “Twitch knew what he was doing,” and Jyn lifts her chin once in the vaguest of nods. She’s barely paying attention to either of them, neither Chewie nor Han. She’s too busy watching everyone that goes by, wondering if any of them will recognize her. She’d been brought here unconscious, bloody; she’s leaving with a uniform, with her hair tucked away, with her shoulder hidden. For all that her trousers don’t fit quite right, no one’s looking; at least, no one’s looking at her.

People should be looking. Imperials aren’t this stupid. Why aren’t people looking?

Insects wind around her spine.  

I have a bad feeling about this.

The observation deck is about a hundred yards to the left Elevator H, and this floor is a monstrosity. Administration, reads the key in the elevator, and when the doors open it’s a cacophony, dragging at her senses, this way and that. Huge crowds of people, rows and rows of skullheads. Gigantic schools of deadly, blaster-bearing fish, white as death. A corporal gives them a long look as they pass, a question on her lips, but in the end she says nothing. Jyn keeps her gait slow. Han’s twitchy as hell, jumpy. Every time an officer looks their way, he shifts on the balls of his feet. She wants to kick him in the ribs.

“Stop it,” she says, at the halfway point, when they stop at an intersection to let a platoon pass. “You’re making me jump.”

“You’re acting like this is enjoyable.”

Jyn just looks at him. Han shuts up, and shifts back and forth on his feet again, anxious.

There’s no sign of anyone. No Bodhi, no Leia, no Skywalker. No K-2. No Cassian. No alarms, either. They haven’t been discovered yet. The observation deck is on the starboard side of the hallway—what she thinks is starboard; it’s too big, this station, too many turns—and she’s the one who remembers the code, so she’s the one to input it. “Easy, buddy,” says Han, as Chewie makes a soft sound through his teeth. “Nearly there.”

“Keep him quiet,” says Jyn, and the doors slide open. “Inside.”

“Watch it with the voice, your craziness,” says Han, but he slips inside anyway, pushing at Chewie’s elbow. Jyn very deliberately does not look around before she follows. She wants to—she has to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from glancing behind her—but she doesn’t. Her nerves are immaterial. The lock on the inside of the door matters more.

It’s wide and low-ceilinged, the observation deck. Probably meant for parties, for viewings. To watch planets die, she thinks, and bile surges up her throat, coils around her teeth. She swallows it back down. There are no lights on. The only gleam is the stars through the transparisteel. Rocks and shreds of Alderaan are still tumbling from the shockwave, ricocheting, breaking into shards. The shields around the Death Star keep them at bay, but they’re smashing each other to pebbles. It’s too dark, for a moment, for her to make out more than a few murky shapes, the blazing white of Skywalker’s uniform, of Leia’s gown. Those two made it, at least. If anyone walks into this room, it’ll be a killing ground. There are no other ways out, not that she can see; just the one door, the keycode she’s tapping out against her leg, and their guns, and if they were noticed, they’re all dead. This is worse than Scarif. This is worse than anything Saw had ever given her to do.

“Oh,” says a voice she knows, and the hard knot in her throat eases. “Fantastic. More of them.”

“K,” she says, and then she blinks, because the hulking mass that steps out of the shadows isn’t the Zed she’d reprogrammed on Yavin IV. It’s a Security Droid. It’s K. She blinks, and blinks again, and in the same moment Chewie snarls like he’s seen an army.

“You gotta be kidding me,” says Han, and there’s a flash, light off durasteel, a blaster, the blaster, and Jyn lunges forward before she thinks about it, back to K-2, hands spread wide. The light of the stars flickers oddly across the Stormtrooper helmet, reflects her face back at her. Pale and determined and bruised.

“The hell is wrong with you,” says Han, but he doesn’t pull the trigger. Behind her, K-2 shifts from foot to foot. “Are you crazy—

“He’s with us,” says Jyn, and Chewie makes a noise that’s a cross between a snarl and some kind of ululating howl that makes her hair stand on end. Han’s mouth twists, but he doesn’t fire at least. “He’s with us, don’t shoot. Don’t.”

K-2, behind her, says, “Like it wasn’t difficult enough with the four of us. Now you have to add a Wookiee. How on earth are we supposed to hide a Wookiee?”

Slowly, oh, so very slowly, Han lets his gun drop.

“It wasn’t my idea,” says Jyn. She looks around, twisting her neck until her shoulder pinches. K-2’s watching her, both eyes glowing, and it could be the adrenalin, or the relief, but she’s happy. She’s happy to see him alive. She’s not sure when that started. Her eyes are shifting, a little, adjusting to the dark. She can make out Bodhi, now, a dark lump near the wall, near Skywalker and Leia. Her throat loosens up. “Where’d you find the new body?”

“Maintenance,” says K-2, in his sour way. “Obviously.”

“Obviously,” says Jyn. “Of course.”

“You could have left them,” says K. “Or used them as a distraction to escape. I would have let them be captured. It would be easier.”

“I,” she says, and then stops, because through the tangle of Bodhi and Leia and Skywalker there’s movement, a shifting. Cassian. The look on his face is a shipwreck, fire and torn metal and wires spitting sparks. He doesn’t say anything. She’s not quite sure he’s even breathing. He’s just watching her, lips parted like he’s seen a ghost, and her knees nearly go out from under her with the relief, that he’s alive and leaning and staring. He’s stolen a uniform, too, one of the sharp black masks of the bodyguards, and it’s closing her throat up, the adrenalin, the déjà vu. She thinks she might say his name, but no sound comes out her mouth. There’s something terrifyingly naked about the way he’s looking at her as he pushes away from the wall, sways on his feet.

Alive, she thinks. Alive.

It’s a sick kind of rewind, but she doesn’t care. No one’s paying attention. She’s not sure it’d stop her if the whole Imperial fleet was staring, no matter how new it is, no matter what weakness it shows. Jyn slips between them, Bodhi and Leia and Skywalker. She just means to get closer, to talk to him, to prop him up if she can, but when she gets close enough he draws her to him, arm around her ribs, curling up her back, winding her into a grip like a vice, chest to chest. Oh, she thinks, this is what it must have been like for Mama, on Lah'mu,and then her mind goes blank from the warmth. He’s almost shaking, and his fingers are icy on her shoulder, her waist. Her hat’s come off, he’s dragged her so close. Jyn wriggles her good arm out of the tangle, works it around him, presses hard enough to bruise. Open wounds and bleeding vulnerabilities. She’s on her toes and leaning into him and Cassian fists his hand in her stolen uniform and drags in air like he hasn’t breathed in years. And this—this is what she’s wanted. This is what she’s wanted since she woke up in sickbay to find him watching her. This is the one thing she's wanted from him that she's never once wanted from anybody else, not like this, not closeness and warmth like this. His hair’s sour with sweat and smoke and blood, and the collar of the uniform smells like someone else, but the rest of it is Cassian.

You’re all right. It crawls into her mouth. You’re all right, you’re all right. Jyn shuts her eyes, tries not to let them burn. You’re all right.

“You’re okay?” says Cassian, very soft, right into her ear, and she’s nodding even though it’s a lie. He has to know it’s a lie. Still, his head slips, and suddenly there’s his hand against the nape of her neck, his nose at her throat. He doesn’t say it again, not aloud, but she can feel it against her collar, lips and nose and the brush of his beard. Mouthing it. You’re okay. His hair tickles at her mouth.

She wants to kiss him. She wants to ask what he was thinking, that had made him look so raw. Oddly, randomly, she wants to ask where he came from. She doesn’t do any of it. She shakes her head and crumples the uniform between her fingers and counts heartbeats. Heart and lungs under her palm. Ribs and spine. The stiffness of the uniform. Warmth on her throat. Cassian. The last time they were this close was on the beach on Scarif, and part of her, a small part, isn’t sure she wants to know what’s happened to him to make him like this. Another part, a much bigger part, has a fairly good idea.

Take him down to the cells. See if he’ll be more chatty there.

There’s someone whispering somewhere close. Skywalker, probably. Han. She doesn’t care. When she scuffs her nails—half of them broken, the other half breaking—into the hair at the nape of his neck Cassian heaves a huge breath and curls tighter, squeezing close. It’s a mistake. Her broken rib shrieks. Air snags in her throat like it’s caught on a hook. He’s pulled away before she can cover it up, too far for all he’s so close, and suddenly she’s at the right angle to pick out the raw divots on his lip, crusted blood on his teeth, the ache around his mouth. His jaw’s blotchy with a bruise, a split from the butt of the rifle. It’s mostly masked, but still. It’s a miracle no one stopped them from coming up this far. “Are you—”

“I’m fine.” She lifts her hand, meaning to touch—the split skin, maybe, the bruise, his mouth—and then finds his shoulder instead. It feels like the sickbay again, where if she takes her eyes off him he might vanish. Or he might stop breathing. She can’t say it aloud, any of it. You’re still here. You’re all right. Don’t let go. His stupid long lashes. Jyn swallows, and swallows again, and the longer she watches him the less she can say. They might not ever get this again. This might be the last time.

Cassian sways, and his nose bumps hers.

They took you, she almost says. I thought you might be dead. “You’re alive,” she says, and it’s not enough, for all it slips out her mouth like a secret. Still, Cassian’s breathing catches under her hand.  He ghosts his fingertips down her bad arm, curls their hands together in a knot out of sight of the others, braced between their ribs. Jyn squeezes as tight as she can. She wants to swallow his air, to make sure. This is the air we breathe. Both of them. She wants to live long enough to have this again. She wants snow. She settles for this, three long beats of it, nose to nose, and Cassian drops his hand. It’s not long enough, she thinks, they haven’t had long enough, but there’s no time left. She leaves her arm around his waist, helps him away from the wall, and it’s more than half an excuse to keep her arm around him, feel his lungs work.

Skywalker’s offering her hat with both hands. Jyn takes it, biting the inside of her cheek to keep from flinching at the pinch in her shoulder, and holds it between two fingers like a dead rat.

“Aw,” says Han. “’scute.”

Don’t,” says Bodhi, and it’s as sharp as she’s ever heard him. To her very great surprise, Han doesn’t say anything more.

“We can’t be here long,” says Leia, as if nothing’s happened. Still, there’s something in the air in here that makes her feel like she’s just peeled her skin off to show her insides. Cassian presses his fingers into her shoulder, and it’s like he’s whispered into her ear. It’s okay and listen and think all at once. She drags her focus back to the group. “The longer we’re in here, the more time there is for the alarms to go off and the whole place to go on alert. If they open the door and find us, we’re all dead. I’m hoping one of you has a plan.”

“I did,” says K-2, “but that was for four people.” He has his back firmly turned on the pair of them, for all his arms are crossed. “With a group this size, we’ll all be shot to pieces before we make it to the hangar. And that’d be without the Wookiee.”

“The Wookiee has a name, boltbag,” says Han.

“I’m sure you do too,” says K, “but I don’t really care about either of you.”

“Thank you, K,” says Cassian. He sounds husky. “That’s very helpful.”

“Look, trashcan, I don’t know who the hell you think you are—”

Stop,” says Jyn, in the voice that she’d used with Euwood Gor. “Stop it. The more we argue, the less time we have. K?”

“I set up a distraction. If the tractor beam is indeed off as promised, it should at least keep some of the Stormtroopers out of our path to the main hangar.” K-2 rolls his wrist joints, like he’s trying to remember how they work. “Of course, our problems are now doubled. There are not enough disguises to go around.”

“We have one advantage,” says Cassian. “They don’t know how many of us there are.”

“Debatable,” says K-2. “If they check the maintenance decks—”

“You’re not very optimistic, are you?” says Skywalker.

“I’m optimistic when a situation calls for optimism,” says K-2. “This situation does not call for optimism.”

“The larger the group, the more likely it is we’ll be discovered,” says Cassian. Jyn looks sideways. In the dark, Bodhi’s eyes are gleaming, wide. He swallows, but he meets her gaze without flinching. “We can all fit onto the Last Hope if we squeeze, but—“

“I’m not leaving the Falcon,” says Han. “I don’t care what the rest of you do.”

“You might not have a choice,” says Leia, tightly.

You might not have a choice, sister, but I do. Falcon’s mine. It’s how I came in, it’s how I’ll go out.”

“Ben’ll head back to the Falcon, too,” says Skywalker. “We said we’d meet him back there. I don’t know where he is, but—”

“He said he had something to do,” says K, unexpectedly, and Jyn blinks but doesn’t ask. There’s no point in wasting more time. If they live, she can learn more about Ben. If they don’t, it won’t matter. The running clock until the alarms go off is more important. “Two different destinations reduces the likelihood that we’ll be caught. Slightly. They can’t predict where we’ll go if they don’t know where we’re headed.”

Cassian curls his fingers into her shoulder. Other than that, he could be made of stone. “Where’s the Falcon?”

“Main hangar,” says Skywalker. “Bay seven. R2 and 3PO are waiting, they’re ready to go on our word.”

In the light from the transparisteel window, Leia’s lips look bloody. She darts a glance at Jyn, at Cassian, and ice dribbles down the back of Jyn's neck. “Are they safe?”

“They said they were, they’re out of the way.”

Her hands and feet have gone numb. Jyn wets her lips. “Droids, what droids?”

“Alliance droids,” says Skywalker, so, so brightly. Her heart’s beating too fast. She almost can’t hear him. Cassian’s deathly still, next to her. Beyond, Bodhi’s started picking at his nails, faster and faster and faster. “They’re carrying—”      

“The plans,” says Leia, flat. It's like a slap. “They’re carrying the plans.”

She can't process it, for a moment. Cassian's hand goes so tight on her shoulder that it must leave bruises, but Jyn barely feels it.

"Oh," says Bodhi, very faintly.

"What plans," says Han, but that doesn't matter. None of the rest of it matters. She has no idea who Skywalker is, but he’s young. He’s too young. He’s never had to defend himself. When she rushes him, he scrambles back so fast that he crashes up against the transparisteel, hard enough that he nearly cracks his head on it. She’s shorter than him, but he doesn’t even fight. She could kill him a hundred ways, a thousand—a blade through a chink in the armor, to the throat, a blaster bolt, her bare hands—but he just stands there and looks at her. She doesn’t even touch him, and she has him pinned. She doesn’t want to think what she looks like, to have him that frightened of her.  

“Where are they,” she says, and when he doesn’t answer right away, she almost screams. “Where are they?

“What the hell is she doing,” says Han, but he’s distant. So is Chewie. Jyn can’t hear them. There’s a roar in her ears like a waterfall, like the crumbling crust of Jedha, like the smoke and the broken stone and the wave left behind by the Death Star, like the rain on Eadu, her father's hand on her cheek, cold, wet, scalding. She can’t hear them.

“I don’t—”

Where are they?” says Jyn, and Skywalker scrapes in the back of his throat.

“We left them in a comm center across from the main hangar, they’re safe—” 

“You brought them with you?” She wants to shake him. She wants to break something. My father, Saw, Jedha, Scarif, Melshi, Tonc, Sefla, all of them— “How could you bring them with you, how could you—”

“We were bringing the droids to Alderaan and walked into this, I didn’t have a choice, I didn't know what they were—”

Baze, she thinks. Chirrut, in bacta. Bodhi, his hands, his mind, both a mess of scars. K-2, gone, the comm falling silent. Cassian. 

“Jyn," says Cassian, close against her ear. "Jyn, back off.”

She wrenches away from all of them, Cassian who’d been reaching out to her, Skywalker who’s sagging against the transparisteel with a look like a whipped animal, Leia who hasn’t come near her at all. She reels back from all of them, and stands on the balls of her feet, curling her hands in and out of fists, trying to breathe. Bodhi’s murmuring to Skywalker, explaining, maybe, soothing, but she can’t hear it. Her heart’s too loud in her ears. The plans. Here. The plans are here. They’re here, and if we’ve lost them again, if we lose them again, then all of it will be for nothing, all of it—

"The plans," she says, and she's not sure if she's shouting at Cassian or at Skywalker. "The plans—"

"Jyn," says Bodhi, but she wrenches away before he can touch her.

Skywalker's frantic. “I was trying to help—” 

“Men died for the information in that droid," says Cassian, and it’s the low, vicious voice from right after Eadu, the kind of voice that slits tendon, cracks bone. “Dozens of them. Good men, good soldiers. They gave everything for those plans, and you left them alone?”

“I didn’t have a choice—”

“You had the choice to stay with them and keep them safe or to play the hero,” says Cassian. “Don’t pretend it was anything different.”

Skywalker doesn’t seem to have anything to say to that. Jyn folds her arms tight around her ribs, and stares at the floor. She wants to spit fire, and she can’t. Time, time, we’re running out of time, and there’s a terrible sickness rising in her throat, mixed terror and relief. The plans. The plans are here. Please let them be safe. She has the kyber crystal in one fist, and it’s digging hard into her palm, the only warm thing left in the world. 

Leia watches her. Her eyes are so terribly sad. Jyn has to look away before she screams.

“If the plans are here,” says K-2, “then the Imperials are unaware. Even so, it would be tactically unwise to put the princess and the plans on the same ship.”

“Then we split them up,” says Cassian. He’s smooth again. Whatever fury’s twisting his mouth, she can’t hear it in his voice. He shifts, and his knuckles brush the back of her hip, scorching. She sways closer, and then away again, unable to help herself. “Princess Organa will go on the Falcon. She has the coordinates for Base One, she’ll direct you.”

“You’re having us be bait?” says Han.

“Why not?” says Leia. “I’d guess you’re good at it.”

Han looks at her, and then says, in a hollow voice, “No reward is worth this.”

“The reward’s your life,” says Leia. “I suggest you take it, flyboy.”

“You can’t be seen in that gown,” says Cassian. “You’ll use this uniform. Better if your face isn’t visible. Bodhi, you can get to the hangar on your own?”

Bodhi mouths something to himself.

“Bodhi,” says Cassian.

“Yes,” says Bodhi. “I—yes.”

“K-2 will follow,” says Cassian. “Jyn and I will find another way down, get the droids and meet you at the Last Hope. The rest of you go to the Falcon.

“And what’s to keep them from shooting us as soon as we step outside this room?” says Han.

“I rigged a bomb,” says K-2, so nonchalantly that the hair on the back of her neck stands up. She’s so cold, still. The plans. Her mouth goes dry. The plans. They’re so close. Hope is Jedha-dry in her throat. Like a trap, she thinks. It feels like a trap. “I’ll set it off as soon as the first group leaves.”

Bodhi hums, low and pleased.

“How, exactly?” says Han.

K-2 points to the info-port on the wall.

“This could work,” says Leia. “This could actually work.”

Which is, of course, when the alarms go off.

Chapter Text

He keeps thinking of the day Mebwe died.

So little is the same as it was back then. Still, he’s not sure it matters, how much is the same and how much is different. He keeps stumbling into old memories every time he turns a corner. Every trunk he’s stuffed into the back of his head has cracked, peeling apart at the edges with the rot, forgotten for so long that they’ve swollen, soured, burst. The alarms ring out, over and over and over. Uniforms, binders. A time limit.

Run, Mebwe says in his head. Run, Cassian. Run.

“This way,” says Jyn, and she finds his elbow and draws him down a side corridor. He’s not sure how she knows the way. She might be guessing. There’s something wild and hungry peering out of the corners of her mouth. “Come on.”

It’s chaos. Everyone’s moving. Every ‘trooper, every officer. There’d been no time to change the plan. Bodies press in close around them, jamming them into each other. The princess is gone, and so is the Wookiee; Bodhi’d disappeared before the announcement had even come out over the intercom. Cell breach in block AA-23. Cell breach in block AA-23. All ‘troopers report to your stations. A bodyguard and two troopers and a Wookiee; a maintenance worker; a droid; and the pair of them, him and Jyn, and it feels too much like last time. It feels like Scarif. It feels like Coruscant, like rain slicking down the back of his neck on Eadu.

Run.

“Hey,” says an officer, “hey, where—”

“Turn,” says Cassian, low, but they’re turning before it’s even fully out his mouth, Jyn’s hand steely on his elbow, down another corridor crammed to bursting with people. He’s so blatantly wrong, in this crowd. There hadn’t been time to find another disguise. He’s in his own clothes, dirty, the collar speckled with blood, and Jyn next to him in her guardsman’s blacks with the hat pulled down low over her eyes. It makes them look—he hopes; they hope—like a prisoner transfer swept up in the crowd. His wrists are caught in binders, and there’s a switchblade in his palm. Jyn had closed his hand over it without a word. “We have to—”

“I know,” she says, and calls for the first elevator they come across, standing, waiting. Someone knocks into his bad shoulder, and Cassian nearly falls off his feet. “Okay?”

No. He doesn’t say anything. Jyn’s hand curls tighter.

“Hey,” says another voice, and it could be nothing, it could have nothing to do with them, but overhead the announcer says, “Tam Alcem, ID M-4938750, please report to the nearest comm station. Tam Alcem—” and next to him Jyn goes stiff around the shoulders. “Guardswoman—”

“Shit,” says Jyn, more than half under her breath, and she sweeps her thumb over close doors. He’s guessing the ident creasing her pocket reads Tam Alcem. A ‘trooper turns to them as the doors slide shut, but it’s too late for them to make out her face. Cassian hopes. “Shit—”

Cassian swipes a finger over a random level, any level, something close to the main hangar. The binders feel too loose on his wrists. They’d made do with what they had, with the binders on the belt Jyn’s stolen, but they’re made for someone bigger than him. They keep clattering like bracelets. “Friend of yours?”

“Ask Bodhi,” says Jyn, and looks up at the list of levels. At him, and then at the levels again. “They’d better be there.”

He’s not sure if she means the droids or the others. K-2, Bodhi. Princess Organa, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo. Ben Kenobi. He thinks if he’d had more time, if he’d had a chance, he’d be more awed that General Obi-Wan Kenobi is on the Death Star. He can’t muster up the energy. He can’t knock Mebwe out of his head, or Vader. He can’t shake off the headache.

“Cassian,” says Jyn, and he looks at her and sees her on Scarif. An elevator. Light and dark. She wets her lips. Her eyes are too large for her face. She’s seeing it, too, he thinks. Scarif. The sea. It’s so close he can almost smell it on his skin. “Still here?” 

Tam Alcem, ID M-4938750, please report to the nearest comm station for identity verification. Tam Alcem, ID M-4938750—

“Yeah,” says Cassian. Jyn’s the one to reach out, to find his hand, squeezing hard. The gloves feel like dead flesh against his palm, cold, rubbery, but her grip is whole and real and human and living. Cassian holds on with all his strength until there’s a trill from above, and the doors slide back open.

They head for another elevator.

If Luke Skywalker had done what he was supposed to do, then the droids aren’t far. The plans. The plans aren’t far. Whatever those plans are to him now. Hope. Redemption. Neither. They’re close. The Millennium Falcon is in Bay 7, two down from the Last Hope; the droids should have moved by now. There hasn’t been enough time, but they should have moved. Should be moving. Jyn grips his arm again, and pulls him into the crowd. Mebwe dribbles out of the cracks. The trick to running is walking, walking like you have somewhere to go. Nobody asks when you look like you have somewhere to go. They turn, and turn again. The Last Hope is towards the end, nestled between two vast walls of TIE fighters. His mind is skipping, from the plans to the droids to the tractor beam to Jyn, hand still hot on his arm.

Run, Cassian. Run.

There’s the cool grip of a blaster in his hand.

There are ‘troopers, by the Last Hope. Two dozen of them. No way out through there. Whatever bomb you planted, K, you’d better blow it soon. This isn’t going to work. The alarm is still blaring, digging into his aching head with wicked claws, with acid-tipped fangs. Cell Block AA-23. Prisoner escape, cell block AA-23. Jyn doesn’t stop. They march past the Last Hope, scuffed-up chrome and durasteel, and turn left towards the end of the bay, the same way they’d taken at the start, an hour ago, a little more, her fingers needling into the crease of his elbow. A narrow corridor, an elevator at the far end. Easy to remember. Easy to find again. Easy, he thinks, as a meeting place. The fire at the base of his spine swells, scours. Eats away at bone.

There’s nothing there.

Jyn’s white to the lips, bleached bone. They can’t stop walking. Not without drawing attention. Slowly, they make their way down the corridor. “Where are they?” she says, very soft.

Cassian shakes his head. At the far end, there’s a gaggle of ‘troopers waiting for the elevator. She presses her lips tight together, and doesn’t say anything more.

Where the hell are they?

The elevator doors open. Close. Bodhi slips out between the ‘troopers, sees them, almost trips. He keeps walking. Keeps his head down. Passes them in the hall, and doesn’t look back. Jyn barely even breathes. His footsteps fade, fade, fade. The ‘troopers are gone.

A door slides open.

“Hey,” says a voice, “stop right there,” and that’s definitely for them, definitely directed at them, because it’s too close, much too close. In a second Jyn’s pushed away from him and slammed the officer back into the room he’d come from, diving in with her hand over his mouth, body-slamming him back. Cassian’s snapped the knife open and followed her without conscious thought, slid the blade up and in. Between the ribs. All instinct. No gun, he thinks, but a blade, a vibroblade, and it cauterizes even as it cuts. There should be more blood than there is, but it’s just a trickle, smearing between his fingers. The blade almost hums. His shoulder hits Jyn’s, and she flinches, from pain, not fear, crammed together with their hands on a dead man.

He’s young, Cassian thinks, distantly. A mechanic. The same uniform Bodhi’s stolen. Wide-eyed. The pupils bloom, and fade.

Jyn doesn’t twitch. She doesn’t say anything, either. Cassian shifts back, hits the close door mechanism. They’re in some kind of break room. A caf machine, a bag of chips on the table. No one else is around. There’s a camera in the corner. Jyn’s blaster has no silencer. He’s not sure it’d matter, at this point, but he keeps his face turned away. Jyn drags the mechanic up into a chair, sets him up to make him look like he’s sleeping, and Cassian doesn’t want to think about what it does to her shoulder. She makes a sound between her teeth like someone’s tearing her arm off.

The dead man has a gun on his belt. Cassian steals it, and takes off the binders, leaves them on the table. There’s no point to them, anymore. The longer he wears them, the more vulnerable they get.

“They’re not here,” says Jyn. It’s the tight, hungry voice from after Jedha, the woman who burns through her own skin, blazes. Kyberstar, says Chirrut in his head. Kyberstar. “They were supposed to be here.”

Cassian wipes the blood off his hands, onto his trousers. “We have to wait.”

She shakes her head, and says, “They’re supposed to be here.”

“Skywalker said they were across from the Falcon. They can’t move quickly.”

“We don’t have time for this,” she says, and then she stops, because there are footsteps outside. He can hear them through the wall, and so can she, measured steps, a rhythm like a march. ‘troopers. Jyn’s mouth snaps closed. Cassian steps back, and they brace each side of the door. She shuts the lights off, and he can’t make her out any longer.

Tam Alcem, ID M-4938750—

There’s a beep, and the doors click; he lifts the gun—

“Don’t shoot,” says the protocol droid. It has its hands up. Voice coded male, Cassian thinks, eyes golden, plates golden, and he’s seen this droid before. He knows this droid. He’s never talked to the thing, but he knows it. He’s seen it on Yavin IV. “Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot. Only—only my friend and I saw you before. We think you might be looking for us.”

Jyn stares at the golden droid, and does nothing. Her mouth opens and closes like a drowning fish.

“In,” says Cassian, “in now,” and the golden droid shuffles in. The R2 unit that follows is silver and blue, trundling along, and the pure greed that flashes over Jyn’s face when she sees it almost lances him in the heart. The plans. He can feel it, deep inside. The plans. “Did anyone see you?”

“I don’t believe so, sir,” says the protocol droid. It’s eyeing Jyn with a kind of horrified curiosity, its torso tipping from side to side. “And I have to say, sir, it is a very great honor to meet you, Captain Antilles speaks most highly of you—”

Quiet,” says Cassian. At the same time, Jyn hisses “Shut up” through her teeth, and shifts the gun in her hand. She looks sideways at the R2 unit, over and over, like she wants to touch it but doesn’t dare. Her hand flickers to the lump under her stolen uniform, the crystal, and then falls away again.

“Oh,” says the protocol droid. “I’m dreadfully sorry, I don’t believe we are acquainted; I am C-3PO, human—”

“Brilliant,” says Jyn.

“Well, I shouldn’t say so, miss, but—oh, my goodness, is that man dead?”

“If it bothers you don’t look,” says Jyn. Her eyes snap to him. “Cassian—”

“I know.” There aren’t any comms. Whatever K’s doing, he needs to do it now, but there’s no way to tell where he is, what he’s done. They have to wait until the sirens sound. The plans. The plans. His heart’s in his mouth. “Bodhi—”

“I don’t know.” She wets her lips. “I’m going to go see what’s happening.”

She’s in the uniform. She’s the only one who won’t draw attention. They need some eyes on what’s going on outside, even if it’s only for a minute. Every muscle in his body is screaming anyway. “Jyn—”

“What?”

Cassian shakes his head. He doesn’t speak, doesn’t trust his own voice. Jyn passes him, and her elbow clips into him, knocking, ricocheting. Cassian curls his hand around her arm before she’s out of reach, pressing as hard as he can, and Jyn slows. She looks at him for a second, finding his hand, holding on—it’s the mission, I have to, I’m sorry but I’m not—and then she slips away, out the door. The R2 unit whistles in a way he can’t translate.

“Of course not,” says C-3PO. “You’ll see. Everything will be all right.”

He doesn’t want to think about what’ll happen if that’s a lie.

.

.

.

It happens like this:

He can’t get onto the Last Hope. There are ‘troopers everywhere, looking, watching. He can’t get near it. He passes Jyn and Cassian in the hall—Jyn with her too-pale face, Cassian with his scabbed mouth, his haunted eyes—and he turns right at the end, passes the Last Hope and what must be the Millennium Falcon, the YT freighter that looks like it’s been through a garbage compactor and then dragged back into shape again, and he keeps on walking. Bodhi’s not altogether certain where K-2 is, or where Jyn and Cassian have ended up; he sees no foreign droids, doesn’t catch a hint of Skywalker or the Princess Leia or Han. He loops, and when he finally stops moving it’s by an open corridor with a detachable wall panel, midway between the two ships. Both in sight. Both almost entirely beyond reach. Bodhi crouches, and shifts the panel off the wall, studying the interior like it’s fascinating.

A bomb. K-2’s rigged a bomb. Not entirely different from the antifreeze trick, but there’s something so final about that. A bomb hidden in the Death Star. Some part of him wouldn’t mind if it set off the chain reaction in the core, blew them all to hell. The shreds of Alderaan are ghosting past the shields on the hangar bay, and there’s a grief weighing like the heavy core of a star in his chest. Jedha. Alderaan. Too little. Too late.

You lied, Jyn had said, and the princess had looked back at her and said so did you.

Get the plans, get the others, get out. Same as before, really. They’re living one giant loop. Hopefully this one doesn’t quite end the same. Bodhi heaves a mess of cords out of the wall, and starts sorting them by color. It’s all electrical, down here. No convenient piping for a distraction. K-2 built a bomb, he thinks, and he sounds hysterical even in his head. K-2 built a kriffing bomb.

He’s still considering it when someone clocks him in the leg with the toe of their boot.

“There’s been no work order on this level,” says a voice. When Bodhi looks up, there’s an officer staring at him, down the length of her very impressive nose. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I, um.” He can’t detangle his arms from the wires. “I—didn’t it go through, I don’t—”

“Where’s your identification?”

“It’s—”

“There’s nothing to concern yourself with here,” says another voice, and Bodhi still can’t really move. His wrists are stuck. “I’ll take care of this one. You don’t need to worry.”

The officer blinks. Her lips part. She frowns. Bodhi doesn’t even breathe. There’s the creeping sense that if he moves, he’ll break some kind of spell, and that’s the last thing he wants. The woman’s oddly cloudy, peering like she can’t quite see straight.

“You can go about your business,” says the new voice, and the officer hums.

“I can go about my business,” she says, and then she turns on her heel and walks away. Bodhi stares after her until there’s the lightest touch on his shoulder. He about leaps out of his skin.

“Easy, lad,” says the old man, and crouches beside him. “You’ve been in more dangerous scrapes than that one, I should think.”

Bodhi fumbles at the wires, leans back. “I—well, maybe, I don’t know, I’m not exactly—I’m sorry, who are you?”

“I’m surprised your droid friend didn’t mention it,” says the old man, and fusses with something inside the terminal. The wires loosen. Bodhi looks at his hands, scabbed and burned, and draws them out from behind the panel. “You’re going to have to be more careful. There are more where she came from. Not all of them are going to be so easily swayed.”

The old man. The friend Skywalker had mentioned. “Ben,” says Bodhi, and Ben’s eyes crinkle at the edges, just a little. “I don’t—thank you, for helping me, but I’m not sure what—”    

“No time for that,” says Ben, and heaves Bodhi up onto his feet. He’s fiercely strong, for such an old man. Bodhi couldn’t pull away even if he tried. “I’m afraid you’re just going to have to trust me. Can you fly?”

“I’m the pilot,” says Bodhi automatically, and then kicks himself. If anyone had heard that, if Ben’s fake, but he doesn’t seem fake. Ben seems real. Then again, Bodhi’s not going to ever be the best judge of what’s real and what’s fake. “I’m—yes. I can fly.”

“Then when you see your chance, get to your ship,” says Ben. “Your friends will be here soon.”

“I don’t—”

“Bodhi,” says Ben. “You have to trust me. They’ll be here. You won’t have a great deal of time. Once it starts, it won’t stop.”

Bodhi looks at him. His mouth is dry. “How do you know my—”

Ben raises a hand. He presses the back of Bodhi’s neck, and it’s like Cassian. It’s like Galen, Bodhi remembers. Galen had done this once or twice, quiet in corners, trying to make him listen. Trying to make him hear. Like a mother cat. He shakes Bodhi a little, very gently. “You’ve done so much,” says Ben. “You need to do just a little more. It’ll be all right.”

Inexplicably, suddenly, Bodhi can’t see. He blinks, furiously. His throat burns. “What about you?”

“I’ll be fine,” says Ben. “Don’t worry about me. Go.”

Bodhi wavers. Over Ben’s shoulder, there’s a flicker of white, of black. Stormtroopers. A few guards. One of them jerks around, a marionette, and points. There’s fifteen of them, twenty. Guns and armor. His skin goes cold. “Ben,” says Bodhi, but Ben’s smiling. Oddly, impossibly, he’s smiling. He draws his hand away from Bodhi, and finds something beneath his hooded robes.

“Go,” says Ben. “They need you. Go.”

“Hold it right there,” says one of the ‘troopers, twangy through the modulators, and then there’s a blaze of blue. A snapping hiss. A blaster bolt rebounds, and a ‘trooper falls. Ben spins the blade in his hand, long and gleaming sapphire, and it casts white-blue light over his thin skin, his pale hair. He turns his back on Bodhi, and spins the blade again. It hums like a living thing, and the sound of it creeps under his skin, warm and buzzing. Like a purr, almost.

The crystals from the Temple are used in the Jedis’ lightsabers, his mother had told him. He’d been eight, maybe. Nine. Before the Clone Wars had ended. Bodhi clutches at the memory, clings to it. We live in a very special city, my love.

Bodhi looks at him. Ben raises the lightsaber.

Go,” he says.

Bodhi goes. When the blaster bolts sound out again, there’s reverb. He can still feel the blaze of the lightsaber in his bones.

.

.

.

Despite the apparent complexities of bomb-making as perceived by organics, it’s not overly difficult to craft an incendiary device with materials available inside a space station. It had taken K-2SO exactly six minutes and eleven seconds prior to meeting the hermit Ben to manufacture his bomb, and another two minutes and nineteen seconds to settle it in a nook beneath one of the power terminals connected to the tractor beam. A thirty-second timer, constructed out of the remains of a cleaner droid—he’d felt nothing, smashing the thing up, except an odd irritation that they existed at all, whining about like mice—and when it detonates it should take the power terminal with it. K-2SO projects the ensuing explosion to not range further than the single tower devoted to that power station, and nowhere near the reactor core (he had debated shifting it closer, to attempt to set off the chain reaction as promised by Galen Erso, but he’d had little chance of getting close enough to the main reactor to attempt it) but it should still be loud enough, and large enough, and dangerous enough, that attention ought to be diverted between the escape and station repair enough for the four of them to leave in the ensuing chaos.

Of course, the sheer number of people stationed on the Death Star means that it is also highly likely that they will be chased, and possibly caught, but for some reason he dislikes considering this option in great detail. He does not.

K-2SO does not follow Bodhi Rook as closely as he might have an hour ago. It’s too likely to get them captured. Instead he shifts his route according to the flow of the crowd, takes a shortcut past another unattended info-port, checks updates. Princess Organa and Jyn Erso’s absconding from their cells has been confirmed. Holoimages of the princess, but not of Jyn Erso, have been distributed to ‘troopers around the station. Cassian’s disguise will work well on her, for all it endangers Cassian himself. No alerts as of yet in regards to Cell Block CT-47. In truth, he is uncertain if the guards are even completely aware of Cassian’s absence. K-2SO is unable to entirely describe what had happened when Ben had swept into the cell block—a quiet discussion, a guard politely handing over his clothes—but he is certain that something happened. He would have theorized that Ben carries some kind of chemical-based subduing agent, easily released into the air, had Ben not shifted his cloak aside and revealed the lightsaber on his hip. There is only a 0.04% possibility that a Jedi could have survived the Purge, but all the same, the evidence is there, and thus he assimilates it into the network of information in his databanks. Presumably Ben is a Force-user of some sort, along the same lines of Chirrut Îmwe. The lightsaber itself is more troubling. Stolen, discovered, hunted down, a prize. Possibly handcrafted, somehow. Ben is old enough, estimation wise, to have lived before the Empire. It is possible that he could have made it himself.

This is irrelevant to the issues at hand. He checks for alerts from maintenance—nothing, as of yet, though there are records of members of the maintenance division being sent to the medical bay for inspection—and then detaches from the info-port, and continues on his way.

Unwise. All of this is unwise. Dedicating as much energy as they are to the preservation of people who have little to do with them—though the Princess Organa is not a part of this list, he admits, grudgingly, as she is, technically, a part of the Rebellion as well—is just going to get them all caught and killed. Though it does bode well that the Princess, and not Jyn, is the one with her face plastered across the station. It makes it much more likely that Jyn—and thus, Cassian, presumably—will be able to escape, with the plans if his percentages hold up, and the princess and the bumblers being recaptured and killed. It is not an entirely happy scenario, but it is still a better one than it could be.

They won’t leave each other. Just trust me on that.

He has never seen Cassian like this. This is, perhaps, why Cassian will not discuss Scarif. K-2SO ponders that idea as he steps into the elevator, folds his hands, watches the lights flicker. He has seen Cassian grievously injured, over and over; he has seen Cassian raw and unhappy; he has seen Cassian after barfights and assassinations; he has seen Cassian working until he dropped and flying until he slept and racing away from nightmares,  and he has never once seen Cassian like this. He has never seen Cassian come undone this way.

You died for her.

He cannot think of a scenario in which he would die for Jyn Erso. At least, not for Jyn Erso alone. K-2SO joins a group of Stormtroopers leaving the elevator, turns right, steps away and down the hall, towards Bay 9. People shift out of his way. He is certain that Cassian will have told him the truth, or, at least, Cassian’s perception of the truth, but he cannot postulate a circumstance in which he would wind up dying for Jyn Erso. He does not even like Jyn Erso. Cassian is the one who likes Jyn Erso. Cassian is the one who trusts her. Not K-2SO.

Not entirely accurate. He does not trust her with most things. He does trust her with Cassian, to a point. They won’t leave each other, Bodhi had said, and for Cassian he now knows this is true—the kind of true that is inarguable, regardless of its ridiculousness—but he had doubted Jyn Erso until the observation deck. He knows little of her range of expressions, but the look on her face at the sight of Cassian is indelible. There are certain kinds of looks that are extraordinarily difficult to fake, and he thinks that might have been one of them. Primarily relief. The lines around her mouth and eyes had faded. Fear in the edges of her face, wrinkling her forehead. She’d smiled. K-2SO cannot recall ever really seeing Jyn Erso smile before. There have been few circumstances since her liberation on Wobani which would have encouraged a smile, but there is little about Jyn Erso to indicate she smiles often anyway. In spite of that—nature, circumstance, situation—she'd smiled at Cassian. It means something.

A blaster sounds out.

K-2SO stops walking. There is a hallway midway between Bay 7 and Bay 9, and the Stormtroopers—guards, eleven posted to the Falcon, more to the Last Hope—are moving towards it. K-2SO is unable to see what is happening inside, but there is a low hum, a buzzing retort, the rattle of blaster fire. A bolt jets through the air, and a ‘trooper falls off his feet, tumbles backwards over a box, and is still.  He cannot identify the source of the buzzing, and it snags at him. It should be familiar, he thinks. Too large for a vibroblade, too low for any kind of firearm. He does not recognize it.

He shifts, two steps to the left, and it spreads out like a battlefield. Ben is there. The old man, ringed with ‘troopers. Most of them, K-2SO believes, are dead. More are flooding down the hallway. He seems almost bored, Ben. The lightsaber never stills, never slows. He is trained. K-2SO can see it, even as he activates the recorder in his ocular systems. It’s in the flow of his movements, the shift of one foot over the other, the snap of the wrist. It is preternatural. Jedi, it slips into place in his informational map, and despite the unlikeliness of the circumstance, it must be, because there is no way that a normal humanoid would be able to deflect a bolt to the back into the body of another Stormtrooper otherwise. Not without looking. Ben does it again, and again, and again. Ben can see him, K-2SO is certain of it, but he says nothing, doesn’t react. Instead, he spins, sweeps his ‘saber through the body of one ‘trooper, angles up and knocks aside the blaster bolt of another. He should provide assistance, K-2SO thinks, and then stops himself. There is little he could do against so may Stormtroopers that Ben is incapable of doing himself, and to reveal himself as a double-agent surrounded by the enemy is criminally stupid.

“What are you doing?” says a voice. A ‘trooper. A lieutenant, by the markers on his armor. He stands shorter than Cassian, broader. “Are you blind? Go after him!”

“That is idiotic,” says K-2SO. “Also, not within my job description.”

A blaster bolt clips the lieutenant in the chest before he can reply. He falls. K-2SO steps over his corpse, and makes for the Bay 9 info-port. If there is a time to set off the bomb, he reasons, it is now.

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When she’d been very little, her father had told her stories about the Jedi. She can’t remember most of them. Saw had told her more. Warriors, Jyn. But even the strongest can fall to treachery. Even the slyest can be tricked. She’d clutch her crystal as a child, fancy she could hear it singing even though she never could. It had helped, on long nights without her parents. It had helped, on the hard days when she’d felt too weak to take another step.

The crystal’s never burned so hot as it is right now.

It’s beautiful, she thinks. She’s never seen anyone fight like this. Smooth as water, as fine silk. Gleaming blue. The old man—old, young, immeasurable—he almost seems to dance through it. She would have killed for a teacher like that, as a child. She would have murdered for it. The Stormtroopers are nothing, are immaterial. 

Ben, Skywalker had said.

Who the hell is Ben?

“Jyn.”

It’s K-2. Jyn jumps, and steadies herself with a hand on her gun. He turns, and tucks his head in, looking at her.

“Two minutes,” he says.

“Where’s Bodhi?”

He points at two crates. Bodhi’s crammed between them, back to the fight. He’s seen them. He’s watching them. His lips thin out, and he tips his head towards the Last Hope, flapping both hands. The haunting sweep of the blue blade echoes on the backs of her eyelids.

“Cassian?” he says.

“I’ll get him,” says Jyn. “Get on board.”

K-2SO doesn’t argue with her. He turns, and walks away. They’re never going to get another chance like this, she thinks, as she ducks past a group of ‘troopers racing to die. Not at all. Not again. They go now, or they’re done. They go now, or the plans are lost forever.

Cassian has his stolen blaster on her when she opens the door. His eyes are burning.

“Come,” she says. “Quietly.”

“Oh, dear,” says the golden droid, but he obeys. “Oh, dear.”

Jyn puts her hand on the dome of the astromech as it passes, and wonders if she’s imagining the tingle in her fingers.

They almost make it. They’re almost there. It’s the flash of the protocol droid’s metal skin that gives them away, a flicker of gold, and a Stormtrooper turns around. “Hey,” he says, and there’s no time to wait. Jyn shoots first, and the ‘trooper hits the ground with a hole in the head. No time. They’re too close. The kyber crystal scorches hot at the skin over her sternum. Cassian dives behind a shipping container, and C-3PO and R2-D2 hide behind another. R2-D2 whistles, loud and sharp.

Stop them,” shouts a ‘trooper, and then he falls, a blaster bolt to the throat. Cassian. On his far side, two ‘troopers take aim, and Jyn fires before they can pull the trigger, one, two, both down. She’s shielded on one side, and Cassian on the other. Cover.

Bodhi creeps from crate to crate.

It’s the screeching that gets her attention, more than anything. Jyn twists her neck, her shoulder screaming, just in time to see one of the shipping containers—packed to the brim, full of weapons, of blasters—yank itself across the floor to slam six ‘troopers up against the wall. A TIE fighter suspended above the ship between the Falcon and the Last Hope detaches, and smashes a stack of shipping containers to pieces with a sound that makes her skull echo. ‘troopers scatter. The old man, Ben, lowers his hand, and knocks another blaster bolt away. The cargo bay ramp lowers, bit by excruciating bit. 

“Oh, my,” says C-3PO, and finally she wrenches around to glare at him.

“Get on the ship,” she says. “Get on the ship, get on, go—”

“This is all very unnecessarily dramatic,” says C-3PO, but he scoots up the ramp anyway. The astromech follows. One, two. Something small and childish and hysterical giggles in the back of her head. One, two, go to the zoo. It’s her mother’s voice. Three, four, Jedi on the shore. At the base of the ramp, Bodhi’s stuck between two boxes. Beyond, Cassian fires twice, three times, shouts at him. “Go,” he says, “go,” and Bodhi scrabbles up the ramp. He’s midway when a rebounded blaster bolt catches him in the leg. Bodhi goes down hard, blood and snapping bone. She’s not sure if she screams. She thinks she might. Maybe. Jyn swings up onto the ramp, scrambling, drags his arm around her shoulders.

“Don’t,” he says, “Cassian—cover—”

“Cassian’s right behind you, Bodhi, come on, up—”

It’s a lie. She doesn’t look back to see if she’s wrong. Together, they stagger up into the loading bay. K-2’s nowhere to be seen. Underneath her boots, the ship’s warming, vibrating. Bodhi hisses through his teeth when she eases him onto the floor, hands on his leg. R2-D2 and C-3PO are hidden behind the shipping container. Weapons, she thinks, bombs, but there’s no time to open the secret compartment, and down below there’s another wave of blaster fire. Jyn skids down the ramp, and nearly flies off her feet when she slips in the small pool of blood. Bodhi’s blood. It smears on her boots, and sticks there, stains. She doesn’t have the time to care.

She can’t see Cassian, at first. Something knots tight around her throat, strangling. Jyn darts another look over the top of her crate, catches a smear of black in the hallway. Vader. Her heart stumbles and falls. Vader. Vader with a red blade. They’re too far away for her to hear them, for all that Ben’s mouth is moving. They’re talking. Run. She wants to scream it at him. Run. Run before you die. The red blade catches on Ben’s blue, smearing white where they join, like a shattering star. A blaster bolt whisks over her hair, so close she can smell it burning. She peers up, and over again, and fires back. Twice, three times, someone hits the ground, and she’s moving again, around the crate. She can see Cassian, now, a smear of white and black against an empty shipping container. Fifteen feet. He’s too far away. He sees her, and his eyes go wide and frightened. He jerks a hand at the ship. Go.

Jyn shakes her head, and looks up at the ceiling. TIE fighters and pilots. More Stormtroopers flooding from every crack.

Go,” Cassian shouts at her. “Take off!”

She should. She won’t. She’s not leaving him. She can’t. She doesn’t bother to try and explain. Jyn resettles her hands on the gun, peers around the crate, and fires. Another Stormtrooper hits the floor. Beyond, there’s a whirl of cloaks. Ben’s so small, compared to Vader. Soft, earthen, worn. Vader’s unstoppable. Vader’s a machine. He won’t stop coming. The red blade casts smears on the walls like blood. She can’t get to Cassian without getting shot; she can’t—

Boom. It rattles her teeth. It rattles her bones. Boom. The overhead lights flicker, and vanish, and flicker on again. There’s the gleam of the ‘sabers, blue and red; the glare of the blaster bolts. On and off and on again, all static. White flashes in and out of her vision. ‘troopers, crates. Jyn watches the blaster bolts, and fires in the dark, over and over until the kyber crystal flares like a coal against her chest. Further down, past the hall, more shots ring out. Leia, she thinks. Skywalker. Cassian swears, and up above, something else blows. The whole hangar shakes, a child’s toy.

When it goes dark again, Jyn lunges. She’s half-blind when she closes her hand around Cassian’s arm, drags him up. “Remind me to kill you,” she says, hissing into his ear, and then drags him sideways, behind another crate. Her blaster’s too hot. It’s going to overheat. When they scramble past a fallen ‘trooper, she snags his blaster, tosses the old one aside. The emergency lighting’s finally kicked in, and the ‘troopers are scattering everywhere, confused, a thousand angry white hornets. Baze, she thinks, Baze would be brilliant here, Baze and his cannon and his fantastic aim. It’s just her and Cassian, though, and the ship—

The Last Hope is moving.

Cassian puts it together before she does. He rams into her, slams her to the floor, and she’s trying not to swear at him for crushing her shoulder against the metal when fire blooms in the air above. Someone’s fired a cannon into the command center at the top of the hangar. K-2. She’s going to kiss the damn robot. Transparisteel shatters around them. Jyn pushes at Cassian’s chest, and he’s already swaying back, dragging her up as she yanks at him, on their feet. There are flecks of steel in his hair. The Last Hope wobbles, steadies. The cargo bay doors are still open. She can see Bodhi back there, sitting on the floor. She has a very strong image of his eyes, though she’d been too far away to really make them out. So wide the whites showed all the way around the irises.

It’s a wash of flickering images. She drags Cassian up onto a crate by the back of his shirt. She jumps. Her knees give underneath her as she lands. Something jams hard into her solar plexus. “Go,” Bodhi shouts, somewhere close. Another something, metallic this time, hits the floor with a clang and a perturbed, “Well.” She can’t catch her breath. When she opens her eyes, Cassian’s half-sprawled on her legs. He’d elbowed her in the ribs. Jyn heaves herself up on her arms, looks out the hatch. The bay doors are closing. Blaster bolts rebound off the durasteel.

Out of the two sabers, only the red one is still glowing. She’s cold.

He’s gone.

“One of you ought to help me,” says K-2 over the intercom. “I presume hostiles will be fast approaching. As for the rest of you, hold on or fly out the hatch.”

“Well,” says the golden protocol droid again, in a much different voice. It’s on the floor, flat on its back like a grumpy crab. “He’s still not learned any manners, I see.”

“Bodhi,” says Cassian, and Jyn looks from Cassian, lips pale, to Bodhi. Bodhi’s leaning forward, hands on his leg, but—no. Blood. There’s blood, on the floor. Enough for her heart to seize. Enough for her to stop breathing.

“I, ah. Mm.” Bodhi looks up at them. His eyes get wider, wider. “I don’t—I don’t think it’s supposed to bleed this much, I don’t—”

Cassian looks at her, and the moment stretches out into infinity. Who? Which of us? “Go,” he says, and gets up onto his hands and knees. “The ladder—go. Bodhi, deep breaths, don’t—take deep breaths.”

She goes. Jyn slows only for a second by Bodhi, grips his bloody hand. It smears warm between her fingers. You will survive this, she wants to say, you’ll beat this, but she’s too winded. She can’t speak at all. Then she’s up the ladder, and gone.

Her arm nearly gives out halfway to the cockpit. When Jyn heaves herself in, barely breathing, K-2 turns just enough to register her on the edge of his vision. “About time,” he says. “I thought you’d died down there.”

“Less trash talk,” says Jyn, and slams into the co-pilot’s chair, nearly breaking her hip on the nav-computer as she lands. “Keep them off us.”

“What else would I be doing? Flying us right back into the hangar?”

Something hysterical and burbly pops out her mouth. “Nav-computer set,” she says, and swivels away. The hatch down to the gunnery bay is right at her feet. She slithers down, down. Settles in the chair, fusses with the headset. “I read five incoming.”

“There should be more.”

“I know,” says Jyn. She doesn’t think about how she used to do this for Saw, for Magva. For Benthic and Edrio. She looks up, and finds K-2SO looking down at her. “Get us the hell out of here, K.”

They run.

Chapter Text

He lets himself drift.

It’s familiar, and it isn’t. It’s the bacta tank, but it’s not, because he’s tugged himself free; he can follow a cord, a line, draw himself back to the world. He floats in the current, lets it bear him where it will. Far and near. Scraps of sound, echoes of red and blue and yellow. Like temple bells of different sizes, pinging in different tones. Color is sound and sound is color, blazing on the edges of the world. Rhythms and patterns. There’s Baze, nearby, mustard sharp. The Admiral. Mon Mothma, following her own path through the Light. Draven, further, deeper in shadow. More. The swirl of Yavin. The echo of the galaxy. He drifts, and rebounds off of all of them, spiraling into the echoes.  

There’s a great hole, somewhere. Where the knot had been. Like a tooth that’s been pulled before its time, like the wound left by a blaster bolt, like  Far and near and back and forth. A rend in the cloth. A tear that’s bleeding, jagged at the edges. He can’t get too close. If he gets too close, he’ll be dragged in. He darts around the corners, tries to follow the strings. There are too many empty spaces, now. Too many black holes. When he listens, he just hears space echoing back.

let us go, it’s the only

only one who

go, take off—

oh, says a voice, and he draws back from it. It’s not a thread, this voice. There’s a consciousness to it that burns brighter than a star. Hello.

Chirrut draws back from it.

You’ve come very far for one with no real training. The accent’s Coruscanti. Carefully maintained. So, so tired. The Force buckles where it rests, as if there’s a weight that shouldn’t exist. It’s impressive.

He pulls further away. Further and further.

They’ll need you, says the voice. The Rebellion will need you. He’ll need you.

There’s no reason for the Rebellion to need him, not really. He’s a monk with no temple, no city, with more luck than he knows what to do with, with a star still burning bright at the edges of his mind. He’s not following the Rebellion, not really. He’d followed Jyn. If she left, he’d probably follow again, and Baze would follow him.

Why do you follow Jyn? It sounds almost curious, the voice. He should know better than to respond, but there’s nothing bad about it, not that he can tell. It threads within the Force, it doesn’t push through it. It flows. Only a powerful Force user could manage this, no matter how far he’s reached out, and only one in the Light could keep to the flow so well. Why keep following her?

The strongest stars have hearts of kyber. It had sung to him, in the market. The kyber crystal. Hummed and whispered and trilled out a melody that he’d thought lost. He’s still trailing it. He can’t help it. Drawn along in the wake of a star that doesn’t know her own shine, bright as lightning. The Rebels had seen it on Scarif. He’s seen it since Jedha. Stars that burn that bright fall eventually, but this one—he’ll do a great deal, to make sure it doesn’t burn itself out.

I see, says the voice.

He can’t speak, in the Force. He’s not strong enough. He tries very hard.

My name? says the voice, and some of the exhaustion fades. It seems almost amused. Have you always been this curious, Master Îmwe?

He’s not sure there’s any answer to that that he can actually give.

You can call me Ben, says the voice, if you like. It falls quiet. Then: Be careful. It won’t be long before I’m not the only one listening.

Chirrut slips back under the waves.

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.

.

Jyn clambers down from the cockpit about twenty minutes after they make the jump to hyperspace. There’s blood smeared on her cheek. Bodhi’s, he thinks. It has to be Bodhi’s, though she moves her arm like she’s wrenched the shoulder, like she’s split the wound open again and it’s bleeding into the Imperial blacks. Cassian hasn’t sat down. Bodhi had fainted about ten minutes into the process of stabilizing his leg, and it’s probably the only reason Cassian had managed to stabilize him with the Last Hope shuddering like a bomb around them. His hands are still shaking from the adrenalin, and he can’t settle himself. He can’t sit. Sitting would mean thinking it’s over, and he can’t help the feeling that it’s not going to be over for a long time yet.  

“How is he?” says Jyn.

Cassian wipes his palms on his trousers, and only succeeds in smearing blood everywhere. His hands jitter. He hasn’t had to do emergency first aid like that in a long time. He runs with a droid. He does solo missions. It had twisted his brain to invert what he knew about wounds he’d treated on himself, to apply it to someone else. Invert everything. “The blaster bolt went through his leg, cauterized things mostly, but it snapped a tendon on the way. When he fell he broke bone. Punctured an artery. I managed to get it all closed up again, but he shouldn’t be moved until someone with training looks at him.”

And they’re out of bone stabilizer because of his back. A hundred things flicker across Jyn’s face. She looks to the corner, at Bodhi, Bodhi pressed to the back wall of the cargo bay. There’s still a pool of blood on the floor. She says, “You saved him.”

“How many followed us?” says Cassian, because he doesn’t want to talk about that. There’s blood underneath his fingernails. He’d darted up the ladder for the medkit, and hasn’t dared leave since. He doesn’t want to think about what will happen if he leaves and Bodhi moves too much.

“Seven,” says Jyn.

"That's not enough."

"No." She wipes her hands over her face. "We knocked them out of the sky eventually. K-2’s running a scan on all ship systems, trying to see if they’ve locked onto us somehow. He doesn’t want to drop out of hyperspace until he’s sure we’re not being followed.”

And with so few TIE fighters chasing after them on the way out, it's almost a guarantee that they are. Cassian goes to rub at his eyes, and realizes that if he does he’ll smear blood on his face.

“Sir,” says the golden protocol droid, and they both turn at once. C-3PO shifts, like the attention is too much. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but—but is there any word of our companions?”

Jyn’s mouth fades into a line. “They made the jump to hyperspace without getting blasted,” she says. “That’s all I saw.”

The astromech whistles, and gutters out into something almost like a whine.

Cassian looks down at his hands. Blood, smeared over the backs. Broken nails. When he looks up at Jyn again, she’s watching him. Her eyes are sharp as shattered steel, and her fists knot and unknot at her sides. She says, “Eleven hours in hyperspace.”

“Forgive me for asking, but—” C-3PO tilts sideways again, like a puppet with severed strings. “I believe it is only—only seven hours to Yavin IV from Alderaan, Miss—”

“Sergeant,” says Cassian, just as Jyn says “Jyn.” They look at each other, and then away again. C-3PO glances down at the astromech, and then up.

“Sergeant Jyn,” it says, slowly. He, Cassian corrects himself. He says slowly. The protocol droid has an identity. So does the astromech. If he keeps thinking of the droids purely as the plans he’s going to go insane. “I am unclear as to—”

“You want to get caught again? We go the long way.”

Cassian says, “Do we have enough fuel for that?”

Jyn lifts her good shoulder in half a shrug, “K-2 wants to make a stop in the Kushibah system. He says there’s a Rebel outpost there, and it's close enough to Yavin IV that if we have to we could have someone make a pick-up.”

“There is.” He hasn’t been there in eighteen months, has no idea what the place is like at the moment, has no clue if they’ve been alerted to watch out for a rogue group of Rebels or no, but it’s less risky than stopping in Imperial space. “We should plan to be in and out fast. This ship doesn’t have the entry codes, K-2 is going to have to reprogram the whole of the mainframe to manage it. If they alert anyone in Base One, then—”

He stops, then. Then we’ll be captured sounds wrong and right at once. Technically they’re mutineers, after a fashion. Rogue, Bodhi had said. Rogue One. They won’t be welcomed with open arms, not by any of Alliance High Command. They’ll probably be separated as soon as they land on Yavin IV. Put into debrief, into medical. Possibly into custody.

Cassian considers that, and wonders at the lack of regret.

“Sit down,” says Jyn, and that brings him out of himself. She stares at Cassian’s hands, and then turns. “You sit. I’ll—sit.”

With that, she’s gone, favoring her arm on the way back up the ladder. On the floor, Bodhi murmurs, face twisting. He doesn’t move. Cassian doesn’t sit; he stands, and shifts until he’s leaning against the mostly empty shipping container, arms folded, watching Bodhi, watching the droids, watching the ladder. He thinks, for a moment, about hitting comms to talk to K-2, and then decides against it. If K’s running security checks and reprogramming the Last Hope to Alliance code, then he’ll be unreachable for an hour, at least.

The blankets drop down first, a mass of brown and green. Then his duffel, lumpy on one side, inexpertly repacked after the mess the Stormtroopers left behind. His blue jacket. A small bag. Jyn slides down last, only using one hand. She’s taken her boots off, peeled away the Imperial disguise, and her bare toes curl on the rungs of the ladder. “The blankets are for him,” she says, but Cassian’s already on his way to help. Blood loss in space can kill. C-3PO murmurs something to the astromech, but it’s too low for Cassian to make it out over the engines. They tuck the blankets in around Bodhi, and Jyn folds up what’s left of the duffel to slip it under Bodhi’s head. It’s all they can do, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. When it’s done, she says, “Sit down.”

“Won’t get back up if I do,” says Cassian, stupidly. Jyn’s eyes shadow. She’s even smaller barefoot, somehow. Maybe it’s how pale she is. There’s blood smeared all down the front of her borrowed shirt, new and old. Cassian reaches out to touch her, and she shies back.

“Jyn,” he says, but she turns away to look at the droids. There’s no expression on her face, looking at them. The greed is gone. The fire is gone. She looks at them, and she looks empty.

“What do they call you?” she says, and C-3PO perks up like a flower.

“I am C-3PO,” he says. “Human-cyborg relations. And this is my companion, R2-D2.”

Jyn reaches out, like she’s going to touch R2-D2, and then she stops. She doesn’t seem to be able to.

“Jyn,” says Cassian again, quietly. She doesn’t move. She looks at R2-D2, and then she looks at Bodhi, and her hands finally fold up into tight fists. She’s trembling. Cassian doesn’t dare touch her. She looks like she’ll fracture to pieces, if he does. “Sit.”

She gives him a look that’s so filthy and furious that he about comes out of his skin. “Hypocrite.”

“Yes,” says Cassian, because it’s true. He’s tired. He’s never been as tired as this. “Please sit.”

Her eyes flick to his face, and stick there. Jyn’s on the balls of her feet when she shifts around Bodhi, and she steps close enough that Cassian should lean away, but he doesn’t. They stand there, not touching, until she lifts both eyebrows.

“I will if you will,” she says.

“K-2—”

“Cassian,” she says, and it’s angry and tender all at once. “Sit.”

It’s a million things in two words. K-2 is piloting. You’re hurt. Bodhi’s hurt. We have the plans. We’re almost home. There’s nothing left for you to do. He sits down. More like slides, really. He lets his knees go out from under him and slides all the way down to the chill floor of the cargo bay. Jyn stands there for a moment, caught between them, the astromech and Cassian, before finally she drags the last, unused blanket and dumps it on him. Cassian’s not quite sure what to do with the lump of fabric in his lap for a moment. He just looks at her, and she sits down too, folding her legs like Chirrut, facing him. The shirt she’d stolen from him is ruined, scarlet in the overbright lights.

“There’s no bacta left, is there,” she says, and he shakes his head. The medkit is open and empty. The only thing left is a few bandages, so old and grey that they should only be used for lighting fires. “No more firefights, then.”

The thought of another firefight is enough to make him want to pass out. “You say that, we’ll have one.”

Her eyebrow arches, but she doesn’t deny it. Jyn looks back at the astromech, and doesn’t blink.

“We take it back,” says Cassian. “To the Rebellion.”

“If we can get there,” Jyn says, brittle. “If nothing happens on Kushibah.”

“We’ll get there.” There isn’t another option. It’s what they have to do. They take the plans back, they turn them over, and then—then it goes blank, because he hasn’t thought beyond the plans. Not in great detail. They’ve been moving so fast that he hasn’t actually thought about it, beyond this, her being here, alive in the end. And him with her, somehow, impossibly. “We’ll get there. K-2 will take us there.” 

She nods once, and hisses sharp through her teeth when it tugs at her shoulder.

“Let me see,” he says, and Jyn shies back again. The crystal’s fallen through the collar of her shirt to shine dull and milky against the fabric, and one side is smeared with dried blood. However long her shoulder’s been bleeding, it’s enough to make her pale in a way that’s more dead than alive. “Jyn—”

“It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine.”

“The bleeding’s stopped. Looks worse than it is.”

“Jyn.”

“You,” she says, and then snaps her mouth shut. Jyn turns her face away from him, and from the astromech, to stare at the cargo bay doors. Something stirs in the back of his throat. Frustration, maybe. Irritation. Relief. Pure, unfettered. Alive. They’re both alive. Cassian shifts the blanket off his lap, and rests his hands on his knees.

“You’re angry.”

“Because you’re an idiot,” Jyn spits, and takes the blanket back. She twists it between her hands, and steals a look at C-3PO, at R2-D2. She drops her voice. “You told me to go.”

“The plans are more important,” he says, and she goes so stiff that she almost shatters, her shoulders creeping up towards her ears. “You know that.”

“Then you should have left me behind on Eadu,” Jyn says, through her teeth, an awful kind of whisper. It breaks past his ribs, shatters them. Cassian lets out a gusting breath. He can’t stop himself. “If that’s how you want to play it, then you should have left me behind on Eadu instead of risking everything—”

He bites his tongue on everything he wants to say. “That isn’t the same.”

“Seems like the same thing to me,” says Jyn. She chucks the blanket back at him. It hits him in the face, falls to his knees. “Hypocrite.”

“Yes,” he says again. There’s no other real answer to that. “Jyn—”

“I thought you were dead,” she says. Her voice cracks. “You came back on Onderon, and—and Scarif and Eadu and Jedha, and I’m not supposed to come back for you?”

“Jyn—”  

“You said you were with me,” she says. There’s damp on her eyelashes. “Did you actually mean it?”

Yes,” he says, and she flinches, just a little, at how he sounds, but Cassian can’t coach his voice to stillness with this, he can’t, not now, not with her. “I meant that, don’t say that I didn’t, I meant that, I mean it—”

“But you’ll still ask me to leave you to die.” Her voice is brittle. “I thought—”

She doesn’t seem to be able to say it, whatever it is. Her throat works, over and over. Jyn smears her bloody hand over her cheeks, wiping away the tears before they start. It leaves marks behind.   

“If it had been me,” she says, “would you have left me?”

“No,” says Cassian. It spills out of him like blood. “I—no.”

She stares at him for so long that his lungs start to ache with it. Then, very slowly, she shifts. She’s in reach, now. The cloth of his stolen shirt is stuck to her shoulder, wet and tacky, and her eyes are red. Jyn searches his face like she’s trying to break a code, and Cassian has to stop breathing to make sure he doesn’t look away. He can’t look away. Not from her.

“You ever do that again,” she says, “I will shoot you.”

Relief swamps him from top to toe. He nods, once, and this time when he lifts his hand, brushes his fingers down her arm, she doesn’t yank away from him. Jyn closes her eyes, and eases closer, like she’s trying to nestle around a live mine. She touches his knee, his ribs, and then draws her hand back, scalded. Sharp smoke clings to her hair. She finds the small bag, ferrets around in it for a second, and then produces a ragged cloth, torn from an old shirt. A bottle of water. She wets it down, and offers it to him. Cassian takes the cloth, very carefully, and wipes Bodhi’s blood from his hands. He doesn’t get all of it—he can’t get all of it with just water—but he clears off most of it, and when she goes to take it back from him Cassian says, “Give me your hand.”

Jyn stills, and looks at him. Her eyes are Yavin green, when she does, her mouth hard and soft at once. Very slowly, she offers both hands. Thin fingers, hard callus. Cassian takes one, the right, curls his fingers around her wrist to shift her hand palm up. It’s only the one hand, really, that’s bloody, but he takes his time with it, because he can. Because they have the time for him to take his time. She has small hands, Jyn Erso. Her nails are trimmed almost low enough to be painful. There’s a scar along the length of her thumb, so faint that it’s almost impossible to see. He only knows it’s there by touch, when he shifts the cloth aside to see if he’s missed any of the blood and runs his index finger down the line of the mark by accident. When he looks at her again, he’s caught in her eyes, and stuck there.

“Knife accident,” she says, finally. She’s hoarse. “A while ago.”

They’re still, for a bit. Cassian drags his eyes back to her hand, but it’s clean, now. He finds the water bottle again, wets the cloth down. When he looks at her in a silent question, Jyn creeps even closer, and sits absolutely still. The smear of blood on her cheek comes away easily, new and fresh, but he takes his time with this, too, fingertips to her chin. She lets him. Her hands curl tight in the fabric of her pants, knees bent, and she’s watching him, his face. It’s making him itch. At the end of it, he settles with his hands on his knees, leans away from her before he’s completely undone. There’s something burning around her mouth that he can’t read.

“Give it to me,” she says.

Their hands collide when she takes the cloth. Jyn wets it down one last time, folding it to a triangle, and then she settles back on her heels, knees bumping into his hip. When she smooths the cloth over his cheek, his jaw, around the split from the rifle butt, it’s with a kind of gentleness that nearly peels him to pieces. She keeps her gaze locked on the mark, on the bruising, two fingers against his jaw to keep him from moving. He wants to tell her he couldn’t move even if he tried, that he’s stuck fast, but he can’t speak. She touches the cloth to his split lip, so very carefully, and Cassian has to shut his eyes against the blaze of her. He doesn’t open them again until she’s finished. Jyn rests her fingertips to his healing collarbone, and then draws back, like it’s stolen.

Cassian tries to swallow. It doesn’t work out very well. “Jyn.”

She looks at him again, and the words vanish. Slowly, Cassian shifts, and then he lifts one arm, half a question. Jyn’s lips part, and then curve, ever so slightly at the corners.

“Your back,” she says.

“I can manage.”

She wavers, and then says, “If it hurts—”

“I’m fine.”

“Sure,” says Jyn, sourly, but she comes forward anyway. Her shoulder’s a mess, and her ribs, and he can’t move without setting his spine ablaze, but finally she finds a place, ear to his chest, arm over his waist, listening. He looks at the droids, at R2 and 3PO, but the pair of them are still talking, and to be entirely honest he’s not sure he cares anyway. Very, very slowly, Cassian curls his arm around her shoulders, and she breathes out, a long sigh that seems to come from the very soles of her feet.  

“You’re a terrible spy,” she says, half-muffled into his shirt.

Cassian twists her hair around his fingers, mussed and dirty and smoky. “Maybe.”

“Definitely,” says Jyn. “You are definitely a terrible spy.”

“I think Draven would think so, now.”

She presses her nose to his chest, and shuts her eyes.

“Your father would be proud of you,” he says, because he can’t not say it. “Jyn.”

She goes stiff against his side, against his leg. She barely seems to breathe. 

“What is it?”

“You said that before,” she says.

“I did?”

She nods. “On Scarif.”

He doesn’t remember, not really. Cassian says, “It was probably true then, too.”

Jyn shakes her head, but not in a no. Her arm goes tighter around his ribs. He finds the bumps of her spine under his fingertips, the sweep of her shoulder blades. She resettles, and then her head’s on his leg, and he gives into it, the temptation to thread his fingers into her hair. Jyn sighs again, and all at once she’s asleep. Her lashes cast shadows against her cheekbones. He shifts, finds the arm of his jacket, and drags the whole mess of it up over her shoulder—it’s awkward, and it isn’t long enough to cover all of her no matter how tiny she is, not when he can barely move to grab the thing in the first place. Still, she settles underneath it without budging, and her hand knots into a fist over his knee.

She hasn’t slept, he realizes. At least, not in a way he’s noticed. Not since before Onderon, not since the nightmare that had left her gasping and shaking and thieving a knife from him, clutching at it, her hand on her blaster. Unless she’d slept when he had, she hasn’t shut her eyes at all. The raw energy had hidden it, but—Jyn. He rests his fingertips to her cheekbone. Jyn.

“Captain Andor,” says C-3PO. Jyn doesn’t stir. “I’m sorry to disturb you, sir, but—”

“Can it wait?” says Cassian. He has to swallow before he manages it. “Whatever it is.”

“I believe so, sir.”

“Later, then.”

“If you say so, sir,” says C-3PO. Then: “Only I was wondering if—”

“If you wake her,” says Cassian, not looking up from Jyn, “I will personally melt you down and turn you into paperweights for Draven’s desk.”

C-3PO shuts up immediately. 

Chapter Text

When Jyn wakes, it’s from a dream of snow. Endless and spreading everywhere, wide and flat, a world of white, flakes falling without ceasing, large as coins. She’s alone in the silence, watching it fall, the clouds spread wide and silvery like a sheet of stars. When she opens her eyes, her cheeks are wet, and there are damp places on the fabric of Cassian’s pants where she’d left her head. Cassian’s asleep, and something in that startles her. He’s asleep, and more than that, he’s deep enough in sleep that he doesn’t even twitch when she pulls away, when she slips out from underneath his hand and sits up and watches him for a bit, wondering. It’s not the heavy kind of sleep from sickbay, not from sedation, or from pain. It’s just pure, exhausted sleep. He looks younger, she thinks, startled. He looks much younger when his eyes are closed.

She doesn’t know how old he is. She doesn’t know how old Bodhi is, either, but that doesn’t hit her in the same way, doesn’t make her stop and blink. She’d been ready to die with him, happy, even, to die with him, and she doesn’t even know how old he is. She doesn’t know where he came from, or who his parents were, or any of it. All the little things you’re supposed to know about someone. She has ragged threads from a patchwork that’s drenched in shadow, and the few shreds she does have don’t fit together right. He’d started when he was six, she knows that. I was eight. He was six. He’d stolen K when he was nineteen. Seven years ago. He’s twenty-six. Jyn touches the back of his hand with one fingertip, and watches him breathe for a minute or two. Twenty years. The Empire hadn’t even existed when he’d started fighting.

I meant it, he’d said. I mean it.

Jyn rests her palm to his cheek, and Cassian doesn’t wake. He doesn’t make a sound. His beard’s rough and soft at once, tickling at her fingers. She pulls away, and rubs at her sternum to try and ease the ache.

“Ah,” says a voice. The protocol droid. C-3PO, human-cyborg relations. His arms shift about, stiff and unhappy-looking. “Good evening, Sergeant. It is good to see you on your feet again. I was wondering—”

Jyn puts her hand up, and the droid shuts up. Cassian hasn’t stirred. When R2-D2 whistles, low and curious, he doesn’t even twitch. She wants to nudge him onto the floor, get him to spread out, but she doesn’t want to wake him, either. Finally, she compromises with draping the forgotten blanket over his legs. Her shirt catches on the peeling bacta patch. Jyn looks back at the golden protocol droid, and then finally just strips the bloody shirt off. She can’t stand to have it touching her anymore. It slaps the metal when she drops it to the floor, wet and slick and loud as snapping wood, and she freezes, but none of them stir. The patch on her shoulder is soaked through, useless now, but she leaves it on for the moment—she doesn’t have anything to replace it with, and she doesn’t want to stain Cassian’s coat worse than it already is. The collar smells familiar, something like salt and cooking spice and warmth. Jyn curls into the blue jacket, zipping it up the front, swaying up to her feet. There’s a numb kind of dizziness lying in her bones that comes from hard sleep and exhaustion, and it’s making her want to puke.

“Jyn’s fine,” she says, once she’s crept close enough that she’s not worried about waking Cassian. She keeps her voice down anyway. “I’m not really a sergeant.”

“Oh,” says C-3PO. “I apologize most sincerely, miss, I was given to understand that you were a member of the Alliance, I did not mean to cause any offense—”

The astromech whistles. It’s been a long time—a long time, she thinks, dragging herself out of Onderon again—since she’d had to work with an astromech, and she won't trust herself with translating anything complicated, but the binary for suck-up is simple enough. Jyn blinks, and stares at R2-D2.

“You shut up,” says 3PO, and then turns back to her. “Please don’t listen to him, miss, he’s extraordinarily bad-mannered—”

“Don’t worry about it,” says Jyn. She curls her hands up in the pockets of Cassian’s coat. “I’ve met ruder droids, believe me.”

“Don’t say that upstairs,” says Bodhi, in a very raspy voice. “You’ll hurt K’s feelings.”

“Bodhi,” says Jyn, and he lifts a hand from the blankets in a little hello. He’s grey to the lips, his eyes kind of red, but his gaze is clear when she comes to sit next to him, and when she finds his hand, squeezes, his grip is good. His lips wobble, up and down. His throat works. “Hey.”

“Hey, yourself,” says Jyn, and she gets a tiny smile with that one. “You scared us.”

Bodhi holds her hand tighter. “Someone had to get shot. Glad—glad it was me.”

“You wanted to get shot so bad, you could’ve asked me,” says Jyn. Bodhi coughs, half a laugh. “I’d have done it, easy. Ages ago.”

The smile wobbles, and then sticks. Bodhi frets with the edges of the blanket with his free hand. His fingers are shaking just a little in hers, but he doesn’t let go. He doesn’t say a word about Cassian’s coat, either, though he eyes the collar for a moment like he’s considering it.  

“How are you feeling?” she says.

“Um.” Bodhi’s eyes roll up to the ceiling. “Like a rancor stepped on me. And then—possibly tap danced. It’s—it’s hard to tell. Um, every time I move I set fire to my leg, so.”

“Then stop moving,” says Jyn.

“Hard,” says Bodhi. “Sometimes I have to, um. Y’know, I have to breathe.”

She’s so suddenly, fiercely fond of him, in all his broken and shattered pieces, that it actually physically hurts. Jyn squeezes his fingers hard enough to make him wince, and tries to think of something to say that will help. She’s never been great at comfort. Finally, she just says, “We’ll be back in Rebel space soon. You just need to sit for a while longer.”

“If there’s anything I can do,” says C-3PO, and Bodhi smiles again. He shuts his eyes.

“Thanks, 3PO.”

“You’re very welcome, Lieutenant Rook,” says 3PO. “I was wondering, Miss, if you would mind my shutting down for a while. I’m running low on power, I’m afraid, and I would rather be at my best should you need me later.”

R2-D2 makes a revolting noise that requires no translation.

“Go ahead,” says Jyn. “If we need anything we’ll wake you.”

“Thank you, Miss,” says 3PO, and his eyes go out. Jyn looks at R2 for a bit, entranced—the plans, the plans are in there, her father’s plans, the plans so many had died for—and then she has to drag her eyes away. There’s something rising up her throat that feels more like smoke than air.

Bodhi swallows, pulls at her hand, and she snaps herself out of it. She breathes again. “Jyn.”

“Yeah?”

“Alderaan was,” says Bodhi, and then he stops. She thinks he might be trying not to cry. His throat works again, and again. “Jyn, Alderaan—”

“Yeah,” says Jyn again, and he peers at her. His eyes are wet. Bodhi clutches at her hand until it burns, until her fingers ache and her thumb almost pops, and Jyn squeezes back. There are no words for it, not really. Alderaan is gone. We weren’t fast enough. Millions of people. My father’s worst nightmare. We weren’t fast enough, and a whole planet is gone.

There are no words for that. Not in any language in the galaxy.

“Would we have been able to save anyone?” he says. “If we’d sent out a broadcast?”

Her throat closes up. “No,” says Jyn. There’s no point in sugarcoating it. He knows it, and she knows it. He just has to hear it. “The Empire blocked all transmissions before we could get a message out to Baze. Sending a message out to the whole planet would have taken much more time than we had. Even if we did—” She stops, steadies herself, makes her voice cold. “Even if we did most of them wouldn’t have been able to make it out of range in time.”

Bodhi shuts his eyes. In the sharp, awful light of the cargo bay, the tears trickling back across his temples look like streaks of silver. He grips her hand so tight it aches. “We can destroy it,” he says. For the first time, he sounds steady. “We’ll destroy it.”

Dantooine, Leia had said. They’re on Dantooine. The green flash is going to dig into the backs of her eyelids until she dies, whenever that will be. Sooner or later. When she dies, she’ll see that flash of green, over and over and over.

“Where did you meet my father?” Jyn says, and Bodhi blinks at her. He jitters a little, skittering, eyes darting back and forth like he’s tracking something she can’t see. When she goes to pull her hand away, he holds on tighter.

“Eadu,” he says, finally. “In—in the mess, on Eadu. On accident, it was—it was an accident. I think. I, um. Bumped into him. In the line.”

Something about that makes her want to cry, want to smile. She can’t pick between them. “Oh.”

Bodhi fidgets. He picks at the weave of the blankets, not looking at her, drawing his hand out of hers. When he scrapes at a scab between two knuckles, Jyn makes a mental note to find him a pair of gloves. The scars and cuts and scabs on his hands are a patchwork left behind by Bor Gullet, and she could smash Saw in the face, for this. She hates Saw. She misses him, fiercely. She’s never stopped missing him, not since she was sixteen and waiting for months in an empty barracks.

“He missed you,” says Bodhi, blurting it out, and Jyn freezes, looking at him with huge eyes. Bodhi clears his throat. “Galen, I mean. He—he missed you.”

She can’t swallow. Jyn looks up, away from him, at R2-D2. R2 whistles, very quietly.

“I’m surprised he said anything,” says Jyn, because Bodhi clearly expects her to say something. She’s not sure what she can say. The man who’d died on that platform in Eadu, her father, she’d known him so little. For eight years he’d been her papa, and then he’d been gone, and she’d hated him, the Imperial scientist who’d gone in peace with the men who’d killed her mother.

History will forgive me or excoriate me, as is appropriate. I only wish it would forget me.

She can’t forget him. She won’t. He knew they would take him. He knew they’d finish it without him. And he gave us a way out. The father who’d given her toys and promised her the universe, who’d called her Stardust; he’d died on Lah’mu with Lyra. Whoever Bodhi had met, whoever he’d known; that’s a Galen Erso she can never have. It’s the Galen Erso she’d only glimpsed on the landing pad, swallowed by the project, by his carefully constructed lies.

She fought with her every breath. Your father was never very good at it. You’re more like her than him.

“I don’t—” Bodhi twists the blankets between his hands. “He—he didn’t. Not—he said once that he had a daughter, but—but other than that he didn’t say much.”

She’s not sure what else she expected. She’s not sure why it hurts. “Oh.”

“But,” says Bodhi, a little desperate, stumbling over the words. “But he—he asked me once if I’d ever lost anyone, and it—he missed you.”

Her mouth hurts. Her rib hurts. Her eyes burn. She goes to touch the patch on her shoulder, and stops herself. Jyn stands, and swallows it back, all the words lying dormant under her tongue. She can’t say them to Bodhi. They’re meant for her father, and her father’s dead.

If you’re happy, Jyn, then that’s more than enough.

“I’m going to go see how much longer we have until we reach Kushibah.” Jyn folds her arms over her chest, and the bulk of Cassian’s coat almost crushes her. “I’m—I’ll be right back, okay?”

“I’m sorry,” Bodhi says. He twists his fingers. “I didn’t mean—”

“It’s fine.” Her toes are numb. Jyn doesn’t try to force a smile. She doesn’t want to think about what it would look like, with everything she wants to say trapped behind her teeth. She digs through the stolen bag, finds her boots, slips them on. Climbing the ladder with one functional arm and numb toes sounds like a recipe for a broken neck, to her. “I’ll be back. And I’ll, um. I’ll—bring you something.”

She’s not entirely sure whether anything will have been left behind by the Stormtroopers—the supplies Bodhi had bargained for on Onderon had been scattered all over the common area, last she’d looked—but she can try, at least. He needs to eat, and stay hydrated, and something is better than nothing, really. Bodhi nods, head bobbing. “Okay.”

Jyn steals a look back at Cassian. He’s still asleep, propped up against the storage container, hair hanging in his eyes. She says to R2-D2, “Call me if anything changes.”

R2 whistles.

The Kushibah system is tiny and obscure, three miserable planets grouped around a single dying star. The sun barely casts enough light to see by, certainly not enough to grow food without artificial sunlight. It’s a rocky, barren wasteland, not a desert like Jedha or a jungle like Yavin IV. Just rocks, and dry earth, the most stubborn kinds of tough grasses, monsters that burrow beneath the surface to rise up and swallow cities whole. It seems a phenomenally stupid place for any species to settle permanently. She’s pretty certain that no one’s supposed to be settled on Kushibah Prime at all, which is probably why the Rebellion ended up there. The Empire’s not going to look for a Rebel outpost on a planet that’s more shadow than oxygen.

K-2 whirs at her when she finally makes her way up into the cockpit. “There was a tracking device lodged behind the hyperdrive. I have removed and disabled it. And smashed it.”

That explains the bits of wire on the floor, at least. Jyn picks her way around them. “Did they get our heading?”

“It was only set to transmit after we dropped out of hyperspace, to prevent our locating it during a routine check.” K-2SO taps at the nav-computer. “To be safe, I rerouted. It added thirty minutes to our flight plan, however.”

“Let’s just hope that the others realized they were being tracked.”

“Judging by their apparent intelligence levels,” K-2 says, “that is a valid concern.”

She bites her tongue.

“Was there something else you wanted?” says K-2, when she doesn’t head for the ladder. “Or are you going to stand there staring?”

Jyn makes a face, and clambers into the co-pilot’s chair. She thinks K-2 might want to whack her for pulling her knees to her chest and resting her boots on the seat, but then again, she’s fairly certain K-2 always wants to whack her. “How long until we reach the Kushibah system, then?”

“Approximately four hours, seven minutes, thirty-seven seconds.” K-2 doesn’t turn away from the transparisteel. “Why are you in Cassian’s jacket?”

“Because my shirt was ruined.”

“Oh,” says K-2. She’s not sure if he sounds more disapproving or disappointed. “That’s acceptable, I suppose. Temperatures on Kushibah Prime range between minus twenty-eight and minus thirty-one degrees Celsius on average. Lack of protective gear is hazardous, especially to someone as small as you.”

“You do care,” says Jyn, unable to help herself. Badgering K-2 is familiar ground, of a sort. It’s simple, even. She could use some simple at the moment.

“No, actually,” says K-2. “Lieutenant Rook is injured and Cassian should be resting, which leaves you to negotiate the trade. Without a coat you will fall victim to hypothermia and die before the discussions are complete. I cannot do it alone. Unfortunately.”

“Try not to sound too excited,” says Jyn, and considers. “If we can we should try to get some more bacta for Bodhi. Just in case.”

K-2 resettles his hands on the controls. “Has he awakened?”

“Yes.”

She thinks he might actually be relieved. Then K says, “That could present issues if he is discovered.”

“Mm,” says Jyn, and props her chin up on her kneecaps “Only if people see him.”   

“True,” says K-2. “Besides, it is altogether more likely that you will be the one to get us captured. Your Liana Hallik identity did not fare well in regards to negotiation tactics.”

Liana Hallik had decided that fists were better than words when the smuggler she’d been trying to pass stolen goods off to had turned out to be an Imperial informant. It’s why she’d ended up in Wobani. The Imperials hadn’t been able to make the other charges stick, but the aggravated assault and false ident-docs had spoken for themselves. Jyn still owes her splicer a visit for that one. She set me up. Probably to save her own skin, if she’d been caught cutting identities to shreds. Still. “He started it.”

“Or Tanith Pontha,” says K-2, in a voice like battery acid. “Your file indicates the identity was scrapped after an incident with the Hutts. And you disposed of Kestrel Dawn after your job repurposing old ship parts put you on a watchlist in three separate Outer Rim systems.”

“Four,” says Jyn. “Technically. They misspelled it on Tatooine.”

“Well, that’s encouraging,” says K-2SO. “I am fairly certain that if you ever landed on Ryloth you would be arrested immediately.”

She fights off the urge to spit on the floor. “Do you have my whole life in those circuits of yours?”

“Obviously not,” says K-2SO. “Most of it wasn’t interesting.”

“Right,” says Jyn. Something’s jumping in her stomach like a bag of Naboo marsh frogs.  “Of course.”  

“You’re marked as low-priority in regards to recruitment, if it interests you,” says K-2. “Primarily because of your issues with authority.”

“My issues with authority.”

“Yes,” says K-2, pointedly. “Clearly presented by your break with Saw Gerrera, whose iron-control of his faction is well known even amongst the Alliance.”

Nice to know the whole Alliance had managed to get it wrong. Jyn drags her hair back out of her eyes, and doesn’t mention it.

“You have tendency to self-destruct,” says K-2, not paying attention. “An inclination towards unnecessary violence. You are unpredictable and reckless, as illustrated by your behavior on Jedha and Eadu. You appear to be incapable of working with others. You never do things quietly. Instead, you seem to go out of your way to do the exact opposite. None of these things are desirable qualities for a member of the Alliance. In fact, they are the exact qualities the Rebellion tries to avoid.”

Jyn presses her nose to her knees.

“It’s why I think it was a bad idea to bring you in.” K-2 swivels to inspect the fuel gauge when it trills a warning. Five hours remaining. They would never have made it to Yavin IV with what they had. Kushibah’s a fixed point. “Cassian did too. He said it was more likely that you’d shoot us than agree to help, regardless of what we offered you.”

Jyn looks hard at the toes of her boots. She doesn’t argue with any of it. She doesn’t have the energy to argue with any of it. Maybe before the Death Star, she would have, but right now—no.

“He seems to have changed his mind,” says K-2 after a moment. “I believe this is because he sustained a severe concussion on Jedha which has not yet healed. Or resulted in permanent damage. It is impossible to say without analyzing medical scans.”

“Yeah, maybe,” says Jyn. “Or he’s always been crazy.”

“Unlikely,” says K-2. “Scarif was your fault.”

She bites the inside of her cheek to keep from flinching, and says, “Yeah.”

K-2 whirs at her, and goes quiet for a bit. He taps his fingers against the gauges. She’s never seen a droid fidget, before. Jyn settles in to watching the flow of hyperspace again, hiding her nose in the collar of Cassian’s jacket.

“Cassian will not tell me what happened on Scarif,” says K-2 suddenly.

Jyn steals a look at him, and then goes back to staring at hyperspace. “Why are you telling me that?”

“Bodhi says that Cassian and I went with you on Scarif and you came back without me,” says K-2, and something cold creeps into her fingertips. “Cassian won’t talk about it, and the base on Scarif was destroyed by the Death Star. Which means if I want to know what happened, I have to ask you.” He pauses. “It is not a palatable prospect.”

Now Jyn’s the one fidgeting. “Oh.”

K-2 waits, and then says, “Are you going to make me ask?”

She shifts around in the co-pilot’s chair, until she’s squashed between the arm and the back of the seat, her knees still against her chest, staring at him. K-2 watches her for a bit, and then goes back to needlessly fussing with the fuel gauge.

“Bodhi talked us in past the gate,” says Jyn, finally. “Chirrut and Baze were—were part of the distraction, on the beach. With Sefla and Melshi and Tonc and Pao. And others. You and Cassian and I were—we went in to find the plans.”

K-2 is quiet through all of it. He asks no questions. At some points it’s hard to tell he’s even listening. He runs through the data-checks, keeps an eye on the nav-computer, makes calculations. Jyn talks, and the more she talks, the more spills out. Not out of her mouth, not really, but in her head. Memories that had faded. Cassian plastering the wrong hand to the scanner on the door to the databank. The way K-2 had shuddered and staggered after datamining their captured Security Droid, like it’d made him sick, like a drunkard. Stardust. How do you know that? I know because it’s me. The sudden cutting silence from the comm, from static to nothing.

“You kept them off us,” says Jyn. “You locked the door down to the data vaults. You kept the Stormtroopers away. If you hadn’t, we’d never have transmitted the plans to the Alliance.”

K-2 weighs that. There’s a humming buzz from his joints as he resettles in the pilot’s seat, like he’s itchy. “I do not see how I could have done such a thing.”

“I gave you a blaster,” says Jyn. “I don’t—I know the ‘troopers came for you. I don’t know how many there were. We could hear the blaster shots through the comm.” She wets her lips. “There must have been dozens.”

K-2’s eyes flicker, shadow and light.

“You,” he says. “You gave me the blaster.”

Jyn looks back at her boots. “You don’t believe me.”

“It is fairly unbelievable,” says K-2. “Then again, Cassian has never given me a blaster. The idea that he would, even on Scarif, is—unlikely.”

K-2 sounds almost hurt. She fancies that the pearly gleam of hyperspace coiling over his faceplates is some kind of expression. Some kind of sadness.

“Why doesn’t he?” She wriggles her toes, trying to get the blood flowing again. It’s not working very well. “You want one. I remember that.”

“Cassian has never explained why to my satisfaction,” says K-2. “I believe he is attempting to prevent my deactivation by members of the Alliance.”

“But you were reprogrammed.”

“I make people uncomfortable,” says K. “I think it is because of the insignia. And my size. And my speech patterns. Cassian reprogammed me. I remain with him primarily, though sometimes I am sent on other undercover missions. Always with his supervision. General Draven says I am his responsibility. I believe Cassian feels that by refusing to give me a blaster, he is protecting me from those who would use it as an excuse to disable me entirely. He will not admit it, however. I have asked multiple times.”

K-2 falls quiet again. Jyn shifts her feet on the chair. She says, “You’re important to him. It makes sense.”

“He usually listens to me,” says K-2. “He would not listen on the Death Star. You make him reckless and unpredictable. It is dangerous for him.” He resettles. “You are dangerous for him.”

He doesn’t trust you, Cassian had said.

“Oh,” says Jyn.

“But you went back for him,” says K-2. “In the hangar. I expected you to abandon him, and you did not. You went back for him. I did not predict that.”

Jyn’s not sure, for a moment, if she’s furious or not. Of course I went back for him. Of course I did. But this is K-2, and K-2 doesn’t trust her. He’s had no reason. The version of K-2 she’d known on Scarif had been starting to, she thinks, but this one—no. This one woke up in the junkroom with an enemy and hasn’t let his guard down since. There’s a twist to his wrists, to the bends in his fingers, that makes her think he might be considering it. Jyn squares her shoulders as best she can without flinching.

“Cassian,” she says, and then stops. The words won’t fit into her mouth properly. “He’s—”

K-2SO doesn’t speak. He waits.

“Cassian is the only one,” she says, jerkily, sand in her joints, plugging up her throat, “who’s—ever come back. For me.” Even when he hadn’t needed to. Even when he shouldn’t have. Again and again and again. I meant it. I mean it. “And I—”

She stops again, because she can’t voice it. She’s so tired.

“He’s the only one who’s ever come back for me,” she says again. The only one who’s ever come back. “He’s always come back for me. And I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t leave him. I—can’t.”

K-2SO whirrs again, quietly. He watches her. Jyn can’t meet his gaze for very long. She has to stare at the screen, at the transparisteel, at the starlines. Her muscles are humming under her skin. She lunges up out of the chair, yanks at the hem of Cassian’s jacket. The fur around the collar tickles at her nose.

“I’m going to see if I can find more blankets,” she says. “For Bodhi.”

“You have—given me valuable information.” K-2 shuffles his feet on the floor. Then, in a very grudging voice, he says, “I suppose I ought to say thank you.”

“You don’t have to.”  

“Then I won’t.”

In spite of herself, her lips twitch. Jyn rocks back and forth on her toes. “Glad to have you back, K.”  

“Why?”

Jyn blinks. K-2SO is watching her about as intently as a droid can watch someone, hands on his knees.

“What do you mean, why?”

“There is no reason for you to be glad of my repair,” says K-2. “I have done nothing to cause you pleasure upon my restoration to a form to which I am comfortable. I don’t even like you.”

Jyn considers that. “Maybe I like you,” she says, and then she walks off to the ladder. She’s more than halfway out of the cockpit when she hears it:

“Your behavior,” he says, “is continually unexpected, Jyn Erso.”

“I’ve heard that before,” she tells him, and continues down the ladder.

Chapter Text

Cassian doesn’t dream very often. Mostly because he doesn’t sleep very often. Everything he doesn’t want to remember tends to crop up when he sleeps, or at least when he sleeps too deep. It’s easier not to have nightmares dozing in the pilot’s chair than it is lying flat on his back on base.  K-2 had asked him once, two years after he’d been reprogrammed, if Cassian was trying to punish himself through avoiding sleep. He hadn’t known how to answer, simply because he didn’t have an answer. He still doesn’t. The less he sleeps, the better he holds together. That’s all.

He shouldn’t have fallen asleep after Vader. He should have kept himself up somehow, should have forced his eyes back open, should have remembered what would happen. But he’d slept anyway, Jyn warm and heavy against his leg. Now he’s caught in shattered boxes, in shreds of durasteel and glass, and the memories eat him alive.

It’s Yavin. It’s Fest, but most of it is Yavin. Yavin with the smoke of Fest, with half-imagined streets folded back into the repurposed temples. The ziggurats stand empty. There are broken bottles on the ground. It’s almost tangible, the crack of them under the soles of his boots. They pebble and shatter, echoing in the silence. The light falls like Coruscant, slanting angular, all shades. It turns his skin purple and scarlet, splashing shades of yellow over the bare skin of his wrists. Flyers from protests, from marches, skitter over the stone. Some of them have Mebwe’s face. Some of them have Tivik’s. Some of them have Jyn’s, or Galen Erso’s, or Draven’s. His father's. His mother's. His sisters'. They tangle and scatter again, blown away with dying leaves. He can’t decide if it’s a blaster in his hand, or a blade, and then it doesn’t really matter. He has to get somewhere. He has to find something. A person. A memory. When the rain starts falling, it plasters his hair to his head, his shirt to his skin. He’s wearing Imperial Academy boots.

Run, Cassian. Run.

K, he says, and it echoes into silence. Jyn. There’s no reply. He’s supposed to meet someone here to go somewhere, but there’s no one around. He turns the corner, and there’s a dead body. He steps over it, finds another. Rebel colors. He’s holding a blaster to Mebwe’s head in an alley on Coruscant and pulling the trigger. He’s shooting Tivik in the back. He turns another corner, and Bodhi’s dead on the ground. Chirrut and Baze, sprawled together, streaked with burns. Beyond them, there’s smoke. His hair is wet, and he doesn’t know why. He steps past them into an elevator, and watches the doors close. The elevator shaft is shaking like the world is coming apart. When he steps out onto the balcony, the top of the Citadel tower, there’s Galen Erso. Jyn. Both of them. He looks at Galen as if through a scope, and Jyn watches him do it.

Stormtrooper, she says.

He aims. He fires. Jyn falls backwards off the edge of the Citadel tower, there and then gone, soundless. When he turns, Mebwe’s there, a hole raw in his head. His eyes are filmed. His mouth moves. Behind him, there’s a white light, blazing. The horizon is falling apart.

Promise me you’ll try, Cassian. Promise me.

There’s a hand on his arm.

Cassian’s awake before he’s breathing. When he tries to lash out with both hands, with either, he can’t. Someone’s holding his wrists. “Cassian,” she says, and it’s Jyn. There are pieces of panic under her voice, glass scattered under his boots. Her eyes are Galen’s eyes, Galen’s eyes are Jyn’s, and he’s going to be sick. His stomach rolls like an X-wing. “Cassian, shh. It's all right.”

Cassian heaves, trying to get his lungs working, trying to steady. He can smell blood and carbon scoring and salt and burning bodies, and every breath hurts. His ribs ache. He needs a gun. He never wants to touch a blaster again.

“Cassian,” she says again, and loosens her grip. When he knots his hand in her hair he’s not sure if it’s to touch it or to yank her away. Jyn doesn’t twitch. “Look at me.”

He can’t focus. He can’t look at one thing. There are droids, there’s Bodhi staring, there’s the storage container, weapons, the high walls of the cargo bay, the bright lights. White like sunlight on snow, on sand. On water. He can’t look at her. I shot you. She’d fallen. She’d died. I shot you. He can’t look at her now. He can’t meet her eyes.

Cassian,” says Jyn, and she sets both hands to the nape of his neck. Strangulation, he thinks, but no, it’s Jyn. It’s Jyn. She rests her cold thumbs to the spaces behind his ears, fingers in his hair, scraping. Holds him still. “Cassian, look at me.”

She’s sitting too close for him to avoid it, anymore. Cassian swallows, trying to keep his guts at bay. He looks at her. The corner of her mouth is shaky. She doesn’t blink. Jyn looks at him, and Cassian rasps, swallowing air. He still has one fist knotted in the hair at the back of her head. He has to make himself loosen his grip, uncurl his fingers one by one. Some of the tension in her temples fades. She presses her fingers hard into the nape of his neck, and he takes another breath, like she’s working his lungs. Her eyes are bright and sharp and reading far too deep, and he’s ready to leap out of his skin at the feel of her hands on him after this. I shot you. It was a nightmare. It was a dream. He takes another breath.

“Where are you?” says Jyn. Her fingers are trembling. “Right now, where are you?”

It’s the wrong question. It’s the right question. He has to swallow three times before he can get his throat to work. When he goes to look away, she digs her nails in, and he has to snap back to her, to her face. She presses her mouth thin.

“The Last Hope,” he says.

“Where in the Last Hope?”

He knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s dragging him back to reality, inch by scraping inch. He hates her for it and loves her for it and he can’t look away from her. He wonders who she learned this from. Saw Gerrera, maybe. He can’t picture Saw Gerrera comforting anyone after a nightmare, no matter the manner of it. Maybe another Partisan. Jedha folds to pieces in his head. “Cargo bay.”

“Good,” says Jyn. She scuffs her nails through his hair. “We’re still in hyperspace. We should be landing on Kushibah Prime in fifteen minutes.”

Cassian breathes as deep as he dares. The words fly into his head and out again, ricocheting. There’s still blood on his tongue. He lifts his other hand, finds her cheek, her ear, the back of her head, the warmth under her hair and the pulse in her throat. Last Hope. Kushibah Prime. Jyn. She’s wearing his jacket, and the dissonance of her face peeping out of the fur around the hood is dragging him out of broken bottles and elevator shafts. He wants to press his face into her throat and breathe like he had on the Death Star. Bodhi’s in the cargo bay, though. The droids. He’s more than halfway past caring. Before he can decide, Jyn sweeps her hand down his bruised jaw, careful not to touch the split. Her hand settles in the dip between neck and shoulder, thumb pushing into sore muscle. She searches his face. There are questions on her mouth, but he can't read them yet.

“Almost back,” she says, barely loud enough to hear. She’s practically in his lap and he has to read her lips to understand her. “Almost home.”

He’s not kissing her in front of Bodhi. Not after a nightmare. Not like this. He’s still shaky and sick and there’s blood in his mouth, and they’re not done yet. They’re not finished yet. Get the plans to Yavin IV. He puts his mouth to her hairline instead, half against her forehead, and Jyn goes stiff and then shivery and then soft under his hands. She presses in hard with her thumb, until his throat aches, and when he pulls back and looks at her she has a light in her face like a bonfire.

Cassian drops his hands and leans away from her.

“K-2 needs your help getting permission to land,” she says, like nothing’s happened. The words wobble on her tongue. “He wants you in the cockpit ASAP.”

“Yeah,” says Cassian, and when she stands and walks away he has to sit there for a minute trying to get himself back under control.

They have one jacket to share between the three of them, and Jyn no longer has a working shirt, so it’s Jyn who has to head with K-2 into the hangar bay of Kilo Base to meet with the deck officer. Cassian watches from the cockpit, for a while. The deck officer’s new, not the man he remembers. A woman, towering over Jyn like a giant, only a head shorter than K at the most. K stands with his hands locked behind his back while they argue, Jyn and the deck officer, back and forth. Finally, Jyn and K and the deck officer vanish into a nearby corridor, and Cassian makes his excruciating way back down the ladder to the cargo bay to wait.

Bodhi’s sitting up, now. He’s settled with his back to the wall, the blankets over his legs and his chest. The Imperial maintenance uniform’s mostly hidden, now. So long as the blanket doesn’t fall, he won’t draw much attention. Bacta, Jyn had said. Bacta and fuel and then back to Yavin IV. Hopefully they’ll have enough to at least seal the artery up again. If they’re incredibly lucky, Kilo Base will have bone stabilizer rattling around somewhere. It won’t be enough to get Bodhi walking again, but then at least he’ll be able to climb the ladder and settle in the common area without bleeding out. When Cassian comes to stand near Bodhi’s section of wall, arms crossed, blaster heavy in his belt, Bodhi clears his throat. “You think she’ll manage?”

“Kilo Base is a skeleton crew. Besides, K-2’s with her. They’ll be fine.”

Bodhi nods. The R2 unit’s settled on his left side, and when it whistles, Bodhi reaches out and pats absently at its metal skin, like he knows what it’s saying.

“What happens when we get back?” Bodhi folds the blanket, over and over. “To Yavin IV.”

“Debrief,” says Cassian. “We’ll all be separated for debrief. Or put into medical. We disobeyed orders. It’s not something Alliance Command likes.”

In his case, he’s done it three times. Once on Eadu, once in going to Scarif, and once again, here, with them, in this ship, into the Death Star and out again. Whatever happens to all of them, there’s every likelihood he’ll come out the worst for it. He turns that around in his head, around and around. Draven will make sure of it, for what happened in sickbay if nothing else.  

Bodhi mumbles something under his breath.

“What?”

“Nothing, just—just thinking. Nothing.” He frets with the blanket hem. “You think they’ll put us in separate divisions?”

“I don’t know.”

“Oh,” says Bodhi.

“Best case scenario, we’re all grounded.” For who knows how long. “Maybe we go back out into the field again. Maybe we keep our jobs. Maybe we don’t. Maybe we’re discharged.”

“You think we will be?”

“Hard to say.” Cassian shrugs. “The Alliance can’t afford to lose the people we already have, especially not now, so it depends.”

“On what?”

“On how nice the Council is feeling.”

“Oh,” says Bodhi again. He pulls a face. “You’re not very reassuring.”

“Sorry,” says Cassian, and he is.

“No.” Bodhi scratches at his cuticle. “Better than—better than not knowing what to expect.” 

There’s something in that, at least. Cassian shifts to stare at the protocol droid, settled into sleep mode or deactivated or whatever’s happened to it while he was sleeping. The idea that there’s a dead body lying in the cargo bay won’t stop yanking at his heels.

“Are you okay?” says Bodhi, and Cassian blinks at him. Bodhi fusses with his fingers. “I mean, you—you okay? Now? After—before.”

Cassian looks down at him, and then goes back to staring at the cargo bay doors. “I’m fine.”

“You just, um.” Bodhi stares at his knees, lumps under the blankets. “I don’t know what—happened. But if you—” He flexes his fingers, in and out. “I mean, we’re—all messy. So it’s—okay. And, um. If you want—if you want to talk about it.”

We’re all messy. Cassian watches him out of the corner of his eye. Bodhi, who’s barely held together with a few staples and bits of tape. Jyn, scorching out of her own skin. Chirrut and Baze, homeless and searching. Him. We’re all messy. “All right,” says Cassian, much more carefully.

“It’s, um.” Bodhi waves a hand. “We, um. We’re—we’re all, y’know. All of us. We—I don’t know. We’re friends, maybe. Sort of. And if you don’t—you don’t have to, but if—”

“Bodhi,” says Cassian, and Bodhi stops, like he’s in the path of an oncoming freighter.

“Yeah?” He blinks. “Yes?”

“I appreciate it,” says Cassian. He doesn’t know how else to say it, the gratitude. “Thank you.”

Bodhi’s mouth flickers into half a smile. He tugs at the seam of the blanket. “Sure. I mean—right. You’re—you’re welcome.”

There’s a chirp from the comm in his pocket. Cassian resettles, trying not to yank at his back, and thumbs it on. His fingers are numbing out. “Yes?”

“We’re cleared for refuel and medical supplies,” says Jyn, clipped through the comms. She’s pleased, though. She’s biting her vowels. “On our way back now. Get ready to open the bay doors.”

“Yeah.”

He stows the comm back into his pocket, and realizes Bodhi’s watching him. The curve to his mouth is more shrewd than anything, a meditative kind of look that makes Cassian think of an exhibit he’d seen on Corellia once while he’d been waiting for a meet, a tray of gleaming, fist-sized insects all pinned to wax with needles through their legs. Bodhi weighs the silence for a while, picking at his thumb, and then says, “You said her name in your sleep.”

Cassian stares.

“I just thought you might want to know,” says Bodhi. He peeks at Cassian, and then goes back to his thumb. There’s blood around the base of his nail. “And I don’t—I don’t think she heard you. When you did. So, um. There’s—there’s that.”

His mouth has gone dry, for some reason. “If there’s something you’re trying to say—”

“I’m not—I won’t tell anybody. I mean, if—I won’t. I just—” Bodhi’s smile wobbles a little, and then sticks. “It’s—lots of bad things have happened. The past few days. You two are, um. You’re not a bad thing. Actually I think—I think it’s a good thing.”

“There’s no thing,” says Cassian. It’s a very bad lie. Not up to his usual standards at all. He can’t make up for it now, though. “Not—there’s no thing.”

“Right,” says Bodhi, still with that wobbly smile. “No thing.”

His palms are sweating. Cassian stands there, caught between movement and stillness. He says, “There’s no thing, Bodhi.”

“Mm,” says Bodhi, sounding pleased, and shifts underneath the blankets. He winces at the tug on his leg, stops moving almost immediately. “Right.”

His face has gone hot. Cassian fixes his eyes on the cargo bay doors, and waits. He could say it, straight out—there's no thing because I don't get that way about people, Bodhi, I never have—but that's a lie, and apparently he's turning into a bad liar. There's no thing because I've never been this way about anyone until her, but that's a lie, too, and he's still spinning from nightmares. He can't spit it out. R2 twists about on Bodhi’s far side, his dome swiveling back and forth like he’s watching some kind of ball game. He whistles, low and almost humming, and then rolls in place for a second or two. Bodhi pats absently at his plates again, and he stills.

“No, I don’t think so, R2,” says Bodhi, and Cassian decides right then and there that he never wants to learn how to understand binary. Bodhi peeks at him, and then says, “Hell of a few days, huh.”

Something tugs at the corner of his mouth. He relaxes. “Yeah,” says Cassian, and resettles against the wall. “Hell of a few days.”

.

.

.

Kilo Base smells like sulfur. It has something to do with the mineral content of the earth above the base—the base itself is underground, aside from the gaping hole they use to let ships in and out—but regardless, it just makes everything stink. The Alliance soldiers who slink into their cargo bay to take the storage container of guns and grenades all reek of it, the sulfur, the dank secrets beneath the earth. They watch Cassian with shadowed eyes. He doesn’t recognize any of them. New recruits, most likely. None of them ask his name. A few give Bodhi lingering looks, but they don’t speak. It doesn’t keep Cassian from leaving a hand on his blaster when none of them are paying attention. The nightmare’s still threading sickly between his molars, down his throat, weaving itself into him like a root system. He can’t not have a hand on a weapon, right now.  

Cassian’s not entirely sure how she managed it, but Jyn managed to bully not only enough fuel to make it to Coruscant and back out of the Kushibah quartermaster—which is a feat in and of itself—but also a handful of bacta patches, a full half-pint of bone stabilizer, two more heavy coats, a new shirt for herself that actually fits despite the wear around the collar, and gloves, all from what few weapons they have left in their storage container, the remaining supplies they’d picked up on Onderon, and a few scraps of information about Imperial shipping manifests that he’s not certain she didn’t just make up on the spot. When he asks K-2, K just gives his rocking shrug and says, “She is a better negotiator than anticipated.”

“Is that a compliment?”

“No,” says K. “I expected her to punch the quartermaster in the face. She did not.”

“Right,” says Cassian.

“She also implied that if the quartermaster did not fall in line with her requests, then General Draven would make his displeasure known in unpleasant ways. It was surprisingly effective.”

He’s beginning to suspect he is always going to be caught between wanting to shake Jyn Erso’s teeth out of her skull and kiss her senseless. It’s highly irrational, but he still can’t knock the notion out of his head. “Draven won’t be happy when he hears about that.”

“So I informed her. At length. It only lent credence to her assertions.” K-2 goes sour. “She is very smug when she succeeds at something. It is incredibly obnoxious.”

“I’m sure you’ll pull yourself back together somehow,” says Cassian, and sets the gloves aside for Bodhi.

“If that’s a reference to my previous lack of ocular equilibrium, I do not appreciate it.”

He considers it, Jyn in his coat, and then takes one of the new ones for himself. The sleeves are too long, but there are hidden pockets in the lining, and the sulfur smell will fade soon. It’s not as if they’re not two hours out from Yavin IV, anyway. “Get the other droids into the common area, will you?”

“If I must,” says K-2, and goes to rouse C-3PO. He does it by kicking the protocol droid hard in the side. There’s a horrified squawk from the R2 unit, a yelp from Bodhi, and Cassian’s halfway to rubbing his hands over his face and wondering if he can, possibly, hide somewhere until they’re off-planet again when there’s a scuff on the grating behind him. His hand is back on his blaster, fingers numb, palm damp, even as he turns, even as he tells himself, This is a Rebel base. Nobody’s coming after us here.

“You son of a bitch,” says Kes Dameron. Cassian’s eyes ache. Kilo Base is all soft silvers. The Death Star had been white, black, steel. Kes is a flash of vibrant, unnatural, flight-suit orange in a world that’s gone grey, without the pilot excuse. It’s making his head hurt. “Where the hell have you been, Andor?”

"Dameron.” Cassian blinks, once, twice. There's always an odd surge of relief when he sees faces he knows. He tries not to talk to too many people, anymore, tries not to know them very well, but there are still holes left behind if they die. Knowing Kes is alive is...helpful. Somehow. “Hello.”

Hello, he says,” says Kes. “I knew you had to be skulking around here somewhere when I saw that damn droid. He doesn’t take a step without you.”

“Untrue,” says Cassian, but the twist of tension at the back of his neck eases anyway, just a bit. “He can wander around fine on his own.”

“You look like hell, Andor,” says Kes. He doesn’t ask why. Cassian doesn’t know Kes all that well—he runs into him sometimes on Base, briefed him on a sabotage on Coyerti eight months back, but other than that they’re in separate circles—but he still knows Kes has some idea of what he does. Kes doesn’t ask, and so Cassian doesn’t have to say them, the words etched into the bone of his ribs. Vader. A planet-killer. Alderaan is gone. He’s saving them for debrief, in a way. Some desperate part of him is clinging to the idea that if he doesn’t speak them aloud, they won’t be real. A planet-killer. The Death Star is operational. A whole planet is gone. An entire world. The nightmare clutches at the back of his throat, drags down with sharp nails. “No caf where you’d been holed up?”

Cassian coughs. “Not what you’d call caf.”

“Like you’d call it caf on Yavin IV, either,” says Kes, and goes to clap him on the shoulder. He stops, though. In the same second, there’s a brush of warmth and fabric against Cassian’s elbow. Jyn’s somehow melted across the cargo bay to put herself between Kes and Cassian, all her weight on her back leg like she’s about to ram her boot into Kes's nose. The look on her face is roughly the same temperature as the air outside.

“Jyn,” says Cassian, and she doesn’t shift her weight. “Everything loaded?”

“Almost. They’re finishing with the fuel lines.” She gives him a look, careful, lingering, and then goes back to staring down Kes. “Who are you?”

It’s incredibly rude. Cassian can’t really bring himself to care. She’s settled herself just ahead of him, a little bit across, right in front of his weaker side, the fragile clavicle. Kes cocks one eyebrow at Cassian, and then lifts the other, too, when Cassian doesn’t say anything. He sticks out one hand. “Kes,” he says. “Kes Dameron. Occasionally I shoot things.”

Jyn eyes his hand like a viper, and then takes it, slowly. She’s replaced her gloves. “Jyn Erso.”

“I know who you are, Sergeant Erso,” says Kes. “Shara mentioned you were with Cassian on this one. You and that defector pilot, I think she said.”

Jyn blinks, slowly, but she nods. Cassian’s wracking his brains trying to think when Jyn and Shara Bey might have come into contact when Kes says, “Besides, everyone in the Alliance knows your name after what happened on Scarif. Daughter of an Imperial breaking into one of the most protected Imp bases in the Galaxy, stealing from them, and getting away with it? That kind of story gets around.”

Something knots up hard and dark around the corners of her mouth. Jyn tips her chin up in a nod.

“Seriously, though,” says Kes. “Cassian, where the hell have you been? Half the Alliance has been out looking for you. Draven was furious when I left Yavin IV, I think he was about ready to pop.” He watches Jyn for a second, and then adds, “Like an old tick.”

Jyn does not smile. Cassian, privately, thinks that her eyes might soften just a bit.

“We were working,” says Cassian.

“So that’s what they’re calling it, now,” says Kes. He folds his arms, rocks back on his heels. He’s angry. He’s trying very hard to hide it, but he’s angry, and he knows Cassian will be able to see it. “You realize how much trouble you’re in?”

“We have some idea,” says Cassian. “We’ll deal with it.”

Kes looks at Jyn, back at Cassian. “You might not be able to.”

“We’ll deal with it,” says Cassian again, harder this time, and Kes’s mouth turns down. “What are you doing out on Kilo Base? I thought you were on mission in the Mid-Rim.”

“We finished up on Gan Moradir two days ago. Mothma sent us right back out to escort one of the Council Senators into Alliance territory, the Imps finally worked out which side he’s on and he’s running. Vernay’s supposed to confirm he’s not double-crossing us. Pretty sure we’re just gonna be stuck out here until they decide where to move Base One, though, and that might not be for weeks. Draven and Mothma are butting heads over which way we should go.”

“So nothing’s changed,” says Cassian, and Kes bares his teeth.

“Not in the damn least. Last I heard the leading option was Hoth.”

He almost shudders. A moon like Jedha or a planet like Kushibah Prime is one thing. A world like Hoth is something else entirely. “Was that Draven's idea or Mothma's?"

"What do you think?" 

“This is clearly harassment, you two-dimensional mockery of a central processing unit!”

It’s 3PO. Kes’s lips twitch a little at the corners. K-2 is standing with his hands behind his back, peering down at C-3PO like an oddly malevolent uncle. 3PO’s still sitting on the floor, practically vibrating with the force of his offense. K-2 says, “It would be easier if I took you apart and carried you up the ladder. And it would take less time.”

“This is murder,” cries 3PO, and Bodhi makes a vague soothing noise. There’s flashes of nerves around his eyes, though. “You’re going to kill me! Help! The Imperial droid wants to kill me!”

Jyn hisses through her teeth, and abandons Cassian and Kes without a word, brushing her fingers over Cassian’s sleeve as she goes. She’s minuscule, marching up to K, but K stops at once to look down at her, hands swinging at his sides, listening to whatever she says with the same overt focus he uses when he’s rewriting viruses. Kes knocks Cassian’s elbow with his, very lightly, puffs air out his mouth.

“She always like that?”

Jyn puts a fist on her hip, lifts both eyebrows at K and says something Cassian can’t make out. Cassian smooths his face out, and says, “Like what?”

Kes makes a face at him that says I know precisely what you’re doing. “That…intense.”

Cassian weighs the answer for much longer than necessary, just because he can. “Pretty much.”

“Bet she’s fun at parties.”

“You have no idea,” says Cassian, half under his breath, and the quirk to Kes’s mouth turns into a smile.

“She must be, if you’re making jokes.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  

“Lines detached,” says the deck officer at the bottom of the ramp. “Sergeant Dameron, the Senator’s asking for you.”

“Of course he is. He can’t take two steps without me, apparently.” Kes’s eyes dart to Jyn, to K-2 and Bodhi on the floor, C-3PO and R2, and then he puts his hand out between them. “Be careful, Cassian. It’s—it won’t be pretty. Whatever happens.”

Cassian nods, and grips his hand. He doesn’t say thank you. Still, Kes nods as if he did. He’s whistling as he walks away, dropping off the ramp and vanishing into the maze of Kilo Base without a backward glance. Cassian’s never quite worked out how he can disappear so quickly when all his vests are approximately the same color of a traffic holo, but it’s typical Kes Dameron. He settles his hand back on his blaster, reassuring himself, before he turns.

“You’re not taking him apart,” says Jyn to K-2, and K-2 makes a frustrated noise. “If it bothers you so much to walk around, tie him to your back and go up the ladder.”

“That is undignified,” says C-3PO.

It’s the last calm moments before the end, he thinks. Before whatever public crucifixion Draven has planned for them. He doesn’t interrupt. Cassian goes to track down the bone stabilizer. They can at least get Bodhi out of the frigid cargo bay, now, before his leg gets any worse.

Chapter Text

The sun is setting over the far side of Yavin IV when they finally drop out of hyperspace, which means when they break atmo it’s like being caught in flame, swerving in orange and purple and gold. The jungles are almost black in the sunset. It all blinds her, the light, the shadow, the echo of it through the transparisteel. Jyn shifts in the co-pilot’s chair, engaging dampeners, flaring panels to drag their speed. K-2 keeps working without looking away, his visuals adjusting without too much fuss, but Jyn’s blinking away spots when they’re approved by an officer who sounds too young to shave, let alone be managing incoming ships. “Rogue One, cleared for landing at LP-7, hangar two. A team will be waiting to greet you on the ground.”

“Acknowledged, control,” says K-2, and flips the comms off. Jyn shakes her head to try to get the dark spaces to fade.

“Rogue One, still?”

K-2 rolls his shoulders a bit, and then says, “It is the most recognizable moniker. Also, if we give them a call sign they have reason to remember, they probably won’t just shoot us out of the sky.”

“That’s encouraging.”

He flips a switch. “Considering the circumstances, it’s still possible they may shoot us down before we reach Base One. Otherwise, they may simply put us into custody upon landing. LP-7 is the furthest from the main ziggurat, the least used. It would be the simplest place on Base One that would allow for a casual erasure of our meager existences.”

Jyn says, “Oh.”

“That or they could lead us into a false sense of security, throw us into permanent holding, and claim that we never arrived at all.” K-2 considers. “They are of equivalent likelihoods, considering the available data packets.”

“You’re a ray of sunshine,” she says, trying to swallow her heart back down. Don’t take them. Not the Rogues. Don’t take them, please. She fists one hand around the kyber crystal, shields her eyes from the flare of the sun as K-2 turns the Last Hope in midair.

“You are grinding your teeth,” says K-2. “It’s irritating.”

She unclenches her jaw, breathes through her nose. “You good?”

“Is that a literal question or are you wondering whether or not I can pilot the ship alone? Because I would think that by now you would have observed that—”

“If you’re good,” she says, “then I’m going to go prep the others for landing.”

“If we had taken the protocol droid apart, there would be minimal need for prep.”

There’s a horrified squawk from down the ladder, and another “Well, really.” Jyn gives K-2 a long, flat look, one that she hopes says everything she doesn’t want to shout.

“It’s true,” says K-2, completely unrepentant. “He is a problem. A shiny golden problem.”

“Don’t be too jealous he’s downstairs when you’re not, K. We need you piloting.”

“I am not jealous.

“Sure,” says Jyn, and then swings herself down into the common area. Bodhi’s been tucked into the U-shaped nook where the table is nestled, a blanket over his lower half, his bad leg stretched out in front of him. Cassian’s settled in on the other side of the table, shoulders hunched, working on something. It’d been hard to get Bodhi up here, she thinks. Even with the bone stabilizers, Bodhi’s shaky on his feet, needs help standing. Then again, so does Cassian. She’s not sure how this came about, that even the second time ‘round she’s the one back on her feet the fastest, the one who has to stand and give them the bad news, but it is, and some small, humiliating part of her, one that’s still trapped in the cavern on Lah’mu, shrinks away from the idea.

“I really think there’s something wrong with that Security Droid,” says C-3PO, not at all quietly. “He seems much too murderous. Even for a reprogrammed Imperial.”   

“Careful,” says Cassian without looking up from his project. He’s dismantling a blaster, cleaning every scrap. “He has trouble sometimes. You say that too loud and he might revert back to his old programming.”

C-3PO goes abruptly silent. R2 whistles. Even Bodhi looks somewhat nervous. Jyn bites the inside of her cheek, tries not to smile.

“He’s joking,” says Jyn to 3PO, but she comes to stand by Cassian’s side of the table anyway, knocking her hip into the side of the chair, arms crossed over her chest. Cassian looks up at her through his hair, blinking once in a why did you have to go and do that, now. There's something warm creasing his mouth, and her heart shreds under her ribs into something messy and vulnerable.

“That’s mean,” says Bodhi. His lips are twitching.

“I—I see.” C-3PO fusses. “Miss Jyn—”

“Sergeant,” says Cassian, and starts fitting the blaster back together.

“Sergeant,” says 3PO. “Are you quite sure that—”

“I’m sure,” says Jyn. Her bun’s pinching at the back of her head. “We’ve been cleared to land. There’s going to be a team waiting for us on LP-7.”   

All the humor drains out of the room. It hurts, seeing it go. It digs under her skin like splinters, watching the laughter fade. Jyn looks at the floor, and then back up at them again, Cassian who’s stopped working on his blaster, Bodhi who’s now studying the blankets like he’s trying to write with his eyes. C-3PO’s perked up, at least.

“That is excellent news,” says C-3PO. “Though I don’t understand why a team is coming to meet us, it’s not as though we’re an ambassadorial ship.”

This time, when she puts her hand on his shoulder, Cassian covers it with his. He doesn’t look up at her. He doesn’t let go, either.

“I’ve said something wrong,” says C-3PO, fretfully. “I don’t—I’m very sorry.”

“Technically we’re not supposed to be out here at all,” says Bodhi, and starts explaining. 3PO is many things, Jyn thinks, but a quiet listener he is not. He keeps making little noises, little squeaks and oh my goodnesses that would grate on her nerves if she were actually paying any attention. As it is, she’s listening to the ship, focusing on the feel of the jacket under her fingertips. Cassian peers through his hair at her again, and then leans back, shuts his eyes. She’s caught up in the line of his jaw for a moment, the curve to the bone. Jyn shakes herself out of it.

“It’s done,” she says, quietly. She’s not certain how else to word it. “We’re back.”

Cassian curls his fingers through hers, and holds on. When he looks up at her, she’s trapped in the fading lines around his mouth, at the corners of his eyes. His lips curve up, just a little.

“You said we could do it,” he says, and she blinks at him.

“Did I?”

“In sickbay.”

“Oh,” says Jyn. She’d forgotten. “Right.”

He finds the mark on her thumb again, the old scar, traces the line of it down to the web between her thumb and forefinger. Don’t let go, she thinks again, and swallows it back. Please don’t let go.

“We’re back,” he says, an odd echo. “It’s done.”

She looks back at R2-D2, his dome swiveling back and forth with great interest, and her throat closes up. All of it, she thinks—all of it, all the dead, all the agony, all the lost sleep, all the fire, all of it for the plans in that little droid. Sefla, Melshi, Tonc, Pao. Saw. Her father.

Jyn. My stardust.

“Jyn,” says Cassian, and he presses her fingers. When she looks back at him, she can’t speak. “You okay?”

No. She makes herself swallow, makes herself breathe. “Yeah,” says Jyn, and his brows draw together again. Cassian doesn’t let go of her hand.

“Whatever happens,” he says, too low for Bodhi to hear. “We’re with you.” 

I’m with you, he’d said. It’s on his lips again. Jyn stands there for a shade too long, looking down at him. It’s Bodhi coughing that has her shifting her grip, pulling hard enough to draw Cassian up out of his chair. When she lets go of him, she uses the same hand to find the kyber crystal, letting the warmth of it seep into her palm, letting it steady her. There’s a thunk as the Last Hope touches earth, a whine as the ship powers down. Cassian settles his fingers to the bend in her elbow, so very gently, and then tweaks the sleeve of her borrowed jacket.

“You’ll overheat in that.”

“Worse ways to go,” she says. She’s not taking it off, not right now. She's not thinking about why, either. Jyn draws away before she can catch all the angles of his face, caught somewhere between spy-smooth and the same shipwrecked look from in the Death Star. The edge of his mouth turns up in half a smile.

“Right, so, um.” Bodhi clears his throat. “What’s the plan?”

Cassian leans back against the table, arms crossed. “If there’s a group waiting to meet us, they’ll be armed. Go out with hands up. Don’t fight.” He looks at Jyn, and then says, “Let me do the talking. The Alliance is—”

He stops, but he’s made his point. It’s his world, not hers. She’s spent years running from the Rebellion. He’s spent years inside it. Jyn holds the crystal tight enough to pop her knuckles, and, somehow, jerks out a nod.

“We leave the droids behind,” Cassian says. “Someone will come and collect them. If Princess Organa made it to Base One, she’ll have a team ready to go to analyze the plans. If she didn’t, we can tell them what we have.”

“If they believe us,” says Bodhi, and starts tugging hard at the seam of his gloves.

“They’ll believe us,” says Jyn, her heart beating too fast. “They have to believe us.”

“Forgive me for interrupting, Miss—”

“Sergeant,” says Cassian and Bodhi at once. For some reason, Cassian coughs and turns away. Bodhi ducks his head and tries not to smile.

“This is all very confusing,” says C-3PO, but he draws himself up. “If—If it would not be too much trouble, Sergeant, I would prefer that R2 and I accompany you upon our disembarkation? Only I do not think that I would be of much use remaining with the—the Imperial droid.”

“He thinks I am going to deactivate him,” says K-2, swinging down the ladder. He lands with a bang that makes the whole common level rattle. “Which is not out of the realm of possibility. I find his voice obnoxious and his obsequiousness would turn my stomach, if I had one. As I don’t, I simply suffer in silence.”

“Nothing very silent about you,” says C-3PO, and then quavers a little when K-2 draws himself up to his full height.

“I told you disabling him would have been the better course of action,” says K-2.

“Leave him be, K,” says Cassian before K-2 can reply. “There’s more to worry about.”

“For example, the squadron of soldiers currently holding blasters on the ship,” says K-2. “I counted fourteen approximate. General Draven is waiting beyond the circle.”

Cassian’s face wipes clean. “No one else?”

“I saw no one else from the Council waiting on the landing platform. However, it is possible they could have arrived since I climbed down the ladder.” K-2 does his rocking shrug. “It is difficult to say.”

Draven. What is it he’d said? Alliance Command will not be so lenient again. Just Draven, no Leia, no Senator Mothma, no one else that they know is on their side, and that’s—that’s not good. That’s bad. Judging by the look on Cassian’s face, the hints around his eyes, that could be incredibly bad. She draws breath, and lets it out. “Fantastic.”

“This feels like surrendering,” says Bodhi, fidgeting a little. “Or am I—I could be imagining it. It still feels like surrendering. A little bit.”

“We’re going out with hands up and weapons down to make sure they know we’re not a threat,” says Cassian, still even. His eyes have shadowed at the corners. “Follow my lead. Let me go first. Follow when I say. The less we resist, the better it will go.”

“We hope,” says K-2.

“What if they separate us?” says Bodhi. “What if—”

But then he stops. Bodhi shuts his eyes, breathes in through his nose. He breathes out again. He flickers his fingers in an unpredictable rhythm. When he looks at them again, he’s steadier, but there’s still fear coiling around his mouth.

Jyn says, “We’ll work it out.”

At her shoulder, Cassian shifts, just a little.

“Right,” says Bodhi. He draws in air. “Right.” He presses his lips thin, and then he pushes away from the table, setting both feet on the floor. When he stands, he has all his weight on his good leg. It’s leaving him tipped oddly sideways, like 3PO or a dangling puppet. His eyes dart between them, Jyn and Cassian, and then very awkwardly he lifts both arms in a silent question. Jyn fidgets—she can’t remember hugging anyone in years before the past two weeks or so—but she refuses to let herself hesitate. Bodhi still smells like blood, like sweat and the tang of antifreeze, but he relaxes as much as he can when Jyn puts her arms around him, holds on. It’s only for a second or two. It feels like caging something feral, hugging Bodhi. He’s right on the verge of jumping away.

“This is incredibly mawkish,” says K-2. Bodhi yips a little, half a laugh, half something that could be a hiccup.

“Sorry, K.”

“I don’t see why you’re apologizing.”

“It’s a human thing,” says Bodhi. When Jyn pulls back, he pats at her arm. “It’s not the last time.”

“No,” she says. It cracks. Don’t let this be the last time. Don’t take them away from me. Don’t let this be the end. “It isn’t.”

Bodhi’s eyes crumple at the corners. He doesn’t move to hug Cassian, and Cassian doesn’t budge either, but there’s something tacit in the nod they pass between them that’s about as good as one. Jyn shifts to put her arm around him, but he waves her off.

“I can manage.”

“Bodhi, don’t be stupid.”

“R2 will help,” he says, quite firmly, and Jyn draws back. She blinks. Bodhi glances at Cassian, and then he says, “And K.”

“I don’t see why I should help,” says K-2.

“Because otherwise I’m going to fall,” says Bodhi, wobbling, and K-2 shifts to seize Bodhi by the back of his shirt. It doesn’t work out very well, not until Bodhi wedges his fingers into a joint of K-2’s hip. The leg of his trousers is dried stiff with old blood. Bodhi waves at her again when she sways on her feet, and rests his hand on R2’s dome. “3PO, you’re going to have to hit the button on the ramp.”

“Oh,” says 3PO. He looks between Jyn and Bodhi. “I see, sir. Of course. Yes—yes.”

He trundles off after them, somehow moving even more slowly than Bodhi. Jyn frowns, and wonders. When she turns to look at Cassian, he’s staring at the empty door frame, his eyebrows drawing together. Her mouth goes dry. All the fear crashes in all at once, like a Lah’mu waterfall, like a torpedo to the guts.

“Mothma’s with us,” says Cassian, and he keeps reading her mind, somehow. Jyn nods, shuts her eyes. “Once she hears we’ve arrived, she’ll do something.”

Jyn smiles, just a little. She can’t keep it from wobbling. “You never stop hoping,” she says, “do you?”

“I told you. Rebellions need it.”

When she dares to look at him again, Cassian’s watching her. Jyn finds the blaster on her hip, the knife up her sleeve. She’s going to have to give them up and walk in bare, without a single defense.  It’s not the end. She makes herself remember. She takes a breath, lets it out. “Bodhi’s going to hurt himself walking that way, I’m going to—”    

“Jyn, wait,” says Cassian, all in a rush, a desperate voice she’s never heard before. Jyn’s halfway through her turn when she catches the look on his face, the closeness. Cassian cups a hand to the back of her neck and kisses her. She can’t process it, not at first. It’s half-disaster, warmth and confusion, a bit too hard, her neck not angled right, the shock of it jarring their teeth together, stealing the breath out of her. In spite of all that, she’s dizzy with it. She’s drunk. She’s drowning. Jyn makes an odd, strangled little noise, and then scrabbles forward with both hands, knots them in the fabric of his shirt, the collar, pulling him down, going up on her toes to press up hard into his mouth. It clicks into place all at once, then. The kyber crystal blazes against her sternum. Cassian rasps, and then he finds her hip, digs in with his fingers, helping her keep her balance, pressing her closer. His beard scuffs over her skin, buzzing, raw. Her bones are scorching through where he’s left his hands. Jyn pulls him as close as they’d been on Scarif, on the Death Star, closer, and he makes that funny rasping sound again, his fingers edging up into the hair at the nape of her neck and his mouth hot on hers. Heat swells up her throat, lashes through her skin. Cassian says her name, secret-soft, and it tangles over her tongue, makes the ship rock under her feet. They break, for a moment, gulp in air, come back together, again, and again, pressing closer each time, more desperate, and she’s shaking all over when it finally ends, nose to nose, his heart racing like a speeder under her fingertips. He’s panting, his mouth’s a wreck, and she wants to keep on kissing him, over and over, cram snow into his face and catch the sharp coldness on his tongue.

“Jyn,” he says again, one last time, but she shakes her head. Jyn goes up on her toes again, kisses his mouth, the undamaged corner, and then she puts her arms around his neck and holds on, as tight as she can. Cassian’s arms cinch around her waist. He murmurs something she can’t make out, her name, maybe, a whisper. Jyn shuts her eyes so she doesn’t have to see the hall, doesn’t have to see if anyone’s coming to look for them. Her lips are stinging. She threads her nails into the hair at the nape of his neck, presses her nose into his collar and takes a deep breath. She doesn’t want to let go. She doesn’t want to move. She’s not sure what’s going to happen, now, what’s coming next. She doesn’t want this to be over.

“I’ll find you,” Cassian says, hoarse as smoke into her ear. “If they split us up.”

There’s a shard of glass in her throat. “Or I’ll find you,” she says, and she believes it, she really does. She shouldn’t, she knows better, but she can’t stop herself. She can’t keep her stupid heart from this. The marks on her ribs from the hypospray—once for stims, once for bone stabilizer—ache when he squeezes tighter, but she doesn’t care. She leans back, looks at him, touches the mark on his cheek. Cassian tips his head into her hand, and his mouth tickles the skin of her palm. It’s fragile and new and terrifying and the way he looks at her after makes her want to cry from the tenderness of it. Cassian threads his fingers up into her hair again, knocks his head to hers. When he sighs, it tickles her mouth.

“We have to go,” he says, but he doesn’t move.

Jyn tries to swallow. Her throat works. “We could always make them come in after us.”

Something close to a laugh cracks in his throat. She catches it between her teeth, kissing him again, one last time. He finds her face with both hands, fingers splayed wide, and their noses catch together in the sway of it. It’s something closer to what might be gentle, now. Cassian’s already settling the mask back over his face when she draws back, folding the cloak of anonymity around him, the shield of normality, but his mouth is puffier than it was, and she can still taste him on her tongue. It’s not enough. It has to be enough, for now.

He catches her hand as she draws it away, and kisses her fingers. His eyes never leave hers.

“Still with me?” she says. Her heart’s back in her throat. Cassian touches her fingers to his mouth again, and nods.

“All the way,” he says.

Jyn rests her fingers to his lips for a moment, until she can’t manage it anymore, until she feels like she might break into shards from the feel of it. When she drops her hand, Cassian doesn’t take it again. They walk, shoulder to shoulder, side by side, down the hall towards the ramp.

.

.

.

When he’d first woken in the sickbay after Scarif, the Bothan doctor, Ashey, had been very direct. Your memory is never going to be the same, she’d said, not looking up from her datapad. The strain on the neurons was too much, and the kind of damage left behind by—what was it?

Bor Gullet. He’d swallowed, then. Twisted the blanket between his fingers. Bor—Bor Gullet.

Bor Gullet, Ashey had said, and flicked a program sideways on the screen of her datapad. The kind of damage it left behind isn’t easily reparable, even with surgery, and the kind you’d need isn’t available here. We don’t have the equipment necessary.

So—so what do I do?

You’ll likely have difficulty for the rest of your life.

She’d said it so absently. For the rest of your life. No matter how long it is. No matter how long it can be, with what he’s done, with who he is. The eyes dragging at him in the Alliance mess, shredding his uniform. The targets on his back. Somewhere, he thinks, he’d known that. He’s known since Bor Gullet that he’s never going to function the same way as he did. He can’t even remember how he functioned, before. It’s like watching broken pieces of old dreams, old nightmares. I couldn’t remember my mother until the Death Star. I couldn’t remember my family. I couldn’t remember them on Scarif. I couldn’t even remember them watching Jedha shatter. He knows—he’s known—there are things that are going to slip through his fingers like fish, and never come back. However long he lives, he’s going to have to know that there’s always something he’ll be missing.

He’s never, ever going to forget how it feels to have a gang of Rebels looking at him down the barrels of their blasters.

Cassian goes out first. He goes out with his hands up, facing forward. “We aren't here to fight," he says, in a loud, clear voice. “We have the plans.” Beyond the line of Alliance soldiers, General Draven does not stir. “They’re in an R2 unit on board the ship. If Princess Organa is on-planet, she’ll confirm my story.”

There’s no response, not from any of the servicemen. He’d hoped for some kind of crowd, but no, LP-7 is too far away. No one’s out here to pay attention.

“I’m putting my gun down,” says Cassian. He draws the blaster from his belt, holds it up so people can see, and puts it in the dirt. The blaster in his boot, too, is laid flat on the earth. He sweeps both aside, out of reach, before he kneels, resting his hands on his head. Bodhi thinks he looks like he’s about to be executed. Jyn digs her nails so tight in between Bodhi’s ribs that he’s certain the divots will never come out of his skin, watching it. She’s not crying. She’s furious. White to the lips with it, mouth pressed blade-narrow. When one of the Alliance men comes forward, heaves Cassain up off the ground, she hisses between her teeth. Bodhi shifts back out of sight of the squadron before Jyn lunges.

Bodhi says, “We’re not fighting.”

Jyn doesn’t look at him. She shifts her grip around his ribs. C-3PO is watching them as they walk, R2 trilling out a question. Everything’s all right? Bodhi can’t answer it. He doesn’t know how.

“Obviously not,” says K-2. He hasn’t said a word since the common area. Not even when Cassian had reached out, rapped his knuckles to K-2’s chassis in a salute that had seemed more like a habit before stepping into the line of fire. He’s whirring loud and furious, like a wasp. “This isn’t all right.”

“Let him be, K,” says Jyn. 

“Jyn Erso,” says a voice, tinny through the loudspeaker. Jyn goes stiff, next to him, and almost bares her teeth. Draven, then. He doesn’t really remember what Draven sounds like, but it must be. “I know you’re in there. Come out with your hands behind your head.”

“This is all very upsetting,” says 3PO.

“Come on, Bodhi,” says Jyn, and waits for him to take the first step. His leg won’t bear his weight. The bone stabilizers have done enough, at least, to keep it from collapsing underneath him, from shattering all over again, but too much bone stabilizer at once thickens the marrow to cement; they hadn’t dared give him more than one dose at a time. Too much pressure will snap the femur again, and he’s not sure they can repair it a second time without surgery. Judging by the trilling from the scanners before, he’s not sure they can repair it now without surgery. Jyn’s bearing most of his weight, and he hates it, but he can’t walk on his own. He’s stuck leaping out of his skin at the touch.

—tentacles, slicking up his throat to his jaw

“We’re coming out,” Jyn says, pitching her voice, and Bodhi almost jumps. He stops himself just in time. Jyn squeezes her arm around his ribs in a tiny sorry, and then says, “Don’t shoot.”

His whole leg is buried in coals. Jyn presses her fingers in close, and takes the first step.

The sun is still blazing orange when they make their way down the ramp. There are more soldiers, now, their blasters raised. Jyn almost stumbles, stops and draws her arm away from Bodhi to put her hands up. The soldier who creeps close to search her shoves her down to her knees in the dirt, and on the edge of the tangle, Cassian jerks at the men putting binders on his wrists.

“Jyn Erso,” says the man, “you are under arrest for directly violating Section Thirteen of Article Thirty-three of Alliance Military Code, in addition to numerous other crimes, including desertion, theft of an Alliance transport, theft and misuse of Alliance goods and materials—”

“Stop,” says Bodhi, unable to help himself. “Stop, stop it—”

“Shut your mouth, Imp,” says another soldier, and prods Bodhi in the ribs with his blaster. “Hands up.”

“We’re not going to fight,” Cassian says, but there’s a crackle under the words, something sharp. Like after Eadu. A garroting kind of anger. “None of this is necessary.”

“You’re not in a position to be making any kind of demands, Captain,” says Draven. His expression hasn’t changed. “Get them to the cells. I want the droids on board analyzed. Put a restraining bolt on the Security Droid if you have to. The last thing we need is that thing going rogue.”

“He’ll come quietly,” says Cassian. His voice carries, somehow. “K-2 will come quietly. You won’t have to restrain him, sir.”

“That’s up to us to decide,” says Draven. “I want them put safely away, Corporal, all of them. Don’t make me repeat myself.”  

“Arms,” says another soldier, and Bodhi puts them behind his head. They don’t make him get on his knees, but it’s about the only gentleness. His shoulder nearly pops when the lieutenant wrenches his wrist back down, clasps the binders too tight, jabs the end of his baton into the base of Bodhi’s spine. “Now walk.”

“He can’t,” Jyn says, spitting her hair out of her mouth. “He’s wounded, you bastard.”

The hands on his wrists don’t hesitate. The lieutenant pushes. Bodhi takes one step, and his eyes cross. He’s going to throw up. His good knee goes out from under him, and the only reason he doesn’t hit the ground is the hand around the binders, wrenching his arms up and back. Jyn’s shouting. So is Cassian, more distantly. When he shatters back into focus, Jyn’s curled on her bad shoulder like she’s been knocked down, and another soldier, a woman, is looking down at her with a sick twist to her mouth, like she’s trying not to scream. Bodhi can’t speak for the pain. Cassian’s shouting something that’s too jumbled in his ears for him to understand. He’s dizzy. He’s sick. When he blinks, there are flickering spots at the edges of his vision. The Alliance soldiers, Draven, still steely-eyed, empty-faced. His eyes drift, catch on something white.

Luke Skywalker’s standing there, staring, beyond the circle of the crowd.

Run, Bodhi almost says, run, you fool, run, but then the shadows lash up around his throat and cover his eyes. He doesn’t remember the rest.

Chapter Text

He’s not sure how much time has passed when he wakes.

Chirrut blinks. Next to the bed, Baze is breathing, slow and deep. He’s dozing, though Chirrut’s certain—he knows from experience—that the moment Chirrut moves Baze will be up. In fact, it’s more than possible Baze is just pretending to be asleep. It’s something he’d picked up off-planet, when he’d left Jedha during the Clone Wars, gone wandering. When you pretend to sleep, people say shit, Baze had told him once, in the weeks after he’d come back. Makes for interesting conversation.

Because you’re such a conversationalist, Chirrut had said. Baze had knocked his shoulder into him so hard that Chirrut had almost lost his balance, but it had been worth it to hear catch the smile against his mouth.

Baze is probably pretending. Not that there would be much to hear, not in sickbay. The Council will have been careful to keep anything interesting from them, and the curtain drawn around the cot means that nobody really knows they’re here anyway. There are more bodies near the door than Chirrut remembers, one or two flickering low and dim in the Force, guttering like a handful of candles. Most of them are new and blazing. There’s a clicking hum to the air around them that’s all blaster bolt. He can catch that much, at least, even through the low hum of exhaustion. It doesn’t hurt to draw on the Force, not exactly, but he’s tired. However long he’d been, wherever he’d gone, he feels weaker than he had when he’d first woken in bacta. If he stretches out too far, there’s a sharp pinching at the base of his skull. Psychosomatic, probably. Still, he doesn’t want to risk it. He stops reaching out, and listens to the rhythms instead.

There’s something new, on planet. Something bright. Gleaming like moonstones. It jitters, though, in and out of awareness, and Chirrut’s not sure what to make of that. When it speaks, it shouts, but he can’t make out the words. A person, he thinks. A nexus.

The Jedi looked like this, sometimes.

“Done napping?” says Baze, not moving. Chirrut’s fairly certain his eyes are still closed. “Because it’s interesting out here.”

“Bet I can beat you for interesting things.” Chirrut shifts under the blankets, testing the pull of raw muscle. He’s not even sure he can sit up alone. His ribs are pliable, fragile. Like an infant’s skull. Bacta and no bone stabilizer. “How long this time?”

“Five hours in the trance,” says Baze. He doesn’t budge. His arms are folded over his stomach, finger on the edge of his cannon. “Asleep for almost ten.”

“You didn’t move?”

Baze scoffs, the you know me too well to ask that question scoff.

“You should have,” says Chirrut. “It’s not as though I was doing anything interesting.”

“You talk in your sleep,” says Baze. “It’s irritating.”

Chirrut smiles at nothing, facing the ceiling still. When Baze unfolds from his knot, Chirrut shifts his hand to the side, curls his fingers around the bone and muscle and tendon just above Baze’s knee. He doesn’t let go. 

“And the men at the door?” says Chirrut, still speaking low, eyes shut.

“They showed up about twenty minutes ago.” Baze resettles in the chair. His knees both crackle, all crumpled foil and aches. Chirrut can feel the pop underneath his palm. “Haven’t said much. Don’t seem to need bacta patches, either.”

There’s something humming along the rhythms of Yavin IV, hidden beneath the newcomer. A song. The rise and fall’s familiar. Chirrut curls his free hand in the blankets, and Baze notices.

“What?”

“Remember the crystal we found on Jedha?” says Chirrut. Baze goes still.

“What about it?”

“I think I dropped it on base somewhere.” He shuts his eyes again. “Keep an eye out for it, will you?”

“Find your own damn crystal,” says Baze, but he touches the back of Chirrut’s hand in a silent understood. “I’m not hanging around to sniff out every little thing you lose track of.” 

“But you’re so good at it. Besides, I’m blind, how am I going to find a crystal on the ground? I’d have to step on it. And then I’d break it.”

Baze sniffs. He’s all tense, now. There’s energy quivering through him the way it does in Jedha rockcats. Chirrut wonders—and it’s an aching thought, a grieving one, thrumming under his sternum like a drumbeat, like the morning songs of the Temple—whether any of the rockcats will be left, anymore. It had just been NiJedha destroyed, not the entire moon. Surely there must be some left. Surely they must still exist in the universe.

With the radiation and the damage to the planet’s crust, to its core, who knows how long they’ll live? Who knows how long the moon will survive?

“If the crystal’s lying around anywhere,” says Baze, “it must have shaken itself loose somehow.”

“I didn’t notice,” says Chirrut. “There was a great deal to process.”

The empty, bloody hole. So many threads cut at once. A loss that can’t be verbalized, can’t be spoken. Be careful, Chirrut Îmwe. It won’t be long before I’m not the only one listening. But who else would be listening? All the Jedi are dead. Or most of them. The Sith, maybe. It’s not a comforting thought.

“Or you just weren’t paying attention,” says Baze.

“Or that,” says Chirrut, and shrugs. He regrets it immediately. It’s only after the sick yellow wave of pain rolls back that he says, “Help me sit up.”

It’s a process. Baze’s hands whisper against the fragility of his ribs, fingers spread wide across his spine. Chirrut’s dizzy when he’s finally sitting upright, propped against what few pillows they’ve been able to spare for him. Baze leaves one hand tucked between Chirrut’s shoulder blade and the pillow for a breath, for two. He draws away slowly. He can’t afford to have one hand pinned. Still, it leaves prickles like goosebumps rising under the collar of Chirrut’s hospital gown.

“Do you remember where you might have dropped it?” Baze says, and resettles Chirrut’s quarterstaff closer to the cot. “Might make things easier when you go looking.”

“When you go looking, you mean. I’m bedridden.”

“Find your own damn crystal.”

“I don’t even know where I’d start.” His senses are flickering. He can’t get a strong hold. He just knows that the song is somewhere on base, somewhere on Yavin IV. A knot between his liver and his lungs settles, just a little. If the kyber crystal is back on Yavin IV, then Jyn and the others have returned. They hadn’t been a part of the shredding. Whatever it was.

The pearly gleam leaps up, and his head swims. Fear, maybe. Anger, confusion. Jumping every which way, like an outraged puppy. He can’t focus. It keeps pulling at him, yanking. Pay attention. Pay attention. When he tries to snag the sense of it, they slip through his fingers. Whoever they are, they probably don’t even know how loud they’re being. They’re bellowing.

I won’t be the only one listening. But that had been a warning, and this presence, they’re—they’re young, Chirrut thinks. They’re so young. The rhythms on Yavin IV are screaming up to meet them, and they’re much, much stronger than Chirrut has ever been, and they’re young. Young, and angry, and confused, and in pain, and rebounding between a thousand different things, unsure of what to do, spiraling, spreading out—

I won't be the only one listening.

He has to shut them up. He finds a knot, unwinds it. His head burns. When he finds another, unwinds that, the pearly gleam vibrates, high and loud. All shock, no subtlety. Chirrut bites his tongue hard enough to hurt.

“Chirrut,” says Baze. He grips Chirrut’s shoulder. “What is it?”

They’ll need you. The Rebellion will need you. He’ll need you.

“It’s hard to recall where I had it last, that’s all,” says Chirrut, and breathes through his nose. They’ve recoiled, whoever they are. He’s not sure they’re even aware of it. “I think I slept too much.”

“You always sleep too much.”

“And you don’t sleep enough,” says Chirrut.

“If I slept as much as you, you’d roll out of bed and crack your head open on the floor without anyone to stop you.”

“So little faith,” says Chirrut, and Baze grunts. “I suppose you’re just going to have to look.”

“You lost it, you go look for it.”

“I’m blind,” says Chirrut again.

“That’s always your excuse.”

“Because it’s true,” says Chirrut, as cheerfully as he can manage. “I’m all right here if you’d like to start looking. It’s not as though I’m going anywhere.”

Baze stares at him for a shade too long, buzzing in his senses. Finally, he gets to his feet, bends and rests his mouth to the top of Chirrut’s head. “Stubborn old fool.”

“No fool like an old fool.” Chirrut lifts a hand, catches his wrist when he reaches out for the cannon. “Take the quarterstaff. Your knees are bothering you.”

“They’re not.”

Chirrut doesn’t even have to say anything. He thinks it’s clear enough in the lift to his eyebrows. Baze takes the quarterstaff, grumbling under his breath.

“You’re sure you dropped it here on Yavin,” he says. “Not anywhere else.”

“Absolutely certain,” says Chirrut. “I realized it was missing on the way to Scarif. Forgot until now.”

“Of course you did.”

“There were extenuating circumstances.”

Baze blows air out his nose, and doesn’t move.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Chirrut says again, but he reaches out with one hand, not turning his head. He finds Baze’s fingers. “I’ll be fine. I can take care of myself.”

“That’s what you think,” says Baze.  

“I have things to do here,” says Chirrut. The doctor’s making his way across the floor, staring at his datapad. The Bothan doctor isn’t in the room. He can’t quite sense her, beyond her general presence, beyond the tang of her frustration in the Force. Like peaches on the edge of turning sour. “Like rest. And eat. If I’m lucky, they might even give me real food instead of whatever they piped into me during the bacta treatment.”

“Not until after you’re up to full organ functionality, you won’t,” says the doctor, and pulls the curtains back. “The damage was mostly to your kidneys and your liver, but I don’t want to go making anything worse until I’m certain everything’s in full working order. Which means more nutritional treatments via bacta immersion.”

Baze says, “Figures your stomach came through intact.”

Chirrut shifts just enough that he can hit Baze in the gut without the doctor noticing.

“If you’re up for it, I can put you back in bacta for your last treatment,” says the doctor. He sweeps through his datapad. “The cycle should take around two hours and then you’ll be back on your feet. Mostly. You’ll still need to rest as much as possible, and I won’t be able to clear you to leave sickbay for another two days, at least.”

Baze makes another grumpy sound under his breath.

“Go find my crystal,” says Chirrut. Baze squeezes his shoulder just a bit too hard, crackling with frustration. “Or sleep, or something. I’m not going to be interesting to anybody at all while I’m trapped in bacta.”

“Key word there being trapped,” says Baze.

“The guards will make sure nothing happens,” says Chirrut, and judging from how the doctor stirs, he hadn’t realized Chirrut had noticed all the eyes on them. “They’re here for a reason. I’m not going anywhere yet.”

Which, judging by the face Baze makes, is not at all reassuring.

“Go,” says Chirrut. “I’ll be fine here.”

“That’s what you always say,” says Baze, but he stalks off anyway, quarterstaff resting against his shoulder. The guards at the far end of sickbay don’t argue, when he leaves, but three of them do split off to follow, and that, in and of itself, is confirmation of what they’re here for. In all honesty, he feels slightly bad for them, considering the inevitable.

The pearly gleam to the Force creeps closer, like a hunted animal, like a curious kitten. They don’t say anything, whoever they are. He thinks they’ll be able to someday, but not now. It’s a mess of impulses and feelings, all thrust at him at once, and Chirrut can’t sort through them, exhausted as he is. He waves something that might be a question, and the puppy pulls back again. Chirrut can’t hold on to his awareness of them anymore. He slips back, away from the Force, back into his own head, and dabs at the shred of blood under his nose.

“I don’t like the look of that,” says the doctor. His eyebrows draw together. “Does this happen often?”

“Only when I’m an idiot,” says Chirrut. There’s the vague sense of a thread coming close to the end of the wheel, buzzing. “You said final immersion?”

.

.

.

They’re back.

The three guards who trail him from sickbay aren’t particularly subtle. Then again, none of the guards that General Draven has set on them have been particularly subtle. The bag over his head on the way down to the basement hadn’t been subtle in the slightest. It’s probably intentional, he thinks. Baze turns, and starts down a narrow set of stairs. Leaving an obvious guard trailing a person around is never anything other than a statement. We don’t trust you. We’re watching you. Whatever you’re planning, we can stop you before you start. Draven isn’t stupid, Baze doesn’t think. He wouldn’t have become the head of Alliance Intelligence by being stupid, or sloppy, or overhasty. Whatever reason he has for being so overt, Baze is certain the man must have back-up plans for his back-up plans.

He doesn’t like this place. No matter what Chirrut says, no matter that he has no more sense of the Force than a disabled gonk droid, it still rooted all the way through with the stench of Sith. Chirrut’s blind; he can’t see the odd, twisting inversions of everything that had been in the Temple, all the backwards reflections of what had been home for almost forty years. In sickbay it’s disguised, mostly, he can pretend he’s not in enemy territory, but out here, with three plainclothes guards bristling with blasters shadowing his every step, with all the reversed patterns of the Temple haunting him, he’s itching all over beneath the skin. That on top of Draven, whatever he’s planning, whatever he wants, is just serving to make him ready to crack skulls.

If Draven is having us watched, what does that mean for Jyn and the others? He doubts they’ll be welcomed back with open arms. By the Admiral, maybe, by Mothma most certainly, but not by Draven. If Draven had been willing to put him into custody for possibly knowing their heading, for maybe having some idea of their eventual destination, Baze doesn’t doubt that he’d have done just as much to Jyn and Andor and Bodhi Rook, if they really have returned. Maybe more, even. The more attention they draw to themselves, the more attention they draw to the Rebellion, and to an Intelligence officer, attention is death. For all that the Alliance has been dragged into the sunlight, now, their survival relies on stealth as much as it does sheer power. Baze doesn’t envy Draven his position of trying to keep that balance intact. Not in the slightest. 

Baze steps down out of the stairwell, and considers. He’s never been down this way, and has no idea where he even is, but his guards follow him without stopping him, so he supposes it’s nowhere near Jyn and the rest of them. That’s what these soldiers are here for, more than likely. To shift him away, if he gets too close. Which means sooner or later he has to deal with them, and that probably means more broken bones. He’d rather avoid killing any Alliance soldiers, if he can help it. Especially considering everything they nearly died for on Scarif, the men they ran with. The men they saw fall.

No, he won’t kill them. He’ll snap a bone or two if it means they keep their hands off, but he won’t kill them. He supposes Draven will just have to be content with that. 

He hadn’t wandered the base much before the march on Scarif, and after he’d spent most of his time in sickbay, by the bacta tanks, by the cots. He knows nothing of the halls he’s wandering through, has no idea which way is which. A handful of Alliance soldiers dart by, clustered together in their whispering. One or two droids buzz past in the opposite direction. He doesn’t ask; he turns after the droids, quarterstaff still halfway draped over his shoulders, and follows. Droids generally don’t notice they’re being followed the way humans do, especially if they’re astromechs and not security. Besides: astromechs lead to ships, ships lead to hangars and landing pads, hangars and landing pads lead to the outside world, and if there’s any clue as to where Jyn and Captain Andor and Bodhi Rook are, it’ll be outside.

Baze keeps walking, and his tails creep after him like shadows.

There are no maps of the Rebel base, and no directions either, and so when he finally breaks out into the sweltering muggy mess of the jungle, out onto a landing pad full of B-wings and half-emptied shuttles, he has to find the sun to orient himself. Yavin IV’s sun rises in the east, sets in the west, same as Jedha’s; it’s easy enough to tell north from that. With the Alliance forces spread out the way they are, and what little he’d gleaned from Andor and the other soldiers—eight landing pads, one main ziggurat and two smaller temples—there’s little he can do other than wander until he finds some kind of lead. He turns east, and walks. Young cargo pilots stare at him with wide eyes. Stories have spread, then. A place like this would have a massive rumor network, a quick turnover for anything of even the slightest interest, and considering Scarif, considering the guards on the sickbay doors and the whispers, he’s of interest. He’s not going to be able to get anywhere without people noticing, even if he takes care of the tails, and that limits what he can do before he’s shuffled back into sickbay again.

LP-2 is all B-wings; LP-3 and LP-4 all shuttlecraft, passenger ships, half-unloaded cargo. Too many people, for what Draven would want. He turns at the corner of the ziggurat, and keeps going. LP-5 has cargo ships as well; LP-6 is all X-wings and A-wings, nestled into the body of the ziggurat itself.  The bay they’d left from for Scarif. He recognizes the ivy clambering the walls, the shadowed nook where the astromechs nestle in the far back. He knows they stole a ship, Jyn and Andor and Bodhi Rook; he doubts it would have been an X-wing. A cargo ship, most likely. It would be the easiest to sneak away on. The trio of tails have trotted to catch up with him, now, only a few steps behind. The X-wing hangar is busy, for some reason. There’s a knot of people at the far end, talking in sharp voices. Snapping and snarling. The Admiral's there, and Mothma. The smallest has the sharpest voice, and Mothma's trying to cool her off.

Draven’s there.

“Hey,” says a voice. A woman—long hair, a pointed nose, a curling kind of accent to her voice that he doesn’t recognize—peers at him, pushing her curls back out of her eyes. “Can I help you?”

“No,” says Baze. “Probably not.”

The woman frowns. She looks at him, at the bundle of people at the far end, at Draven. Her lips purse. “I wouldn’t, if I were you.”

Baze scowls. “Wouldn’t what?”

“Hit him,” says the woman. “You look like you want to.”

He doesn’t have much to say to that. Other than, possibly, that he usually looks like he wants to hit people. Baze rests the butt of the quarterstaff on the stone floor, rests his palm to the other end, rocking it back and forth.

“Well,” says the woman, and snaps a tie around her massive nest of hair, peeling it away from her eyes. “A lot of people want to. It’ll get your ass tossed in an empty cell, and I’m guessing your friends won’t like that.”

“Who says I have friends,” says Baze, and the woman’s mouth ticks up at one corner.

“You’re one of the Guardians, aren’t you? The one that isn’t secretly a Jedi.”

“He’s not,” says Baze, keeping his voice even. And Chirrut isn’t. He’s not regular, that’s for certain, but he’s also no Jedi.

“Right.” Her eyes skitter over his shoulder to the trio of shadows, jump from one to the next to the next. “Acquaintances of yours?”

He shrugs. “Don’t know them.”

She hums. “Figured as much.”

“Don’t you have something else you should be doing, Lieutenant Bey?” snaps one of the shadows. Lieutenant Bey arches an eyebrow at him. “Didn’t think they paid you flyboys to sit around on your ass and gossip.”

“Funny, I didn’t know they paid any of us at all. Or, at least, anything other than backpay.” She steals a look at Baze, steps away. “I didn’t mean to keep you, Guardian. If they haven’t given you the rundown of restricted areas, all the landing pads are fine to wander around. Don’t touch the ships. Mess is on the sixth floor. If a door’s locked, don’t try to break in. People tend to be tetchy about that.”

“Right,” says Baze. Draven, Mothma, the Admiral, and the small woman all turn, vanish into the depths of the ziggurat. "Figures."

Lieutenant Bey looks back, considering. She props one hand on her hip. “You worried?”

Baze blinks. He says, “About what?”

“You haven’t heard?” Her lashes flare out. “A friend of mine on Kilo Base sent me word. Rogue One’s on its way back in. According to the princess, they broke into the Death Star. Her Highness wants to send out a search party if they’re not back in three hours, that’s why we’re all out here prepping.”

Something dark closes in around his throat. He’s not sure if it’s pride or fury. Idiots. Fools. Reckless little shits. And they’re alive, still, and on their way back. They must have succeeded. “They survived?”

“Whole Empire’s on watch for them. No one’s caught them yet.” She scowls. “Nobody told you?”

“No one thought to mention it.”

Lieutenant Bey stares right at his guards—one coughs, drags his foot along the ground—and then flicks her eyes back to Baze. “So no one’s told you anything.”

Baze shrugs again, and looks over her head at the door where Draven had vanished.

Lieutenant Bey weighs that. He can see it in her face, the careful analysis. A pilot, but not a stupid one. Friendly eyes, a reflective mouth. Probably someone trustworthy, he thinks. At least on the surface. She’s given him more information in the past two minutes than even Mon Mothma, and that’s worth something. She says, “You hungry?”

He shakes his head. “Not really.”

“Bullshit,” says Lieutenant Bey.  “Come on.”

“You should get back to work, Lieutenant,” says one of the guards. “Master Malbus, if you can’t find your crystal, we should return to sickbay.”

“Last I checked, Master Malbus isn’t a prisoner,” says Lieutenant Bey. “And since you don’t outrank me, Nazri, I’m going to say thanks for the suggestion, but I’m going to take one of the heroes of Scarif upstairs so he can actually eat something. Unless there’s something else you want to say?”

Nazri scoffs between his teeth. He doesn’t seem to have much of an argument for that.

“This way,” says Lieutenant Bey, and Baze follows. When he looks over his shoulder, he may, possibly, cock an eyebrow at Nazri, just to get the man to scoff again. He can blame it on Chirrut, somehow. It’s always been easy to blame something on Chirrut.

They pass the spot where they’d decided to fight, a thousand years and a few days ago, and Baze looks back again, at the jungle, at the A-wings and X-wings and cargo ships all crammed into a hold too small for them, a revolution struggling to keep its head above water.

Where the hell are you all?

Chapter Text

Part of the reason Alliance Command had eventually settled on Yavin IV as their base of operations—two years ago now, maybe a little more—had not just been because Yavin IV was mostly uninhabited, or left outside of Imperial space, or ignored by the galaxy at large. The ziggurats on Yavin IV were a cacophony of secret passageways, and the original scouts from Intelligence had spent a great deal of time mapping all of them, threading through the walls until everything had been checked over to Draven’s satisfaction. No traps had been uncovered. In all actual fact, most of the secret passages hadn’t even been accessible; they’d need a Jedi to move some of this stone, to undo some of the locks, and all of the Jedi are dead.

They hadn’t been yesterday. There’d been one left. It’s possible there could be others, but he’s not sure he can hold out hope for that. Other people can try.

The passage they’re ushered down is one of the ones that Cassian had scouted in the first place, which is a scrap of irony he doesn’t have time to consider at the moment. Mothma knows of its existence, and Draven, but other than that few people outside of Intelligence officers are aware of the dip in the stone just inside the lip of LP-7’s Hangar 2, the one that rumbles back out of the way at the right touch and opens up into a passage that leads right to the heart of the ziggurat. It’s where they keep what few prisoners they bring back to Base One. They don’t use it very often—most information is gathered in the field, and most targets are far too high risk to ever consider bringing back for further interrogation—but it exists, and he knows  Currently, so far as he knows, it’s unoccupied.

Well, obviously not anymore. But unoccupied by Imperials, anyway.

The last time he’d been in one of these cells, he’d brought a man in for interrogation. An Imperial officer, high up enough to have communication and shipping codes they’d needed to track transport runs, low enough that his disappearance hadn’t caused any great stir. His name had been Trike Hollaw, and he’d been forty-two. Cassian had stayed in his cell for six hours, working on him, talking to him, making him bleed, and when he’d finally dragged the codes out of the wreck of the man he’d been, alongside his nails, his teeth, Draven had just nodded. Cassian hadn’t slept for four full days after. When he’d finally passed out, in the pilot’s chair of his old ship, he’d woken shouting. The codes had turned out worthless, in the end. He thinks Hollaw's ashes were scattered off the roof of the temple.

The heavy stone door swings closed behind them, too soft, almost silent. He has to suck in air through his nose and hold it to remember how to keep on breathing.

“Walk,” says the officer. Not an intelligence man, but probably the only person Draven had been able to snag on short notice willing to throw Alliance personnel into the high-security interrogation wing. “Or we make you walk.”

Jyn’s silent. She’d been silent on Jedha, too, her footsteps so light on the sand that she’d been nearly inaudible. When the light at the end of the hall flickers on, when Cassian looks back, he gets a snatch of her hair stuck to her mouth before they pull him face-forward again.

Bodhi’s still unconscious. The guards carrying him split off, into a cell with a cot, one Cassian’s never used. The door shuts, and when Jyn goes to speak, makes a noise in the back of her throat, the woman hustling her along says, “Shut your mouth.”

Jyn blows hair out of her eyes. When Cassian looks back again, she’s watching him, and her pupils have blown so wide he can’t make out the green of her eyes.

Another guard shoves Jyn into Cell B, the one where he’d put Trike Hollaw. It’s clean, from the one glimpse he gets before they shut the door on her. It’s clean. There’s no trace of blood, no chair. No tools. There are only four cells down here, and it’s probably a coincidence, but his heart’s beating fast enough that he wants to be sick. The security officers push him forward into Cell C, the next one down, hard enough that he falls. His knees hit the stone. No chair in here either. No tools. Nothing but the light in the ceiling, flickering, and the thick walls, and the newly remade durasteel door, the lock snapping into place with a hiss. It’s only after they’ve gone that Cassian lets himself rest on his side, lets himself breathe. There are no cameras in these cells. They don’t ever want recordings of what happens here to even exist, let alone exist long enough to possibly be leaked. He can try to keep his guts in his body in peace, try to ride out the meteorite shooting down his spine in peace, and then he can think.

This was always a possibility. Think it through now. What do they do? Leave them here. Make them sweat. Put them into the docket. You are under arrest, for going directly against orders, for stealing ships, for going off the grid without permission. Technically, for mutiny. He can’t remember the last time Alliance Command held a disciplinary hearing, not for this. Mostly because Alliance soldiers, especially in Intelligence, tend to wind up dead before they get anywhere close to disobeying orders. If the three of them do wind up being court-martialed, he’s fairly certain that it’ll be the first full court-martial in the history of the Rebellion.

Well. At least we’ll be remembered for something.

Cassian doesn’t roll onto his back, not this time. It feels too much like baring his throat to a knife. He heaves himself up, rests against the wall, stretches both legs out and sets his bound hands in his lap. The binders are a shade too tight, and they’re pinching. Draven wants them out of sight, for some reason. Presumably because he knows that if Mothma, or anyone else on the Council, realizes they’ve come in, he’ll have trouble achieving his endgame, whatever it might be. Knowing Draven, it could be anything, but at the core of it all, at the base—protecting the Rebellion. Keeping the Alliance alive.

I will not lose this war through the cowardice of the politically minded. There are other things that must be done.

They’ve gone up against the Empire not once but twice in the space of a handful of days. They’ve gone up against the Empire and won, not once but twice, scraped away with their wits and their lives, in a handful of days. In a way, it makes them invaluable. In another, it makes them as corrosive as acid. The Rogues, he thinks, he and Jyn and Bodhi Rook, Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus, their faces are known. He’d been catalogued, on the Death Star. His genetic identity unraveled. Bodhi’s already listed as a defector. Their faces will be all over, their names are known not just to the rank and file but to the top of the top of the top, to Darth Vader and, presumably, to the Emperor himself. For all that they have unholy luck, for all that they’ve survived, they’re enormous targets, and to Draven, a target is the hole left behind by a blaster, ragged and seeping and ready to bleed. If he sits back, if he thinks, if he puts the situation in that light, then there’s no real way to tell if Rogue One is a benefit or a hindrance. So much of their fleet destroyed, and all because of one woman insisting they could win. Because of one woman demanding that there was no other option but to win, who had been willing to die to see it happen.

She was right, Cassian thinks. He knocks his head to the stone, shuts his eyes. The walls are too thick for him to catch any hint of her. She’s still in his skin, though. Burning on his mouth. Fingers on his lips. Scattered into his bones like shards of starlight. She was right.  

Cassian rubs one hand over his mouth, his jaw. It roars back into his head like a mirage. Some part of him can’t actually believe that it’d happened, and the rest of him can’t pull away from it. There are still sparks lighting under his skin where she’d touched him. He can’t drag himself out of that, but he can’t think about it, either. He can’t afford to think about it. He has to weigh the possibilities, but they’re all slipping through his fingers. There’s no thing, he’d said, and it’d been such a bad lie, because the only thing that in his head, when she’d turned to go, had been I don’t know when I’ll see you again. It’d been you did it and we’re safe and it’s over, I don’t know what they’ll do but I can’t not do this, I can’t risk not doing this. The desperation in how she’d pressed back into him is etched somewhere so deep inside him that he can’t wipe away.  

He can’t think about that. He can’t. Not now. He leaves his knuckles pressed against his mouth, and feeds it into the stone at his back, pushes it away, locks it in a box and sets it aside. The locked trunks in his head are still cracking, weeping, but this one—it’s new. The lock doesn’t fit right, and pieces still creep out the edges, but it’s not broken. He just doesn’t want it shut.

I won’t think about it here.

He’s tortured men in these cells, and killed them, but they’d been Imperials. The code with an Alliance officer as a prisoner is much less murky. If there are charges being brought against them—and there seem to be, considering how they’d been actually arrested, how there’d been a whole string of code violations and official accusations being spouted through the bright raw hum in his ears—then eventually, someone will come to talk them through it. Eventually, someone will have to show up, even if it’s just to drag them all to a hearing. Even if it’s a nobody, it’ll be a somebody, because it means they’re not going to just be made to disappear from the galaxy without a trace. Draven can’t kill them, not now. He can make life incredibly difficult, but they’re not going to die, not anytime soon, and that’s a step up from the Death Star.

Think. Think. How will Draven play this? He’s had them arrested, which means he wants something public. Or he’s following code, and demanding something public, for his own reasons. To neutralize Rogue One. Split them up, scatter them maybe. Taking them out of the Alliance entirely wouldn’t be to Draven’s advantage; he knows, and Draven must too, that they’d all track each other down again. They’d find each other and keep working. Unless Draven had them killed, but then again, Draven had never once sent a man in to assassinate Saw Gerrera either, and he’d been far more dangerous. (Or none that Cassian had ever known about, anyway, which is a knot he can’t unravel from inside a holding cell. He’s not sure it’s a knot he’ll ever unravel. Draven keeps his cards close to his chest, and always has. There’s a voice, hissing in the back of his head, that if Draven’s willing to attempt assassinating Senators to keep the Rebellion together, killing off a guerrilla force like Saw Gerrera and his Partisans would just be common sense.)

Is that their best option? Take the hit from the Rebellion, keep working towards relief in some other way? Can he survive that? Should he even try? Since he was a child, since his father died, he’s done nothing more than this. He’s had nothing more than this. But he’d already made a decision, hadn’t he? I can’t keep doing it Draven’s way. I can’t keep on stomaching it. He can’t sleep most nights, not when everything he’s done is leached into the brickwork of his mind like bloody lime. The Rebellion is the only home he’s ever had, the thing he’s been willing to die for since he was six years old and finding his mother and sisters laid out amongst the casualties on Fest. He’s had nothing else. If he’s cast out, what does that leave him with? What does that mean for everything he’s done?

The Alliance will survive. We’ve given them the path to survive. We’ve nearly killed ourselves to manage it. Whether he leaves, or whether he stays, everything he’s done to keep the Alliance running until now isn’t erased. It’ll survive. They have to survive.

He touches his fingertips to his mouth again, just for a second, and then rests his head on his interlinked hands. He doesn’t look up.

They’re too deep in the earth for him to keep track of time. He counts his heartbeats, for a while, but it makes him think of Vader, and he shies away from it again. (Vader, and he still can’t work out how much Vader learned from him, how much Vader took. He’d been so distracted. He might not have picked up anything. Or he could know everything. Cassian’s head aches.) It could be thirty minutes or three hours before there’s a popping snap from the door, the whine of a lock winding back, and the durasteel swings open. He catches a hint of the guard through the gap, the one who’d clamped the binders around his wrists, before Draven slips in. The door shuts again. The lock slots back into place. Draven, Cassian thinks, looks tired. He’s always looked tired, but even more so, now, like he hasn’t slept. Like he’s carrying more weight than he ever has before.

Poor thing, he thinks, and it sounds more like Jyn’s dull-blade jab. So much to do to imprison his own men. Must be so difficult.

“Not afraid I’ll try to kill you?” he says, when Draven stands there in silence, hands behind his back. The lines are deeper around his mouth than Cassian remembers. “There are protocols.”

Draven considers that. He says, “Are you?”

Cassian knocks his head to the wall again. It’s easier than answering, at first. “No.”

“Well, then. Clearly I’ll be all right.”

Draven doesn’t say anything more for a bit. He unlocks his hands, lets them sway at his sides. Cassian doesn’t budge. He watches Draven watching him, watches Draven watch the cell, and the ceilings, and the fluttery, mercurial light, and then he shuts his eyes to it. Draven clears his throat, and Cassian doesn’t move. He thinks of Jyn’s hair on his mouth and the soft warmth of her throat and doesn’t acknowledge him at all.

“You don’t have anything to say for yourself?” says Draven.

“I think I made myself clear in sickbay, sir,” says Cassian. He keeps his eyes closed. “My position hasn’t changed. I don’t have much else to add.”

Draven moves. Cassian can hear his boots on the floor, the tread. “Princess Leia had a great deal she wanted to tell us about the Death Star. Apparently you saved her life.”

Cassian knocks his head to the wall, again, and again.

“They survived,” Draven adds. “The princess and the people she brought with her. She’ll be very pleased to hear that the droids have been recovered. They’ve already begun analysis of the plans.”

“Will you tell her you found an empty ship?”

Draven doesn’t say anything, for a bit. “No.”

“It’d be easier if we never existed,” Cassian says, half-nightmarish. “Or if we were forgotten, at least. We draw too much attention.”

“You’ve been a loyal agent of the Rebellion since you were ten years old,” says Draven. “I have no intention of erasing that from our records.”

“But you’ll throw the three of us into holding.”

“You went rogue,” says Draven. “More than that, you disobeyed direct orders from the Council. I told you the first time, there were only so many lengths I could go to in order to prevent you all from being court-martialed. This time there was no ground for me to stand on.”

“Or you found none,” says Cassian. “At least.”

“Was I supposed to look?” says Draven. Finally, Cassian opens his eyes. Draven’s settled against the wall opposite, standing, arms crossed. His boots have mud crusted on the soles. “Your man attacked me.”

“He’s not my man,” says Cassian. “And I didn’t ask him to.”

“So there was no collusion between you and Baze Malbus to engineer an assault upon an Alliance council member?”

Cassian says, “No,” and does not blink. It’s the truth, and he has no reason to hide any tells, not now. “There wasn’t. Have you asked him that?”

Draven doesn’t reply. He looks at Cassian for a while.

“Right.” Cassian lets his lips curve up, puts his head back to the wall. He closes his eyes. “Baze isn’t Alliance. You can’t touch him so long as he stays on Yavin IV.”

“You don’t know how much trouble you’re in, Captain Andor,” says Draven, and for the first time his voice shifts. A hint of anger, maybe. Or frustration. “You have no idea how much damage you’ve done.”

“To the Alliance?” says Cassian. It bites and claws at his throat. “Because the droid we brought back has the plans that half our fleet died for. We find the flaw, we destroy it. We survive.”

“If there even is a flaw. The intelligence could be faulty.”

“It isn’t.”

“You actually believe her,” Draven says, an odd angle to how he says the words, like he can’t believe it’s even coming out of his mouth. “Erso."

Cassian says, “I’d think that was obvious.”

“You’re a better agent than this,” says Draven. “What if the intelligence is faulty? What if there is no flaw? What if Galen Erso was just a sad, weak old man who convinced himself that he’d managed to get away with the impossible? Then you’ve risked all your covers, the entire Alliance, drawn one of our best admirals into an impossible fight, for nothing.”

“I believe her,” says Cassian. He doesn’t know how to explain it, otherwise. “And she believed her father. There was no reason he would lie.”

“Her father abandoned her when she was a child. From what we knew of the man, he was a coward as well as a traitor. He’d have said anything to get her to believe him, and she’d have believed anything he said if it explained why he left her in a better light than she’d had before.”

“If that’s what you think,” he says, “then you’re misjudging her.”

“Am I?” says Draven. “All the intelligence we had on her prior to Jedha has proved accurate. She’s reckless, headstrong. Volatile. Unpredictable, I think, was the word you used before you left for Jedha. Unpredictable and untrustworthy. She’s as like to stab you in the back as she would in the front.”

Saw ditched me, she’d said. Her mother dead, her father gone, and then Saw. Saw ditched me and never came back. “She’s had her reasons.”

“You’re better than this,” Draven says again. “You know better than this.”

“You’ve trusted my instincts for years,” Cassian snaps, and fists his hands against his knees. “Why can’t you trust them now?”

“I trusted them because I never had cause to doubt them before,” says Draven, like there’s a difference. And there is. Cassian hates to admit it, but there’s a difference. “Now I don’t know what to think. You’ve gone from one of my best to the kind of agent who will blatantly turn his back on every rule and regulation he used to hold dear to go on a wild goose chase with a woman who barely qualifies as a legitimate source, let alone a part of the Alliance—”

“Sir—” 

“Because of her recklessness you were captured by the Empire, Andor. All of you. The princess said that they had to break you out of holding.”

“We were caught in a tractor beam. We did what we could.”        

“Because Jyn Erso is reckless and unpredictable,” says Draven, his voice dipping up and down, “and for some reason you’re still trusting her.”

You are a captain in the Rebel Alliance, you infiltrated the Imperial base on Scarif to steal the plans for this battle station, and it was Jyn Erso who led you there.

“We escaped,” says Cassian. “We survived.”

“How many of your covers did you blow to manage it?” says Draven, and Cassian shifts on the stone floor. He refolds his hands.

“Sward.”

“Sward,” says Draven. “You blew Sward?

“I had to,” says Cassian. He keeps his voice toneless. “It was that or blow everything else. I had to make the sacrifice.”

“Sward was a merchant. Without more mercantile contacts—”

“Was I supposed to give them my real name? Or an ident that didn’t have so much backing it up?” He’d buried his own name so deep under the folded corners that Vader might not know it, still. He has to pray that’s the case. “I made a choice, General. Considering we’re both still alive to debate it, I’m thinking it was the right one.”

“Clearly,” says Draven. He’s humming with constrained energy, with temper. He presses his lips thin.

“I would trust her with my life,” Cassian says. “I have.”

“Trusting Jyn Erso is more than reckless, Andor, it’s dangerous, considering all that’s happened so far—”

“It’s the only thing that kept Vader out of my head.”

And that—that’s what has Draven reacting, more than just a twitch or a snap. He steps away from the wall. His hands clench, and unclench. He looks frightened, and Cassian thinks, Good. There’s no other reaction. There should be no other reaction. It’s bitter and vicious and petty, but he thinks, Good.

“Full report,” says Draven. “Start to finish. Do it now. We have to see how much damage you’ve done.”

Cassian says, “Who’s debriefing the others?”

“You’re a prisoner, Captain,” says Draven. “Held on suspicion of mutiny, sedition—”

“General—”

“— solicitation of sedition, absence without leave, willfully disobeying a superior officer—”

“It had to be done—”

“—not to mention wrongful appropriation of Alliance ships and supplies, which in and of itself could get you suspended from active duty—”

“You’re making a mistake.”

“Maybe,” says Draven. “But at least I’ll know at the end that I’ve done all I could to keep the Alliance safe. Which is something that doesn’t seem to matter to you any longer.”

It’s odd, how words that are supposed to hurt don’t sting at all. We’ve done the right thing, and he knows it. He knows that.

“It’s the only thing that’s ever mattered,” says Cassian. It feels incomplete, to say it like that. It’s the only thing that’s ever mattered to me, until now. “If the Alliance dies, we lose everything.”

“So it has nothing to do with Jyn Erso,” says Draven.

Cassian looks at him, and closes his eyes for the last time. “It has everything to do with her.”

“Why?”

He can’t answer that. Why? It’s like asking about the laws of physics. He doesn’t know. He can’t answer it. He can’t answer. He shakes his head, and says, “Why does gravity exist?”

Silence, ringing and cold. Then: “Explain.”

“We know the impact of gravity,” says Cassian. He feels dreamy, almost. “We can measure its effect on every planet in the galaxy, every star system. We know it’s real. We know it weighs on us. We just don’t know why it exists in the first place.”

He can’t possibly explain it any other way. It has everything to do with Jyn. He hadn’t come along the second time just to finish the job. He’d done it to keep her alive. He’d done it because she’d asked him to, even if it had been silent. Not for his own redemption. He’d come along because he’s been caught in her gravity, the cosmic pull of her star. It’s the only way he can explain it, even to himself.

Her hands had been shaking. He remembers that. When she’d lifted her fingers to his cheek, to his mouth, her hands had been shaking. The look on her face is printed into him, painted under his skin. Fear, almost. Something close to longing. Still with me? she’d said, and he’s never heard her so soft, or so unguarded as that, not ever before, caught up in a kind of yearning that had come close to breaking his heart. Small and furious and fierce and not alone, anymore. He’s not sure how long it’ll take her to trust it, but she’s not alone.

All the way.

“If you’re in love with her,” says Draven, “then you’re a fool, Cassian.”

“If I am,” says Cassian, so very still inside that even breathing would break his temper, “then I don’t know that it’s any of your business.”

“It is if you compromise your position through acting like a besotted teenager,” Draven says. “You’re acting like a child.”

“I stopped being a child when my family was killed,” Cassian says. “Sir.”

Draven, impossibly, goes silent. Cassian doesn’t budge.

“Make your report, Captain,” says Draven, finally. He’s exhausted, all at once. “From the beginning.”

Cassian does. When he falls silent, Draven leaves without another word, and the lock rams shut again behind him. 

.

.

.

People seem to know Lieutenant Bey. (“Shara,” she says, in the elevator, coolly ignoring the irritable little grumbles from Nazri, the beady glare from the other two guards. “You’re not Alliance, you can call me Shara.”) She gets a great many nods, on the way into the mess hall. A few people move to call out to her, and then stop at the sight of Baze, big-eyed and wary as desert hares. It’s a wonder this rebellion gets anything done at all, if they all stop and stare at new faces the way they’re stopping and staring at his. Anyone could snap their necks.

Shara takes a space in line, snaps something in a language he doesn’t know at the being behind the counter. Baze gets a tray, too, piled on with whatever’s being made at the moment. Baze isn’t stupid. If there’s food being offered, he’ll take it, even if it makes the back of his throat scratch. It’s clearly edible, considering the rest of the people in the mess who haven’t keeled over and died of poisoning.

“The caf’s terrible,” says Shara, and behind the counter, another server, a private by the look of her, makes a grumpy noise. “Don’t argue with me, Dania, it’s terrible. It’s rebrewed so often that half the time it just tastes like dishwater.”

“Maybe I’ll put actual dishwater in it next time, see how you like it,” says the woman named Dania, and flounces away.

“You already do,” says Shara, half under her breath, and takes a mug for the caf machine anyway. Baze does not. He resettles his grip on the quarterstaff, tracks Shara to the back left of the mess hall, and when she sits down, he settles the tray on the table and stands there, just for a moment. The three guards waver back and forth like baby birds before finally taking empty places at the end of the table, trayless and awkward. Shara doesn’t look at them once.

“So,” she says, and jabs something orange on her tray with the tines of her fork. Baze considers the mess of colors on his own tray, and says nothing. It’s all very vibrant and gelatinous, which in his experience means high vitamin content and very little taste. “You’re from Jedha, aren’t you?”

Baze looks at her. He leans back. The quarterstaff is less than two inches from his fingers. For all she’s on the other side of the table, he could slam it into her temple and take the three guards down before they realized what was happening. The likelihood of him getting out of the mess hall is fairly low, but he could at least try. “Jedha doesn’t exist anymore.”

“The moon does.”

“The city doesn’t,” says Baze. It’s an important distinction. “No more Jedha City, no more Jedhites.”

Shara stabs a green thing next. The shapes on her tray aren’t really recognizable as vegetables. They’re just lumps. He’s had worse. Baze picks up one of the dryer things with his fingers, swallows it without chewing too much. He can’t remember the last time he ate, and that means it’s been too long. The biscuit thing, whatever it is, snags like a beetle in his throat.

“Right,” says Shara. She mashes something else green underneath her fork. “I—can’t imagine.”

He doesn't want to talk about Jedha. Baze picks up the other half of the beetle-biscuit. He dumps it in the almost-liquid portions of purple something-or-other on his tray, and lets it sit. “How far is Kilo Base?”

“About two hours, give or take, depending on the quality of your hyperdrive.”

“When were they supposed to arrive?”

Shara says, “About an hour ago. If nothing happened.”

His hands itch for the quarterstaff. The crystal is on planet. Chirrut had been asleep, but he’d picked up on the kyber crystal around thirty minutes ago. More than enough time. They’re here. Chirrut’s not wrong about that. Something’s happened, but they’ve landed. His guess is Draven. If Draven’s hidden them away somewhere, then the only way Baze is going to find out where they are is talking to General Draven himself. “Right.”

“What do you know?” Shara says, and rests her elbows on the tabletop. When Nazri makes an unhappy noise, she ignores it. “Or I guess I should be asking what they’ve told you. I can’t give you anything classified, but so far as I’m aware, there’s nothing particularly classified about any of it. Considering they’ve all gone rogue and AWOL before.” Her lips twitch at the corners. “Doesn’t surprise me, with your sergeant the way she is.”

“Are you saying you knew about Jyn Erso’s mutiny before it happened?” says Nazri.

“Don’t be an idiot, Nazri,” says Shara, deeply disgusted. “You think I wouldn’t have reported that? No. She’s already gone off the grid once to get this job done, that’s all. Doesn’t surprise me in the least that she’d do it again.”

“Surprises me that she’d take Andor with her, though,” says a voice. A stocky man with dark hair one table over has lifted his head from where he’d rested it on his arms. “He never seemed like the type to go AWOL without a damn good reason.”

“I’d say finding a way to kill a planet killer is a damn good reason,” says Shara.

“If a way even exists,” says Nazri.

“It exists,” Baze says.

“Who told you that, Jyn Erso?” Nazri scoffs. “A criminal. A half-Imp ex-Partisan who spends most of her time with a crazy Imperial cargo pilot and a reprogrammed Imperial Security Droid. None of that says trustworthy to me.”

Baze curls his hands up under the table. “I would not continue,” he says. “If I were you.”

“Give me a reason to put you back in custody, Malbus,” says Nazri. “It’d be my pleasure.”

“It really wouldn’t,” says Baze.

“Oh, do us a favor, Naz,” says the stocky man. “Shut your damn mouth.”

“You believe this eopie shit, Antilles?” snaps Nazri. “Half the fleet was destroyed over Scarif, for plans we haven’t even seen yet. If she was really going to bring the plans back to the Rebellion, where the hell is she? She’d be back by now. The princess and the—people she brought back with her, they’ve been here three hours, easy. They shouldn’t be this late. My bet is, they took the ship and ran off.”

“The Princess believes her,” says Antilles.

“All you pilots are too in love with the princess to think straight.” Nazri leans back in his seat. “The princess is a child. She doesn't know traitors like the rest of us do. And from what I remember, Antilles, you were a defector too. Sorry if I don’t take your word for it.”

“Half the pilots in the fleet defected from Imperial Academies, Nazri,” says Antilles, in a mild voice. His face is very blank. “You might want to be careful what you say.”

“So far as I’m concerned, anyone who would break into the Death Star to get their hands on those plans isn’t about to take off without turning them in.” Shara stabs something else on her tray, knocking it off onto the table with sheer force. She collects the shapeless brown thing with two fingers, and leaves it on her napkin, peeking at Baze. “Welcome to the Alliance,” she says. “Half the time we hate each other too much to get anything done.”

There are hundreds of people in this Rebellion, that was what the Admiral had said. Each of them has their own side. Anyone who thinks otherwise winds up getting themselves shot. “Fantastic,” Baze grunts, and goes back to picking apart the food on his tray. There are carvings in the ceiling of the mess, squares breaking at the corners, and they’re not making the itchiness under his skin fade any faster. “Seems inefficient.”

“That’s one way to put it,” says the man called Antilles. Shara budges her tray over, and Antilles takes a place on her side of the table. “You’re one of the Guardians.”

Baze says, “What princess?”

“Doesn’t matter,” says Nazri.

At the same time, Shara says, “Princess Leia from Alderaan.” She stares down Nazri, and then says, “They broke into the Death Star?”

“Or they were caught in a tractor beam, the princess didn’t know for sure.” Antilles has heavy eyebrows, and they sag a little as he speaks, folding his hands in front of his mouth as if he’s half-caught in prayer. “I heard they stole a ship off Onderon and went after the Tantive IV, Death Star picked them up just outside of Alderaanian orbit. Before—”

Wedge stops, and falls silent. Shara stares at her plate.

“They used it,” Baze says. “On Alderaan.”

None of them dare to look him in the face. He doesn’t think he could stomach any of them trying to meet his eyes right now. The stooges of the man who threatened Chirrut. Two pilots who have nothing to say, who can’t possibly understand. He smashes the half-biscuit he’d left in the purple smear, and says, “Before or after they escaped the Death Star?”

“Before,” says Wedge. His voice stays steady. “I don’t know anything else.”

“They left Kilo Base nearly three full hours ago.” Shara stares into her mug of caf. “They should have arrived by now. We shouldn’t be sitting here waiting when we could be out looking for traces.”  

“With what fleet?” Nazri sniffs. “It’s not like there’s much left after Scarif.”

“Watch it, Nazri.”

“One of the kids Princess Leia brought back with her is a friend of Darklighter’s,” says Antilles to Shara. “He vouched for him, says he’s a brilliant pilot. Haven’t seen Skywalker fly yet, but who knows. He might get into Green Squadron. Or Blue.”

“Probably Red,” says Shara. “If he’s friends with Darklighter, Biggs is going to harass your squadron leader.” She toasts him with her mug of caff. “You’ll be getting him fresh off of the recruitment circuit. Good luck, Wedge.”

Wedge makes a rude gesture at her, and steals something off her tray. “He might have more information than the rest of us about what happened to Rogue One,” he says to Baze, and lifts his chin. “Just came in if you want to catch him. The kid in white.”

Baze turns. Most of the rebels are in neutral colors, browns and greens and tans. The kid in white is like a splash of snow in the crowd, going up on the tips of his toes to see over the crowd. He has the quarterstaff in his hand, thumb braced over the sliver of crystal at the end, before he remembers reaching out for it. Baze gets to his feet, and so does Nazri, the other two, all at once, scrambling to keep up with him. The jostling of the table nearly knocks Shara’s mug of caf out of her hand.

“Watch it, Nazri—”

“If you’re done, Malbus, I’m going to have to insist—”

“Don’t push it,” says Baze. “I’m not in a very good mood.”

“Let the man alone, Nazri,” says Wedge. “He’s not doing anything wrong.”

“I have orders, Antilles.”

“Orders to what, to keep him from hearing what might have happened to his friends?” Wedge shakes his head. “Let it be.”

“I can’t,” says Nazri. “Malbus, if you don't come quietly, I'm going to have to—”

"Try it," Baze says, and bares his teeth. "I could do with the break."

“Excuse me,” says a voice, icy, and the whole room seems to stop. It’s the woman, the one from the hangar bay, the one who’d been arguing with Draven. She’s tiny, Baze thinks. It’s more shocking to see her up close, rather than at a distance. Her wrists would snap if he twisted too hard. He hadn’t noticed her approaching, and that—that’s not good. He doesn’t like that he didn’t notice. Not at all. “What the hell is going on here?”

“Your highness,” says Shara, and scrambles up out of her seat. Wedge pushes the bench back, eases up to his feet like his knee hurts. “I—”

“There isn’t—”

“I don’t want an excuse,” snaps the tiny princess. “Explain to me what—”

“Leia!”

The snowfall boy. He’s determined, mouth set, eyes hard. The princess turns when he comes into orbit, blinks at him. He finds her elbow. “I need to talk to you, can we—”

“Forgive me, your highness,” says Nazri, “but we need to escort Master Malbus back to sickbay, I’m sorry to have caused a fuss—”   

“Leia—”

“Not right now,” says the princess. The only time he’s seen more fire in such a tiny person has been Jyn. Baze isn’t quite sure what to make of her. “You’re Baze Malbus?”

Baze tips his head, and then says, “Yes.”

“My name is Leia,” says the princess. “I’ve been meaning to thank you, for what you and your people did for the Rebellion. Especially you and Master Îmwe, since—since the rest of you aren’t here, at the moment, for me to thank properly—”

“Leia,” says the snowfall boy again, and Baze looks at him, full on. There’s sweat on his temples, on his throat. His eyes are half-wild. “Leia, seriously, I need to talk to you—”

“Luke, I really don’t—”

“I don’t want thanks,” says Baze. He thinks he might repeat this until the end of time. “I need to speak to General Draven.”

“Master Malbus, I have to insist—”

“Draven, what for—”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” says the snowfall boy. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere, no one would tell me where you were, the Last Hope touched down an hour ago—”

What,” Leia says, in a completely different voice, and snaps around. “That’s—that’s impossible, I told air control to inform me the moment they came into orbit—”

“I saw them, Leia.” The snowfall boy darts a glance at Shara Bey, at Wedge Antilles, at Nazri and the other guards. At Baze. His eyes catch on the armor, on Baze’s face. He blinks, and turns back to Leia. “I saw them, the three of them. I think they were being arrested, there were soldiers with guns, led by that general, Draven—”

“Where,” says Baze. The snowfall boy blinks, and blinks again.

“Around the back of the ziggurat, Landing Pad Seven, I can show you if—”

“Do it.” Baze snaps the quarterstaff up behind his arm, out of the way. “Show me where.”

“Malbus—”

“And me,” says Leia. She somehow peers down her nose at Nazri, as if she’s tremendous, six times her size. When she clears her throat, there’s a satisfied kind of viciousness to her consonants that makes Baze think of Jyn. “You’re dismissed, Private. Tell General Draven I’ll want to see him in the briefing room as soon as possible, please.”

Nazri clenches his jaw. He salutes, and says, “Yes, Princess.”

“This way,” says Leia. “Antilles, Master Malbus, if you would come with us. And—you, I don’t know you.”

“Lieutenant Shara Bey, ma’am. Green Squadron.”

“You come too,” says Leia. “We could do with some decent ammunition.”

Shara’s smile is all rock-cat sharp. She says, “Ma’am, yes, ma’am.”

Chapter Text

Cassian had said the droids would remain. So, he remains.

It is not K-2SO’s preferred course of action, but then again, not much of this has ever been K-2SO’s preferred course of action. K-2SO’s preferred course of action would have been, at the very start, to leave Jyn Erso on Wobani, and find another way to track down Galen Erso. Of course, nobody ever listens to him, which is why they are currently in the middle of such an extraordinarily dramatic debacle, but that is irrelevant. Scarif would not have happened, he is certain, if they had all simply listened to him in the first place and just done the logical thing.

Cassian had also said he’ll come quietly. K-2SO is not overtly given to obeying all orders, especially when orders are idiotic (Cassian’s orders have been of varying levels of idiotic of late, ranging from not at all to extremely; he’s not sure where this one lies on the current scale) but he had obeyed this one as well. The alternative would have been a restraining bolt or deactivation, with only a forty-six percent chance of reactivation at a later date, so it had seemed to be the most productive course of action. It had not prevented the Alliance SpecForce soldiers from keeping their weapons trained on him as he followed R2-D2 and the protocol droid down the ramp, but then again, they hadn’t shot him. It’s a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

“Scraf, Lizz, one of you get the R2 to analysis. They’ll know what to do, they’ve been briefed.” The remaining lieutenant, a woman with a hawkish nose standing at precisely one hundred-eighty-three centimeters, peers at R2-D2. “The other should get these two to maintenance, like Draven said. And don’t let the Security Droid get the drop on you.”

“How do you like that?” says K-2SO. “Cassian said you could trust me. And I’m coming quietly. So much for being on the same side.”   

“Well,” says one of the SpecForce soldiers. “That’s definitely Andor’s droid. The thing always did have a smart mouth.”

“Of course I do,” says K-2SO. “I contain the accumulated vocabulary of several thousand libraries’ worth of data. Though the phrase itself is someone specious, since it implies I have an actual, physical mouth, which in fact—”

“Ignore him,” says the protocol droid, in his soupy little voice. “I believe there’s something deeply wrong with his internal programming. He can’t seem to shut up.”

“That’s rich coming from you,” says K-2SO.

R2-D2 whistles, shrill and sharp.

“Excellent idea,” says K-2SO. 

“He is not coming with us, R2,” says the protocol droid.

“This isn’t a discussion,” says the SpecForce lieutenant. “Take the astromech to analysis. The other two go to maintenance. Put a restraining bolt on Andor’s if you have to.”

“That is unnecessary,” says K-2SO. “I have already informed you, I will come quietly. As I was instructed.”

“I’m surprised you even know the definition of the word,” says the protocol droid. “Considering you seem incapable of following even the simplest orders.”

“Move, droids,” says the soldier. “Now.

“You don’t have to be snippy,” says K-2SO, and there’s a clang when the soldier whacks at him with his blaster. It of course does nothing other than make a hollow ringing sound, but the soldier looks disgruntled nonetheless. The protocol droid moans a little, whimpering.

“Yes,” says the protocol droid. “Encourage them to shoot us. That’s a brilliant move.”

“Better than being a flash-plated brownnoser,” says K-2SO. “The astromech wants me to go along.”

“Not happening.”

“That is, indeed, what he said,” says the protocol droid, sounding like he’s genuinely suffering to admit it. “I’m afraid that—that R2 can be quite stubborn, when he wishes to be. He has requested—”

“It’s an astromech, I don’t care what it’s requested.”

“Oh, dear,” says the protocol droid. R2-D2 has stopped his wheels. “I’m very sorry about this, but I told you, he can be very stubborn—”

The lieutenant runs both hands over her nose and mouth, the way Cassian does sometimes when he’s struggling not to lose his temper, or trying to figure out how to explain to K-2SO what he said wrong. In this circumstance, there is a ninety-seven point thirteen percent chance that the cause of this behavior in the lieutenant is the former emotion, and not the latter. “If you can’t handle a pair of droids, Scraf, lock their joints and get them where they need to be on a hovercart. I don’t care if you have to take the protocol droid to pieces, just—get them to maintenance.”

Me?” says the protocol droid, with utmost horror. “I’m not the one who—”

“Get it done,” says the lieutenant again, and she marches off. The two SpecForce soldiers look at each other, at K-2SO, at the protocol droid, at R2-D2. They look at each other again. The protocol droid fidgets, wriggling his chassis back and forth. 

“I’m terribly sorry about this, I really am, but once he puts his mind to it—”

R2-D2 whistles, a long string of binary that filters through the translation system settled into the most fundamental programming of K-2SO’s personality core. He tips his head, considering. Then he says, “If I must.”

“What did it say this time?” says Lizz. K-2SO draws himself up, puts his hands behind his back.

“I am going to maintenance,” he says. “With the golden problem.”

“Excuse me, you overbearing autocratic sack of malfunctioning nonsense, but I am not—”

“Fuck, both of you, shut up,” says Lizz, and jerks his head. “You take the astromech before it locks its wheels and we really do have to find a hovercart.”

“You good?”

“It’s coming quietly.” Lizz peeks up at K-2SO from under heavy brows. “You’re coming quietly, aren’t you?”

“That’s what I said,” says K-2SO. “Is your hearing deficient?”

He still is uncertain as to why sentient, fleshy beings seem to think that droids of all kinds don’t realize that they are being spoken about right in front of them. Even Cassian does it sometimes, though he always apologizes afterwards as if he has done something wrong. He’d asked Cassian why it happened in the first place, but Cassian had simply made a face, as if he were in pain, before saying Some people just don’t think droids have minds. When K-2SO had told him that by any definition, a droid could not be said to have a mind, but rather a bundle of programs installed into its overall operating system, Cassian had just laughed and dropped them out of hyperspace. It had not been a joke, so K-2SO has been continuing to analyze the situation, looking for a reason for the genuine humor.

Cassian does not laugh very much. He has these files stored very carefully.

“Bet you ten credits you shoot it before you get to maintenance,” says Scraf, and jerks his head at R2-D2. R2-D2 whistles at them—good luck-and trundles off after him, the beeping fading into the distance. The protocol droid swivels between Lizz and K-2SO, and then, finally, makes a soft huffing sound.

“This is all going to end in tears,” he says.

“Impossible,” says K-2SO. “No droid in my database is equipped with the ability to produce liquid with the exact saline content as human tears. Except, maybe, the Coruscanti—”

“Can we go,” says Lizz, and marches off. K-2SO does not wait for the protocol droid. He keeps his hands behind his back, and follows Lizz.

Being instructed to land at LP-7 leads to a number of potential difficulties. K-2SO had taken note of these difficulties, and dedicated a handful of his programs to analyzing the relative repercussions of each. Primarily, the issue he has come across again and again in all of his projections is that the only reason General Draven would request that they land at Landing Pad Seven—and there is a thirty percent chance that it was not General Draven who made the request, but considering the lack of other council members attending their arrival, the chances are filtering away—would be to prevent anyone from noticing their arrival. This plan, he is sure, is due to some kind of plan on Draven’s part to interrogate, harm, slay, or otherwise disable members of the group known as Rogue One. Again, if this is the case, there will be few allies on Yavin IV, especially within the Intelligence division. Officers in Intelligence, he has observed, tend to keep clear of each other, for reasons that, again, K-2SO does not understand. Cassian himself is deeply uncomfortable speaking to Alliance Intelligence agents outside of Draven himself, and since Draven has taken himself off the list of allies K-2SO knows Cassian has, there is reason to believe that they are, again, surrounded by enemies because of Jyn Erso.

I gave you a blaster, Jyn Erso had said.

Insane. But also impossible to argue against. She could be lying, K-2SO knows, but he does not think she was. She had been incredibly uncomfortable throughout the entirety of their conversation, and Jyn Erso is not a woman who is uncomfortable with lying. She is uncomfortable with truth and vulnerability, not recrafting fact to suit her needs.

He’s the only one who’s ever come back for me. He’s always come back for me. And I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t leave him. I—can’t.

“Why are you making that noise,” says Lizz.

“Don’t ask him,” says the protocol droid. “Please don’t ask him anything. It just encourages him.”

“I am processing,” says K-2SO, and then deactivates his vocal programming. He does not wish to speak about what he is processing at the moment.

Maintenance is on the ground floor of the main ziggurat, two halls and an eastern turn from LP-4, not too far from the junkroom. Lizz turns them over—the protocol droid casts longing looks towards the oil soaks, as if he’s been through a firefight—explains the situation to the clerk on duty, and leaves without another word to report to his lieutenant. K-2SO keeps his hands folded behind his back, and watches the scuttling of the droids and the mechanics around maintenance. It is altogether much more cramped in here than it had been in the maintenance wing of the Death Star, and he does not believe he can get away with violence here the same way he could in Imperial territory. Also, he supposes that Cassian would be upset if he attacked the mechanics here, and it would also reflect poorly on their current standing as hypothetical refugees.

“Hey, there,” says one of the mechanics. The patch on her vest reads Marsh. She leans back, looking up at him. She is not as short as Jyn Erso, so the exercise is pointless. K-2SO scans her, and then sweeps away. “You’re quiet.”

“He isn’t,” says the protocol droid.

K-2SO reactivates his voice. “I am not in need of repair. I have simply been brought here to keep me out of the way. Eventually I am supposed to report to Intelligence Analysis.”

“Sure,” says Lieutenant Marsh, in the voice that Cassian uses when he’s trying to soothe a CI. “Well, I’m gonna run a diagnostic anyway, okay? I know Captain Andor doesn’t like anybody touching your code, so I won’t muddle anything up. Just wanna make sure there aren’t any viruses.”

“I am not in need of maintenance,” says K-2SO again. “I am required elsewhere. They will call.”

“What on earth are you talking about, you nonsensical monstrosity?” says the protocol droid. K-2SO wonders why he was not deactivated long ago. “Just because R2 has silly ideas about—”

“I will wait,” says K-2SO, and he sits on one of the diagnostic tables. He is too tall for it, and his knees bend awkwardly. The hatch covering his personality core and intake port remains firmly closed, and locked. “But I will be summoned.”

“….right,” says Lieutenant Marsh. “What about you?”

“Get me away from him,” says the protocol droid. “He’s murderous.”

“Of course he is,” says Lieutenant Marsh. “Come on, 3PO. Let’s check your antivirals, okay?”

The protocol droid shuffles off, still excruciatingly slow, and K-2SO sits. The humidity levels on Yavin IV have broken ninety-two percent today, and it shows, on both the mechanics. Lieutenant Marsh’s hair is soaked through with sweat, as is the collar of her shirt, the fabric under her arms. The Ithorian has green smears against the fabric of xir uniform. If he could smell, K-2SO knows, he would catch something floral. A genetic adaption used to blend in with jungle scents. Objectively speaking, biologically fascinating, but irrelevant. If R2-D2 follows his own suggestion, then he will be called to Intelligence Analysis or the briefing room sooner rather than later.

Time passes. He doesn’t check his internal chrono. It is the primary function of his processes at the moment. Behind that is analysis, tactical and informational; the version of K-2SO that had died on Scarif would have known the size of the Death Star plans, but this K-2SO does not, and that means he cannot accurately predict the length of time it will take to analyze the plans to the extent necessary to prove that Rogue One’s excursions into Imperial space were both warranted and successful. He had not even been able to estimate their relative size from cataloguing the size of the maintenance files in the Death Star system, because those files had been entirely blocked behind firewalls too thick for him to break through in what little time he’d had to attempt it. It could be anywhere from the thirty to seventy-five minutes as predicted by R2-D2 to a full day to longer.

Until the flaw in the Death Star is proven through analysis of the plans, there is no justification for removing Cassian and the others from Alliance custody. Or very little that he would be able to argue. He is unsure that the Council will listen to him in this matter regardless of the evidence he bears, but if he can, maybe, reach Chirrut Îmwe or Baze Malbus, have them speak to a councilor more receptive to Rogue One than Davits Draven is now, then the likelihood of their being freed, or at least released from high security cells, rises.

Not by much, but it does rise.

The door opens. K-2SO lifts his head. It is not a private. It is the man from the Death Star, the pilot, the annoying one with the Wookiee. He flickers through scanning systems, infrared to ultraviolet to regular, and then says, “This is displeasing.”

“You have to be kidding me,” says Han Solo. He looks equally as displeased. The Wookiee lets out a ricocheting cry which K-2SO’s translation program reads as I told you I smelled them. “What the hell are you doing in here?”

“Waiting,” says K-2SO. “You survived.”

“You don’t have to sound so disappointed.”

“Should I sound pleased?” K-2SO looks over Han Solo’s shoulder into the hallway before the door slides shut. “It’s not as if I like you.”

“Great,” says Han Solo through his teeth, and leans against K-2SO’s table. “That’s just great, droid thinks he’s a comedian—can I get some help over here?”

“They don’t like you either,” says K-2SO, without needing to look at either of the Alliance mechanics. “They would have come to say hello if they did.”

“Everyone’s so friendly around here,” says Solo. “Real welcoming feel.”

“That’s the exact opposite of their intentions, I think,” says K-2SO. He debates the merit of disabling Han Solo as well as the protocol droid, and then decides that tangling with a Wookiee is not going to be of any kind of use in regards to his plan to help Cassian and the others. “You’re very strange, even for—whatever it is you are.”

“Figures I’m stuck with you,” says Solo. He whacks the table again. “Look, I need a .360 wheel wrench, some bimbo stole mine back on Tatooine and I can’t get the hyperdrive compartment open without one, so would you just—”

“Ask the deck officer,” says Lieutenant Marsh, and goes back to her project. “We’re not a lending library.”

“I did,” says Solo. “They don’t have one either. Doesn’t anyone have a decent tool kit on this sweltering rock? This is nuts, I can’t even—”

K-2SO whirs, and then says, “The power draw on your hyperdrive is six percent higher than it ought to be for a ship outside of hyperspace.”

Solo blinks, and blinks again. He turns, and looks at K-2SO. “Yeah, how’d you—”

“You did not find the tracking device,” says K-2SO, and he stands. R2-D2’s summons to the briefing room must be put on hold. This takes priority. “Are you always this criminally stupid or have you been the victim of a recent blow to the head?”

“Look, your captain friend ain’t here now, boltbag, so you keep pulling this holier-than-thou stuff out of your ass like this—”

“So just stupid then,” says K-2SO. “How are you all not dead yet?”

“The hell is—”

The bomb. Of course. The bomb. It would have taken time to patch the damage caused by his explosive charge, and the blast itself would have made it dangerous to make the jump to hyperspace until it had been repaired. “Where is the Falcon?”

“Don’t you dare put your metal paws on my ship, you oversized lump of wiring, where the hell do you think you’re going—”

“To disable the transmitter,” says K-2SO. “And to put out a base-wide alert.”

“For what,” says Solo, and K-2SO stops in his tracks. The Wookiee is almost of a height with him. He is not accustomed to beings that can almost look him in the eye, even if his current form is far too sturdy for the Wookiee to be able to peel his arms off like he would any organic being. K-2SO measures the threat, finds it wanting, and then looks down at Solo.

“Because you have led the Empire straight here,” says K-2SO. “Well done, genius.”  

.

.

.

There’s no point in pacing. She knows that from Wobani. When you’re in custody, all pacing does is wear you out, make you stupid, make you let down your guard when you shouldn’t. Jyn doesn’t pace. She waits until the lock clicks shut, one-two-three snaps, and the lights flicker and go out—they’re keeping her in the dark—before she finds the wall with both hands, slides down and sprawls her legs out. They’d taken her vibroblades, and her gun. Gone through every pocket of Cassian’s jacket, taken everything he’d had stashed. Not much, as it turned out. A few more blades. She’d never recovered her telescoping baton from the Death Star, so that’s long since lost. The lock itself—she’s guessing, but she thinks she’s right—is a Corellian Rider-X19 Dual-Encrypted Panel, and that means she’s not going to be able to reach any of it from the inside, even with the good half of the passcode she’d caught before the guard had remembered to yank her back. Breaking into a room or a safe protected with a Rider-X19, that she can do. Breaking out of one, that’s a different matter entirely.

Especially in the dark.

Her shoulder hurts. The bacta patches she’d managed to snag for them on Kushibah Prime have done a lot for the wound from the blaster bolt—it doesn’t ache nearly so badly, hasn’t split to bleed once, her arm moves better, more smoothly—but the guards had wrenched her around by the wrists, and now there’s a steady throbbing beat beneath the patch like its own tiny heartbeat. When she touches her fingers to it, though, rubs at her left collarbone, at the sore emptiness, the skin is cool; there’s no bleeding. Jyn knocks her head to the wall a few times, swears under her breath, and then draws her knees up to her chest. It’s not the same as when she’d been thrown into holding before Wobani. They’ve let her keep her shoes, her belt. Cassian’s coat. They’re not worried she’s going to hurt herself. Clearly Draven wants them alive for something.

She can’t get it scorched out of her mind. Bodhi, staggering, eyes rolling up into his head. Cassian putting his hands up, getting on his knees. The target on his back. She can’t wipe it from her memory. She puts her head to her knees, wraps her arms around her legs. Jyn breathes, in and out. She’s fine with small spaces so long as there’s light, so long as there’s some kind of sound, but this place, whatever it's supposed to be, has neither. The walls are too thick. Heavy stone. Chilly, in spite of the jungle air outside. Under the earth, kept cold. She can’t even make out an echo. And the light’s gone, utterly. There are colored spots bursting in her vision, tricks from eyes desperate to see anything in the gloom. She can’t even see her own hand in front of her face.

Jyn. You know what to do.

Something shivers in her lungs. Jyn pulls Cassian’s coat tighter around herself, pulls the hood up over her head. It does nothing to convince the screaming child in her mind that she’s put herself in the dark this time, but the fabric helps. The warmth and the scents caught in the folds. Salt and something like cooking spice, sweat and carbon scoring. She touches fingertips to her lips, the skin by her mouth that’s long since stopped buzzing, and then shuts her eyes, breathes, and tries to steady out, tries not to sound as ragged as she is. She’s not an eight year old girl left behind anymore. This is temporary. At some point, someone will open the door. She’ll be blinded. The light will be too strong for her, but the door will be open again. It has to.

Don’t leave me in the dark. She hadn’t made a sound down there, in her hidey-hole, in the hatch. She’d cried and bitten her fist hard enough to bleed to muffle herself. Don’t leave me. Don’t let them find me. Don’t leave me here.

Lyra, still sprawled out in the mud, her father falling to his knees. The white ghost.

They have a child. Find it.

Her palms won’t stop sweating. She scrubs her hands on her trousers, over and over, until finally she gives up, finally draws the kyber crystal out from beneath her shirt and folds her fingers around it, pressing it to her Cassian-stained mouth. It’s warm, still. The crystal. Her mouth. Kyber crystals are what powered the Jedis’ lightsabers, her father had said. Her mother had added, They live, just like you and me. Chirrut had heard it. She’s never felt it as warm as it’s been the past few weeks, not in the fifteen years since her mother took it, not since the first white-hot moments when Lyra died and Jyn had run, rainwater running down her cheeks from where it’d soaked into her braids, the bag bouncing on her back, bruising, muddy to her waist and drenched.

Trust the Force.

“I am one with the Force,” she says. She feels silly doing it. Jyn takes a deeper breath. “I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.”

The room seems to swallow up her voice. When she takes a breath, her nose burns with bleach.

“I am one with the Force,” she says again. The crystal doesn’t flash hot or freeze cold. It stays steady against her gloved palm, against her bare fingers. Warm as living skin. Warm as a heartbeat. “The Force is with me.”

She hadn’t seen Chirrut or Baze, she thinks. Not in any of the cells. There had only been four doors, and three of them are shut, now. The fourth had been left open. Draven could be keeping them somewhere else, but she’d rather lie to herself and think of them sitting in sickbay, still in sunshine. Baze watching Chirrut in bacta floats into her head, that untethered, wild, frightened look, the look like he’s a ship without an engine to guide it, without a rudder or power, drifting in the endless black. A lost look. A raw look. A shipwrecked look, she thinks.

“Bastard,” says Jyn to Draven, and zips Cassian’s coat up again. “Fucking—kriffing bastard.”

They have to listen. The Alliance has to listen. The Alliance has never listened. Not to Saw—Saw wasn’t right either, it’s a whisper in the far back of her mind, Saw wasn’t right and neither are the Partisans now, nothing that has children doing what I did can be right, nothing is, nothing—and not to her, not even when she’d begged them. Not even when she’d pleaded. The question is, what choice? The question is, will they let them free before there’s another Alderaan? Will they believe the intel before there’s another planet destroyed? Before another city is wiped off the map?

Jedha, Bodhi had said in the cockpit of the Last Hope. It’s Jedha. She’s doesn’t know if he’d realized he’d said it aloud. Jedha.

And this is the Alliance that Sefla and Pao and Melshi and Tonc and all the rest of them died for.

Welcome home, Cassian had said. I’m with you. All the way.

She thinks it might never leave her mouth, now. The kiss. There’s some kind of mark on her, like woodstain. Like some kind of tattoo. Jyn, wait, and teeth clicking together and his thumb sweeping along the skin of her neck and his mouth, the scratch of stubble and his hand broad on her waist and her arms around his neck, clinging. Closer. She can’t think of the last time she’s ever wanted to be so close to another person as she’d wanted to be to Cassian. She doesn’t think there’s ever been a time she’s wanted to be so close to another person. It's something beyond companionship and beyond the complicity of comrades. His heartbeat under her palm is scratched into the bones of her hand, etched into the phalanges. He's burrowed through the cracks and settled into her marrow in a way nobody else ever has, a way that she doesn't ever want with anyone else. I’m with you. All the way. We did it. Welcome home.

I was ready to die with you. I was ready to die for you. I can’t leave you. I won’t leave you.

Everyone leaves. It’s almost Saw. Eventually everyone goes.

I’m not used to people sticking around when things go bad.

She should have cut and run the moment she heard the plans were missing. She should have gone on her own. She might have survived, she might not have, but she should have cut and run.

Welcome home.

She feels shipwrecked. Jyn settles her nose in the fur around the hood of the borrowed coat, and takes deep breaths.

Is this why Mama went back? Is this why Papa fell apart?

The snapping of the lock is so sudden that it makes her jump. Jyn scrambles up to her feet, shifting her weight, and shuts her eyes in the moment before light blazes in through the cracks. It burns through her lids, scarlet and bloody. When she peeks, tears build at the corners of her vision. Sound ricochets in, reverberating like a blaster bolt. “—left her in the dark—”

“The wiring is faulty,” says another voice. Draven. “It turns on and off all the time.”

“I don’t care if it turns violet and starts flashing like a strobe, you do not leave a prisoner in the dark like locking a child in the basement—”

“You have no authority—”

“And you’re abusing yours!”

“We do not have the luxury of playing your political games, Your Highness, not when—”

“You deliberately withheld knowledge of their return from the Alliance Council, I think there’s a whole lot more going on here than me just playing politics—”

“You have no authority to release them from custody!”

“I have the authority to get them treated before they bleed out all over the interrogation room floor!”

“Hey,” says a voice, and Jyn flinches back from the touch. It’s very light. “Slow down.”

She knows the voice. Jyn turns her face, blinks. She rubs at her eyes. There are great black spots smearing over her vision, like bugs. When she blinks, blinks again, turns her face away from the light, it clears just a little. Red, that’s the first thing she sees. Flickering red, and long hair. A tired mouth.

“You look like shit, little sister,” says Baze. He’s holding Chirrut’s quarterstaff. The corners of his mouth twitch, ever so slightly, when she scrubs at her eyes again. "Took you long enough to get back."

“Piss off,” says Jyn, but her voice breaks. The binders on her wrists clench. “Is this a rescue?”

“It’s something, that's for sure,” says another voice, and the curly-haired pilot from the hallway, from a millennium and a few days ago, tips her head at Jyn. “He’s right, Sarge. You look like shit.”

Jyn doesn’t know what to say.

“I’m going back to check on the other one,” says another person, a dark-haired man in the doorway. He vanishes. Shara mutters something under her breath, and checks the binders on Jyn’s wrists. Jyn yanks her hands away before she can touch. The light’s pouring in, and air, and in the next moment something’s settled against the crown of her head, heavy and warm. Baze doesn’t shift his hand; he leaves it there for a long moment, not looking at her, the quarterstaff held tight in his other fist.

 “—bring in unaffiliated personnel—”

“—don’t imprison the people who have risked their lives over and over to ensure the Alliance—”

“Keep that crystal on you,” says Baze. “It’s a good tracking device.”

“Nice to know,” says Jyn.

“C’mon,” says Shara. “Let the princess and Draven get their punches in. They’ve been dying to have a go at each other for at least the last year, you have no—”

Whatever else she has to say is swallowed in the sirens. Something’s wailing, not in her cell but just outside, out of a loudspeaker, down the hall, coming down from the surface. Again, again, again. Three whooping calls in quick succession, a pause, another three quick whoops. Shara doesn’t hesitate. She’s out the door before the first repetition, and there’s a flicker of motion from across the hall, the stocky man bolting with her. Jyn looks up at Baze. His hand slips off her hair.

“That can’t be good,” he says.

“No,” says Jyn. Her stomach’s a rock. “Probably not.”  

Leia stops in the doorway. She’s changed clothes, out of the disguise, out of her princess dress. A vest. Everything green and brown. All Rebellion, no royalty left. She looks at Baze, and then at Jyn, and Jyn goes voiceless.

Leia’s frightened.

“It’s coming,” she says. “The Death Star is coming here.”

Chapter Text

Everything moves very fast, then.

Leia brings them out of the dark with her, the pair of them and their guards. She doesn’t give Draven a chance to fight it, either. “Bring them,” she says, and then she walks off, and there’s no choice but to follow. Baze touches her arm as he passes them, and pauses at the door to Bodhi’s room, quarterstaff still on his shoulder.

“When you’re done,” he says, “I’m in sickbay.”

“Good luck,” says Jyn, and then her guard yanks on her arm until she follows, staggering, back up the corridor to the outside world.

Outside, night’s fallen, and strobe lights glint off the metal bellies of ships rolling out onto the launchpads. Luke casts them a look underneath his blonde hair, streaked with silver in the dark, and he nods before he disappears too, trotting off towards LP-6, towards the X-wings and wherever he’s going to end up. Shara and the stocky man are already far out of sight. Through the three-tone alarm, there’s an announcement. Proximity alarm triggered. Proximity alarm triggered. We are at blue standard. Report to your posts. I repeat, proximity alarm has been triggered. We are at blue standard. Please report to your posts—

It’s like an ocean. For a second, just a beat, she pauses on the balls of her feet to watch them all work, watch the place buzz, watch it quiver and roll like waves out at sea. Predictable and churning under the surface, catching on stray currents. Jyn’s cold. For all the bodies moving around, and all the heat on this jungle monstrosity, and the sweat running down the back of her neck, her fingers are numb. She watches other people racing, and is unbearably, unspeakably still.

“Sit-room,” says Leia, and the guard yanks at her again.

“Come on, Erso.”

Jyn hisses between her teeth, wrenching with her arm, but she follows anyway.  In the middle distance, an A-wing pauses at the very edge of LP-5, and turns on its floodlights, casting all the rebels into caricatures of shadow.

If the outside is an ocean, the situation room is the core of a beehive, of a Rishi waspnest. Mothma, in her blazing white, lifts her head when the doors slide open, when Draven snaps in and heads for one of the nearby tables laden with surveillance equipment. “Get to your stations,” says Leia to the guards. “And get those binders off them.”

“Your Highness, regulations clearly—”

“I don’t like repeating myself,” says Leia. “Get the binders off.

“I can’t,” says the guard, white around the mouth. “General Draven—”

“Clearly I have to do everything myself,” says Leia, and waves the woman off. “Report to your station, Lieutenant.”

“Ma’am,” says the guard, and she disappears back out the door. Leia’s hands are shaking, just a little, when she toggles the switch, sweeps her thumb over the scanner. The binders fall apart in her hands. Jyn rubs at her raw wrist, looking down at Leia through her messy bangs as she shifts to Cassian, undoes his. Cassian murmurs something that might be a thank you. Jyn can’t make it out over the hubbub.

“Stay here,” says Leia, quietly. “If you were planning on running off you never would have come out with your hands up, but in case you get stupid and decide that it’s the best idea right now, I’d like to remind you that this room has guards on every door and the whole place will know by now the pair of you have been arrested. Marching you through the halls was as good as an announcement over the intercom. Anyone sees you where you’re not supposed to be, they’ll bring you right back here, and it won’t be pretty when they do.”

“Understood,” says Cassian, clipped. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Leia snaps her sharp eyes to Jyn, and Jyn meets them. It has the same feel of staring down Saw Gerrera, she thinks. Or staring down Mothma, or Draven, or even Vader, in a way. Staring down someone who’s used to being obeyed. Leia’s mouth ticks up on one side, and she nods once to Jyn, sliding the binders through a loop on her belt. “Don’t make a liar out of me, Captain. Sergeant.”

“Nowhere left to go,” says Jyn, and Leia nods once before she turns and joins the fray. Cassian’s very still, next to her. When Jyn looks up at him, there’s a slashing blade of green light cast over half his face, over his mouth and nose. His gaze jumps from control panel to control panel, from holoscreen to holoscreen. Without moving his head, he shifts his pinky, touches the back of her hand, the cuff of her borrowed coat. It’s light, careful, barely a touch at all, but it eases some of the itching under her skin. Jyn looks back at the mess of the situation room. Draven’s not looking at them. He’s leaning over the shoulder of a mustachioed man in brown, pointing at something on a screen. She wants to spit in his eye, still, to come at him with her bare hands. She wants to beat the living shit out of him. She pushes her hair back up out of her eyes instead, and redoes the knot at the back, twisting it until it’s up and out of the way, tracking numbers across the nearest holoscreen.

This is far more than Saw had ever had, in any of the dozens of hideouts the Partisans had used during her eight years. This is what it looks like to have actual backing, to have an Alliance. To have materials. Knowing what she knows about the Rebellion, she wonders how long it took them to get this kind of equipment, how many years since the start of the Empire they hid in shacks like the Partisans, scraping from day to day, cut off from each other. Saw and the Alliance had broken apart when she’d been barely nine; nothing much changed for the Partisans, technology-wise. It must have been after the split, then, that the Alliance had picked up all this. Tanks of bacta and holoscreens and surveillance equipment and a whole fleet.

Saw’s Partisans had four ships in total on Jedha. More he'd had to leave behind on Onderon, but nothing like this. I can’t count how many the Alliance has.

“I want all non-essential personnel out as soon as possible,” says Leia, and cycles around within range of sight again. On the other side of the room, Mothma’s left her post in the middle, resigned as queen bee; she’s talking with Draven, her eyes darting to Jyn and Cassian every few words. “We have sixty-five minutes warning, we must be able to do something with that.”

“That’s not nearly enough time for an evacuation of this magnitude,” says a soldier.

“So we just have everyone else sit around and wait to get fried?” She shakes her head. “Sound out secondary evacuation. Get out everyone who can manage it. I don’t care what they leave behind.”

“That’ll take all our SpecForce off-planet, if they invade—”

“They’re not coming here to use blasters on you,” Jyn snaps from the wall, and the private jumps. “That thing will blast us out of the sky before anyone touches down. You’ll be ash before you ever see a landing party.”

The private looks from Jyn to Leia and back again, wide-eyed.

“You heard her,” says Leia. “Sound off for secondary unit evacuation. All unnecessary personnel should get off Yavin IV as soon as possible and retreat to a safe distance.”

“What’s necessary?”

“All fleet commanders,” says a voice from the door. Wet and soupy, like frothing saltwater on Lah’mu. The Mon Calamari’s eyes reflect back in the holoscreens, gleaming green and gold. He’d been in the Alliance meeting, Jyn remembers. She can’t recall his name. He’d spoken for her. He’d come to fight with them on Scarif. “X-wings, A-wings, B-wings, U-wings stay. Skeleton ground crews only. SpecForce personnel should load into shuttles and get out of range. We can’t lose our army on top of the planet, if the worst comes to pass. The rest of the fleet should be on alert to make the jump to hyperspace. We can’t afford to lose any more.”

“Admiral Raddus,” says Leia, and the Mon Calamari rolls his eyes at her. Cassian’s still and quiet next to Jyn, his eyes jumping from the admiral to Princess Leia to the screens again, watching more information come in. A few of the privates on private comms are talking, quietly. She can only catch snatches. Base One compromised. Reverse your approach. Go to ground. Wait for further instructions. Fulcrum will advise. “Good to see you on your feet. When the Profundity failed to make the jump to hyperspace, I thought that you were lost.”

“We rattled through somehow.” Raddus rolls his eyes in his head again. “It’s neither the time nor the place for condolences, Your Highness, but may I say: I was very sorry to hear what happened to Alderaan, and to your parents. Bail Organa was a good friend, and Queen Breha—” He stops. “The galaxy has lost much.”

Jyn blinks, and watches Leia. She doesn’t flutter once. Leia draws her shoulders back, drags in air through her nose. Her smile is too thin to be quite human. “Thank you, Admiral. But like you said, this is neither the time nor the place. My father would not want us stuck in grief over his death. He and my mother—” Leia stops, draws another breath of air. “They would want us to continue on. For the sake of the peace they loved.”

“And so we will,” says Admiral Raddus.  

Leia’s eyes flick to Jyn, just for a moment. She turns back to her holoscreen. “Sound the alert. Get all non-essential personnel off planet and have them retreat to their designated rendezvous points. Who set off the proximity alarm in the first place?”

“A droid, from the looks of things, Your Highness.”

“Have him brought up here,” says Leia, and shifts to another holoscreen. “I want to know how and why he knew that the Death Star was coming before our long-range hyperspace scanners picked it up.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“Sergeant,” says the Admiral. Then: “Captain.”

Cassian dips his head. “Admiral.”

Jyn rubs at her sore wrist again, but she jerks herself around in a mimicry of a nod. It’s more than she did for Draven, she’ll say that much. Admiral Raddus chuffs in the back of his throat, like she’s done something funny, and then limps away towards the back, where a cluster of men in pilot uniforms have already started gathering. Two in orange, one in green, one in blue. The blue one looks worn, grief chiseled into lines around her mouth.

“X-wings and A-wings,” says Cassian into her ear. He’s dipped his head to whisper. “Red, Gold, Green, and Blue.”

“They’ll be like bugs on a shield,” says Jyn, just as quietly, and his thumb brushes over the knob in her wrist. He doesn’t say anything aloud. “I thought there was another general for Blue Squadron.”

“He died.”

On Scarif. He doesn’t have to say it. Cassian sweeps his thumb over the back of her wrist again, and then settles his hands behind him. He’s standing too close. When she breathes in, her ribs almost brush against his chest. The warmth at her shoulder, at her spine, is making her palms buzz. Jyn turns her head just enough that she can peer at him again, and follows the sharp line of green light across his cheekbones. The last time she’d seen him in here, he’d hidden in the shadows until the last moment.

When was the last time you were in contact with your father?

“Sixty minutes,” says Cassian. She doesn’t jump.

“Might not be enough,” says Jyn, and when he takes a breath his ribcage scuffs against the fabric of her borrowed jacket. Jyn folds the front tighter across her chest, and pretends not to feel the pinch in her shoulder. “Just barely.”

“We did what we had to do,” says Cassian. It tickles over her ear, fire-warm. “We’ve done our part.”

She knows that. There’s nothing more she can do. She can’t fly an X-wing or disable the Death Star. She’s finished what her father started. She’s delivered the plans to the Alliance. They’ve delivered the plans. Now, she can’t do anything other than watch. She can’t just do nothing. She’s never had to be stuck standing still. When Cassian sets one hand to her bad shoulder, she finds it and holds tight.

“Captain Andor,” says Mon Mothma, raising her voice. Cassian doesn’t shift his hand off Jyn’s shoulder. He pushes his thumb hard into the sore muscle at the base of her neck, but he’s clear and steady, and he doesn’t back away from her. Jyn stares at Mothma, and Mothma looks back. “Sergeant Erso, this is an evacuation. We need all hands available to assist.”

Over near the desks, Draven makes an odd, rasping sound, and then shuts up again.

“Yes, ma’am,” says Cassian, and squeezes Jyn’s shoulder. “What would you have us do?”

“If circumstances weren’t what they were I’d have you supervising the evacuation, but as it stands now—” Mothma considers. “Captain, assist General Draven in warning operatives off-base. You know the protocols. Make sure they keep away from the Temple. Send them to ground if they can manage it. I want all Alliance assets currently in deep cover alerted to the situation so they can react as necessary.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Cassian almost seems to buzz, behind her, taut with energy; he rests his hand to the small of her back for the barest moment, and then slips out from behind her, making for the counter without looking back. Jyn watches him go, trying to judge if he’s limping or not, before she turns to find Mothma’s eyes on her.

“You,” says Mothma, slowly. “You come with me.”

“Senator,” says Draven, but Mothma stands up straight and tall, her hair blazing in the dim light. Like a queen, almost, Jyn thinks. A pillar of white. She folds her hands against her belly, sleeves falling in perfect straight rows.

“I’m sorry, General, but needs must. She’ll be returned to your custody as soon as we win.” Or die, her eyes say, but her lips don’t move. “Unless you don’t trust me with supervising her for the next fifty minutes or so.”

Over in the corner, Raddus lifts his head. At another counter, so does Leia. There’s little Draven can do against three people. He ducks his head again, and goes back to his work.  

“This way,” says Mothma, and sweeps for the door. Jyn looks back just once, on the threshold, still rubbing at her raw wrists. Cassian’s settled in, a headset on over his ears, fiddling with the frequencies on his terminal.

He lifts his eyes just in time to watch her as the doors slide closed.

“We’ve been waiting on a report from the analysis team set to deconstruct the Death Star plans. They just commed saying they think they’ve found something.” Mothma smooths her hands over the falling folds of her skirt, and then looks at her. Jyn feels much better about facing her now than she did in the sickbay, even without a blade. Now she has boots on, and much less and much more to lose. “I was going to go look in on them. I thought you’d like to accompany me.”

Jyn looks back at the closed door, and then at Mothma. She fists her hands up at her sides. She’s met Mothma maybe three times, maybe, and she can’t read her. Maybe if she’d had more time she’d be able to make more sense of the cues, but for now there’s just—guilt, on Mothma’s face. And something close to regret. Sadness. Determination.

“You know your father better than any of us,” says Mothma. “I want your opinion on how he might have laid out his trap.”

“I didn’t know my father at all,” says Jyn. “And I’m not an engineer. I can't tell you anything your analysts wouldn't already have figured out.”

“I still want your opinion.” Mothma tips her head. “And I think if you don’t have something to do you’re going to claw your own skin off. It’s a win for both of us.”

Jyn doesn’t speak, for a moment. She shifts, and Mothma’s eyes fall on Cassian’s coat. One eyebrow ticks up, coppery against her pale skin.

“Aren’t you hot?” she says.

“No,” says Jyn. “Impending death tends to give you chills.”

“True.”

“We should go,” says Jyn. “We’re running out of time.”

.

.

.

The bacta is still sour in his mouth when Chirrut pulls on his robes.

They’ve settled Bodhi in. Cut off the blood-soaked trousers, scanned the leg, the arteries. “Surgery,” the human doctor had said, and then they’d rolled him off again, still unconscious. He’s still there, though, in the Force. Strong and jittery all at once, like the static from a bad comm connection. Chirrut would be concerned, if that hadn’t been what Bodhi always feels like, ever since they’ve met. Strong and unsteady at the same time, ready to snap and ready to steady in the same moment. He’s going to be fine, so long as the doctor doesn’t make a mess of him. Still, Baze has been fidgeting ever since the medical droids ushered Bodhi away. Considering the fact that Baze had seriously wanted to kill Bodhi Rook at their first meeting, it’s almost sweet.

(Chirrut doesn’t kill if he can help it. He doesn’t enjoy it. Neither does Baze. They’ve both lost their reticence since the Empire came to power. When the cargo pilot had defected, when the searches had begun, too many people had died. It’s no wonder Baze had thought about killing Bodhi back then. We’ve seen too many die for this fight. Too many murdered by the Empire.)

I am one with the Force; the Force with me; for always I walk in the light, far from shadow’s touch.

Chirrut finds his quarterstaff, settles his fingers in the familiar grooves to the wood. The gaping hole in the Force still yawns raw and bleeding in the back of his head, even with everything else churning the universe up to a lather. No more. No more. We will not stand for any more. And beyond that, the darkness, the knot, coming ever closer.

Death Star.

“Where are you going?” says Baze, when Chirrut shifts his robes on his shoulder.

“Out,” says Chirrut. “Coming?”

“If I don’t, you’ll probably get yourself lost.” Baze heaves himself up onto his feet. “Or arrested.”

“Hah,” says Chirrut, and finds his balance. “You take all the fun out of everything.”

“I told you, Jyn’s fine.” Baze weighs the words on his tongue. “Bruised up. Tired. Think her ribs were broken. Angry.”

“She’s always angry,” says Chirrut. He sweeps his thumb over the crystal at the end of his staff, reverses the thing. He knows where the end of the quarterstaff is, now. It’s one of the last untouched Jedha crystals, humming in a low A note. The others have gone to the Death Star. Jyn’s father built it. Our temple powered it. They’ve corrupted all that was once good. “She has good reason to be.”

“So do we,” says Baze.

“Who says I’m not angry?” He taps the staff against the floor a few times, and then rolls his head on his shoulders. “I’m leaving. I want to check on something.”

“What could you possibly have to check on when you’ve been in and out of bacta for the past few days?”

Chirrut turns his head to Baze, and waits until it clicks.

“Figures,” says Baze, but he heaves the cannon up over his shoulder anyway. The guards had vanished at the first shriek of the alarm. Chirrut had felt them go, their sour anger and sparking frustration darting with them down the hall to their posts, whatever those are. Sloppy to leave prisoners unguarded, but then again, the Death Star is coming. By the time it gets here, they’ll either be dead, or long gone. Doesn’t matter to the Rebellion, no matter which course history takes. “Can’t just let things alone.”

“Of course not,” says Chirrut. “That would be boring.”

Baze grumbles, and shifts the weight of the cannon until it stops yanking on his joints.

All the landing pads, no matter which ships they bear, smell of engine oil and coolant. Chirrut follows his nose, first, as well as the Force, until the scent gets too strong. When it does, he shifts back into the flow, and lets that draw him along. There’s the bright pearly gleam of the newcomer, a hundred or so yards to the east, but the Force is tugging in three directions, now. One is Jyn, her kyber crystal humming in a sharp G to counter the staff’s low A. Her crystal is Jedhan. She doesn’t know it—he’s not sure she’s ever even thought about it—but the engraving on the side, the low song, the rhythm of the stone, all of that is from the catacombs of the NiJedha temple. He thinks maybe she was marked to come to Jedha long before the Death Star was even conceived, long before Orson Krennic came to the Holy City, long before the Empire. Long before Jyn was even born.

The second route is to the pearly gleam, the shouting one, the shrieking puppy with no concept of how to turn their volume down. They’re busy. Moving, leaping. Their temper spikes, and it drives a nail into his head. Chirrut flicks that off, shuts his eyes, and Baze stops behind him. When he rests a hand to Chirrut’s shoulder, heavy and warm, the flow steadies. The third route comes clear.

“This way,” says Chirrut, and taps off. Baze ambles along behind him, hands behind his head, silent now. He watches, the way he always does, for anything that might trip Chirrut up.

The ship’s a wreck. It’s not just the swearing coming from inside, or the snarling from whoever’s copiloting. There’s a scent to it like scorched hair and blood. It glows bright, though, in his head. She sings, in her own way. Not like the crystals, but something softer, less natural, more mechanical. The Force twines around the freighter like jungle vines. He almost has to sweep them aside to get a better sense of the people making repairs. “Hello in there,” says Chirrut, and someone drops a wrench, swears loudly and colorfully. “Do you need help?”

No,” says the voice, and then the second one, the non-humanoid, rumbles something that could be corrective. “No to you, too, you interfering fuzzball, I do not need help. I know exactly what I’m doing. If that damn droid hadn’t been so overeager to get his massive Imperial hands into her innards then I’d have been away by now, and I never would have—”

That makes sense, with some of the traces. “K-2SO is known for his impatience,” says Chirrut, and leans on his quarterstaff. Behind him, Baze mutters something like that’s one way of putting it. “I know you didn’t get what you came for, Captain, but are you really planning on leaving so soon?”

“Look,” says the voice, “I don’t know who the hell you are, but I’m getting real sick of the lectures that you Rebels seem to like to dish out, so if you don’t mind, I’d like to get the hell off this sweaty rock before we all get blown to bits.”

“The Force will protect us,” says Chirrut. “Just like it’s protected you.”

“Ain’t nothin’ protected me so far but me, blind man,” says the voice. He’s come closer now, at least. Standing at the top of the ramp up into his freighter, hand on his blaster. Curious, at least. Creeping closer. Like Jyn, but not. She’d come forward sideways, creeping like a crab. This one just stops, draws his line in the sand and won’t step over. “And I’d like to live to keep on doing that, if it’s all the same to you.”

“You’ll just come back,” says Chirrut, absently. “It’s a waste of fuel to leave now.”

“I’m not coming back,” says the man. “I’m taking my supplies, I’m taking my ship, and my first mate, and I’m getting the hell out of here. You can stay here and get vaporized if you want, all the same to me.”

“You keep telling yourself that like you think it’ll make it true.”

“You know, you’re the second old geezer in two days to try and tell me I’m nuts, and I’m starting to take it personally.” He flips a wrench between his fingers, and then chucks it back into the ship. “Chewie, you take over.”

“They need you here.” Chirrut shifts back, out of the way of the boxes. The man—boy, maybe, man, maybe, somewhere in between—almost knocks into him anyway as he heaves one up, steadies his grip. “You know that.”

“Did Her Worshipfulness send you here to try and keep me around?” He turns back up the ramp. “Or is this Luke sending another old man with hocus-pocus nonsense to try and convince me that this all isn’t just a wild bantha chase?”

“This is stupid,” says Baze. “He’s not going to listen.”

“Who’s this, your bodyguard?” The captain stomps back up the ramp, dumps his box, clatters back down. “Nursemaid, maybe?”

“Guardian,” says Chirrut. “Friend.”

He snorts. “Is that what they’re calling it now?”

Baze rolls his eyes hard enough that it’s nearly audible. Chirrut shrugs. “Habit.”

“Don’t care,” says the man. Solo, he realizes. The man’s name is Solo. Han. Han Solo. Corellia. It’s all he can snatch before the whispers fade. Captain Solo heaves another box out of the stack, staggers until Chirrut props him up with the quarterstaff. It’s more propping the box up with the quarterstaff, and it’s less propping up than Chirrut reaching out with his staff and prodding it hard against Solo’s chest, but it’s enough to have him keep his balance, and not drop the box of supplies all over the floor of the hangar. Solo looks at him through narrowed eyes, and then says, “Thanks,” like he’s spitting out a used deathstick.

“You’re welcome,” says Chirrut, still smiling.

“He another fake Jedi?” says Solo to Baze.

Baze folds his arms over his chest. “No.”

“So he’s a real Jedi?”

“Guardian,” says Chirrut.

“I thought Burly here was the Guardian.” Solo tromps back up the ramp. “I don’t have time for your spooky advice, white-eyes, can we get to the point?”

“It’s your choice, Captain Solo,” says Chirrut, and Solo stops, blinking at him. His hand drops, like he’s about to go for a blaster.

“How’d you know—”

“You can keep running from whoever or whatever it is you’re running from, or you can take your first steps into something better. No one can pick your path for you. It has to be your decision.” Chirrut spins his quarterstaff like a baton, tracking the path of the crystal in his mind’s eye. The first mate—a Wookiee, judging by the height, the hair, the vocals—pauses at the top of the ramp, tips his head and rumbles deep in his chest. “Might want to take my advice, though. About the fuel. The Rebellion’s going to need every drop of it, after today.”

“Well,” says Han, breezy. His heart is beating very fast. “Thanks for the advice, but I think I can manage all by myself. Chewie, get that panel back on over the hyperdrive, we’re getting out of here.”

“Charming,” says Baze, and Chirrut quirks an eyebrow in his direction. “You gonna pray for him, too?”

“I have enough to pray for.” He taps the crystal to the stone again. “We have one more stop.”

“Of course we do.” Baze shifts his cannon again. “Where to now?”

“To teach a puppy not to howl,” says Chirrut, and follows the gleam of pearls.

Chapter Text

Death Star will be in range in forty-eight minutes.

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The briefing room is more than half-full when they filter in, take their places.

Or not their places, Baze thinks. The places of fallen pilots. There are empty seats spattered through the room like drops of blood, places that other people are actively avoiding. It’s the kind of thing he’d seen early in the Clone Wars, before things had started falling apart. Spaces marked with the names of the dead purely by disassociation. No one would sit in the place of a dead comrade for days, before the losses starting being too heavy to care anymore. This Rebellion is still too young, he thinks. The dead are still personal, still living weight in empty seats. An underground war that Eadu and Scarif had broken into reality again. This is what happens. You lose people. Their chairs go unused, and it hurts, but in the end, it’s just a chair. No point in not using a damn chair.

“Which way?” says Chirrut, and Baze nudges him towards the back, towards two empty places at the end of the last row. They’re sitting with Gold Squadron, according to the colored bands on the uniforms of the people at the other end. He looks around when Chirrut finds the back of the closer seat with one hand, settles, easing his weight off his feet like the old man he isn’t. A human female with bright blonde hair watches Chirrut, watches Baze, sways forward to whisper to the violet Twi’lek seated in front of her. Chirrut settles with his ankles tucked beneath the seat, and rests the quarterstaff over his knees. If he knows they’re talking about the pair of them, about Chirrut and Baze, he doesn’t give a hint.

“You should sit,” he says to Baze. “It might take a while.”

“I thought you said your puppy would be here,” says Baze through his teeth, and doesn’t sit down. He stands at the open end of the line of chairs, hand on his cannon. He doubts very much that there are many people in here who would attack them, but grief makes people do stupid things.

“They’re on their way,” says Chirrut. “We could have probably gone to meet them, but I’m tired. My legs hurt. I didn’t want to walk when I could just wait.”

Baze scoffs, and goes back to looking around. The sirens haven’t stopped, high and whining, like bees and air raids. They’re making his teeth itch, even muffled through the heavy doors. All non-essential personnel, please report to your assigned landing pads for evacuation protocols. All non-essential personnel, we are at Blue Standard. Please report to your assigned landing pads for evacuation protocols. “Should’ve stayed in sickbay.”

“I’m blind,” says Chirrut. “That doesn’t make me useless.”

“That’s a matter of opinion,” says Baze, and Chirrut cracks out a laugh.

“At least I make your life more interesting.”

He scoffs again, curling his free hand tight around the thin bones of Chirrut’s shoulder. He’s still far too thin. The skin over his temples, around his mouth, across his cheekbones, all of it stretches in a way it shouldn’t. From the bacta, and the exhaustion, and the overwork, the strain he’s putting on himself. “Interesting is the wrong word.”

Chirrut’s lips quirk, but he doesn’t shrug Baze’s hand off the way he would if he were put out, the way he does sometimes when he’s too caught up in the universe to stand human touch. He leans back into it instead, and the warmth of him eases some knot between Baze’s molars. There’s dried blood around the curve of his nose, still, and it’s flaking. Baze presses down with his fingers as hard as he dares, holds on as tight as he lets himself, and then pulls back before the pilots stare too much. The Twi’lek’s lekku twitch a little on her shoulders. The blonde pilot throws her legs out, crossing her boots at the ankle. She folds her arms over her chest, and shuts her eyes, murmuring something out of the corner of her mouth that Baze can’t hear. The door creeps open, and Antilles slips through the gap. So does Shara Bey, her hair knotted at the base of her skull, carrying her helmet under her arm. Antilles has a smear of red on his uniform. Red Squadron. Shara’s uniform is a dull olive green, her helmet grey to Antilles’s red. They bump elbows, and then separate, Antilles to the middle of the room, Shara to the front, second row on the left. She turns in her seat, finds Baze and Chirrut in the corner, and gives them a curt nod.

“See,” says Chirrut without opening his eyes. “You can make friends if you try.”

Baze rolls his eyes again. “Why do you care about this puppy, anyway?”

“I can’t just be magnanimous?”

He snorts, and cuffs Chirrut very, very lightly against the back of his ear. Chirrut’s lips twitch up, and then down again. The smile fades into the distance, finally vanishing somewhere near the hologram projector. He says, “Because Ben asked me to.”

He should know better than to wait for an explanation. Still, Baze folds his arms, and drums his fingers until Chirrut’s silent stretches too long. “Who’s Ben?”

Chirrut tips his head, like he’s considering how to answer. Five more pilots and one or two men in white coats that mean scientist on any planet that Baze has ever visited have filtered into the briefing room when he finally wets his lips. “He spoke to me today.”

The sickbay had had no visitors, not outside of the Mon Calamari admiral. If anyone spoke to Chirrut, it would have been through the Force. Baze stills, and Chirrut reaches out before he’s fully frozen, touches a hand to his elbow in a quiet don’t react. Baze shakes himself out of it. “You sure?”

“I know this isn’t what we’re here for,” says Chirrut, soft. “But Ben asked. And the puppy needs help, whoever they are. It’ll make things easier if I do it.”

“And if you don’t do it?”

“Things will be more difficult.”

“You don’t even know who Ben is.”

“No.” Chirrut squares his shoulders. “But he asked, and it’s only polite. Besides, if I let the puppy alone, he’ll give me headaches for however long we’re stuck with the Alliance.”

Headaches and nosebleeds from overstraining himself. Baze mutters through his teeth, and says, “How long are we going to be stuck with the Alliance?”

“I don’t know. Long as we need to be to do what has to be done.”

“And what’s that?”

“I don’t have the slightest clue,” says Chirrut, and twinkles a little. “I’m still following Jyn.”

“Of course you are.”

“Are you angry?”

“You’re a cretin,” says Baze.

“Please,” says Chirrut, and quirks his lips at him. “You’d stay without me and you know it. You like them. You like their spunk.”

Baze says, “Shouldn’t you be praying right now?”

“Shouldn’t you?” Chirrut’s smile goes crooked. “There’s one written specifically for more patience.”

“I know,” says Baze. “I wrote it. Because of you.”

“Liar,” says Chirrut fondly. He squeezes Baze’s elbow, strokes with his thumb for a second or two. Then he drops his hand back to his quarterstaff, and shuts his eyes, lips moving in silence. Baze watches him, finding the new marks around his mouth, the new hollows under his eyes, before looking up at the room again. The blonde pilot looks away very quickly, swaying forward to murmur to the violet Twi’lek. The Twi’lek’s lekku are twitching again.   

More pilots file in. Red Squadron, mostly. Some Gold, some Blue. Fighter pilots, all of them. They’re spare and short, stocky and compact, ready to slip into a cockpit that’s too small for most people. They’re not watchful, though, not in the way Andor is. Andor looks at people through his bangs, through his lashes, half-hidden, searching for some kind of weapon to use against them. These people meet Baze’s eyes straight on. No nonsense to them. Like the SpecForce men who’d died on Scarif. These are soldiers, not spies. They don’t shoot men in the back. He’s more comfortable in this room than he’s been in any other place in this entire damn base other than sickbay, because these are the kinds of people he knows. This is the world he’s good at. Straightforward and simple. No politics.  

There are hundreds of people in this Rebellion. Each of them has their own side. Anyone who thinks otherwise winds up getting themselves shot.

Chirrut stills as the door opens. His head turns, just a little, just enough. The snowfall boy, still all in white, hair messy, bright eyes, slips into the room, and Baze almost grinds his teeth again. His eyes dart around, from the mostly seats in the row for Gold Squadron, to the front of the room where a few old men have turned up, bickering amongst themselves in low voices. His gaze snags on Baze, and then on Chirrut, and there it is again, the look Chirrut gets sometimes, recognition without realizing it, a familiarity that doesn’t quite fit in the conscious part of his mind. His lips part.

“Figures,” says Baze aloud. The snowfall boy glances back at the row for Red Squadron, seems to steel himself before he starts slinking towards Baze and Chirrut instead. “You know that this kid’s an idiot.”

“I know,” says Chirrut, smilingly. “He wouldn’t be giving me a migraine if he weren’t.”

He heaves himself up, then. Chirrut sways on his feet, and then he reaches out, and rests his palm to Baze’s forearm for a bare instant in a familiar warning. Give me a minute. When he slips out of the row of chairs, Chirrut makes not for the back of the room but for the front. The snowfall boy stutters a little, his feet catching on each other, before he comes to stand beside Baze, watching Chirrut slip through the crowd. Baze isn’t entirely sure what Chirrut’s up to, but then again, he’s never really sure what Chirrut’s up to. The knot of scientists at the front of the room part like fish around him, and then close up. He’s out of sight.

“You’re the guy from before,” says the snowfall boy. “With Leia. Malbus.”

Baze looks at him for a second, and then drops down hard into the chair Chirrut’s left behind. He settles the heavy tank of his cannon between his ankles. The snowfall boy goes up on his toes, as if he’s trying to see where Chirrut’s gone, and then takes the empty seat next to Baze. He’s bouncing his leg, and it’s irritating.

“You a pilot?” says the snowfall boy.

“No,” says Baze. He shuts his eyes, and listens to the chatter.

“He a pilot?”

“No.”

“I thought this briefing was for pilots.”

“Oops,” says Baze, and doesn’t budge.

The snowfall boy keeps bouncing his leg for a bit. Suddenly he says, “How is he?”

Baze cracks one eye open. The snowfall boy—Luke, is what the princess had called him; Luke, who’d seen the Last Hope touch down out of all possible people; Luke who’s the reason for some of Chirrut’s nosebleeds—has his lips pressed together thin enough that they’ve turned pale, his hands knotted up on his knees. His gaze is fixed on the front of the room again, on the blank screen. The sirens have switched rhythms, now, the echo dimming in the briefing room. Almost every chair is full. Princess Leia’s standing in the far corner, dark eyes flicking around. There’s no sign of Draven, or of Mothma. The Mon Calamari admiral’s found a spot at the front, though, leaning heavy on his cane. Chirrut’s talking to him, propped on his quarterstaff. What business Chirrut could have with an admiral of the Rebel fleet, Baze has no idea, but then again, Chirrut himself might not have any business with the admiral at all. It’s hard to know, sometimes, with Chirrut. As he watches, Leia darts forward to join in the conversation, touching her hand to Chirrut’s elbow, drawing his attention. “How’s who?”

“The lieutenant,” says Luke. He jerks his head around to look at Baze. “You—you stayed with him, didn’t you? Lieutenant Rook. He didn’t look very good, and I was just—I was wondering if he was okay.”

Baze knocks his ankle into his cannon, and doesn’t answer for a minute. Something burns at the base of his throat. He refuses to believe it’s concern. “He’s in surgery.”

“Oh,” says Luke, very faintly. He swallows. “That’s terrible.”

“He’s lucky.”

“You call that lucky?” The boy sounds horrified. Some part of Baze, some small, small part that’s been permanently warped by too much exposure to Chirrut’s nonsense, feels bad for him. But only that small part. “You saw how bad he was. That’s not lucky, that’s—”

“War,” says Baze. “That’s what war does. You come in here thinking all of this would be clean and easy?”

Luke blanches. “No, I didn’t—”

“Bodhi’s alive,” says Baze. “He came back in time. The first aid was good. He’s lucky. He’ll have a stiff leg for the rest of his life, but he’s lucky to even be alive, and when he wakes up, he’ll know it. He’s always known the stakes. You act like he didn’t, that’s insulting. It’s not a damn game where you get to run back home when you lose.”

There’s a moment of pin-drop silence between them, where Luke’s blue eyes go frosty, where his mouth bleeds white and he sets his teeth in his lip, trying not to speak. He looks at Baze for a long time. Then, carefully, he ducks his head.

“You’re right,” he says, after a moment. “I’m sorry.”

Something digs into the beds of Baze’s nails. It could be guilt, maybe. The kid can’t be more than eighteen, nineteen. Young. So young and stupid. He thinks of Jyn, of Bodhi Rook, of Cassian Andor, barely older than that and decades older all at once. Time and circumstance and luck, more than likely. Andor’s voice, quiet, vicious, echoes in his head. I’ve been in this fight since I was six years old. Jyn, with the ghosts haunting her eyes. This puppy’s never fought a day in his life, and it shows in the fear around his mouth, the confusion and the little-lost-boy look that he’s trying so desperately to cover with brashness and spitfire surety.

The cocky pilot, Baze thinks, had been doing the same thing. Only the puppy’s aware of it. He’s not sure the pilot knows.

“Captain Andor said the same thing,” says Luke. He fists his hands up on his knees. “That it’s not a game. I—don’t really know what I’m doing, here. The person who—who asked me to come along is dead, now. I don’t have anywhere else to go. My aunt and uncle—” He stops. “I’m just—here. There’s nowhere left. And I want—”

He stops again. Baze waits in silence.

“They killed my aunt and uncle,” says Luke, in a chilly sort of voice that makes frost prickle up the back of Baze’s neck. “They killed Ben.”

Who the hell is Ben, Baze nearly says, but he bites it back just in time. “They killed a city,” he says instead. “They killed a whole damn planet. You’re not the only one here with problems. Every person in here has a bone to pick with the Empire. The Rebellion doesn’t run on idealism.”

Luke wets his lips. “What are yours?”

Baze shrugs.

“Leia said that you and—and Lieutenant Rook and Captain Andor and Sergeant Erso, you’re the ones who managed to get the plans in the first place. Before they were sent my way.” The boy looks at him, and his eyes shine, just a little. “Is that true?”

Baze shrugs again.

“What about him?” Luke tips his head towards the front of the room, towards Chirrut. “Did he go too?”

“Depends,” says Baze. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here for the briefing,” says Luke. Baze is starting to wonder if the boy’s being deliberately thick when he cracks an eye open again to glare. Luke’s—wary, somehow. The bouncing in his leg hasn’t stopped. “They said it’d be here.”

“He’ll be back in a minute,” says Baze. “Dunno what the hell he thinks he’s doing, but he’ll be back. If you want to talk to him, stick around. And quit bothering me.”

He thinks for a moment that Luke’s going to argue. He just shifts around in his chair, crosses his legs at the knee, folds his arms over his chest. “Fine,” he says. “I can wait.”

The blonde pilot is watching them, lips quirking. She looks away when Baze glares, whispers to the Twi’lek. The kid’s mirroring him, Baze realizes. Gone gruff and silent. He’s not entirely sure what to make of that. It kind of makes him think of the puppy worship of Guardian apprentices, before the Temple had been destroyed. Mimicry as a form of learning.

“Don’t let him bully you,” says Baze very suddenly. Luke blinks at him. “Give him shit.”

“Who?”

“That blind idiot,” says Baze. “He’ll step on you if you don’t.”

“I don’t understand,” says Luke.

“You will,” says Baze. He shuts his eyes again. This boy, he thinks—he’s not the priority here. Chirrut’s been here for Jyn, every step of the way has been for Jyn, and the boy, the nosebleeds, the voice, all of that is secondary. It’s why Chirrut’s waiting at the front of the room, and not back here talking with the puppy. Still, no sense in not making things a little easier for all of them, if they’re going to have to deal with a bouncing puppydog for however long they’re stuck here. When he peeks, Chirrut’s turned to face him, arching both eyebrows like he’s been listening. Baze ignores it. “Don’t let him bully you. Only advice I have.”

Luke’s confused. His knee stops bopping up and down. Then, finally, he says, “Thanks,” in an awed sort of way, like he’s just been gifted some kind of prize. Baze ignores it. There’s much more to think about, right now.

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Death Star will be in range in thirty-nine minutes.

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“No,” says Jyn.

“It wasn’t a request,” says Dodonna. He’s not a new face, General Dodonna, not exactly. She remembers him from the council meeting, from the discussion to attack Scarif or let it be. He’d been mostly silent, then, listening, overtaken by louder, brighter councilors, by the Organas and the Admirals. He has a soft voice that sounds like faded velvet, worn through in places simply from the passage of time. “Your presence is required at the mission briefing. If requested, you’ll provide testimony on the Death Star and on Galen Erso.”

“I’m not a scientist,” says Jyn. “You have Princess Leia to give you information on the Death Star. I can help with the evacuation.”

“We’ve asked a great deal of you, Jyn,” says Mon Mothma. “Far more than we probably ever have had a right to ask. But—”

“But you need this, too.” Jyn scoffs. She rubs at the shackling mark around her wrist. It’s started to throb in the past half an hour, started to itch and ache. She’s had binder-burn before—after Wobani, for certain—but it’s never quite stung like this. Scrapes layered over scrapes, the Alliance over the Empire. “Why am I not surprised?”

“If there were any other option right now I would take it,” says Mothma. She puts her shoulders back, like she’s facing down an AT-AT. “Princess Leia didn’t fly into the impossible on Scarif and come back out again. She didn’t fly after the plans a second time and come back living. Rogue One did.”

“So ask one of the others,” says Jyn. Something in her feels small, as she says it. “You don’t need me to do this, I’m not—nobody here even knows who I am.”

“You’re wrong about that, Sergeant.” Dodonna folds his arms over his chest, and looks down his long sharp nose at her. “And even if you weren’t, you’re all we have. Masters Malbus and Îmwe aren’t a part of the Alliance the way you, Captain Andor, and Lieutenant Rook are. The captain has his own job to do. Lieutenant Rook is in surgery. To be honest, even if either of them were available, we’d still be asking you to do this.”

“Why?”

“Because you, out of everyone here, know the true stakes of this,” says Mon Mothma, low, urgent, pleading. “You know what this thing is better than any of us. You’ve been inside it. You’ve escaped it not once but twice. It’s your father’s legacy—”

That stings, oil splashback on her raw wrists. “That thing is not my father’s legacy.”

“Then you are your father’s legacy,” says Mothma, snapping tracks so fast it makes Jyn dizzy. “Your father’s and Saw’s. Galen Erso and Saw Gerrera are known to the Alliance, to every soldier here. They both sacrificed themselves to see the Death Star destroyed. If what Galen told you is true, and he stayed on the project to give us time and a chance to survive this, then he ought to be honored for it. People ought to hear that story from his daughter.”

Around the terminal, the engineers mill about like rodents. They keep looking at her like she’s the key to some long-lost puzzle, and it’s making her scratchy underneath Cassian’s heavy coat. It’s how she remembers Krennic looking at her father, on Lah’mu; that mix of jealousy and greed, of ignorance and longing. The deep need to know the shape of another’s mind, and mold your own to match it. Across the terminal, Mothma and another old man, one who’d been at the council meeting to discuss Scarif, are watching. She’s truly, mightily sick of being watched all the time.

“Nobody in that room is going to care what I have to say,” she says, sharp around the edges, like K-2 in a mood. “You don’t need me.”

“Yes, we do,” says Dodonna. His eyebrows draw close together. “We’re fighting the impossible, Sergeant. Anything that might give the pilots a little more hope, a little more strength, a little more daring to get this done, I will do. If that means putting you out there to talk about how hard your father worked to save us all, then I’m going to do it. If that means putting you out there to talk about Jedha, and Eadu, and Scarif, then I’m going to do it, and I’m going to damn the possible consequences. Too many people died in the fight to get these plans to do otherwise. Your father—”

“My father just wanted to be forgotten,” says Jyn. “That—that cancer up there in the sky ate him alive. I’ve done what he asked me to do, I’ve delivered it to you, he just wanted to be forgotten after that, why do you have to keep pulling him into it? If it weren’t for the lot of you sending in bombs instead of help and sending someone to kill him instead of rescue him he’d be here now to explain it to you himself, but apparently it’s easier not to remember that part—”

“You agreed to be a part of the Alliance,” Dodonna snaps. “You took a commission, that means you take on the responsibilities. This is an order, Sergeant Erso. You’re speaking at that briefing.”

“I won’t turn my father into your martyr when you’re the ones who had him killed!”

Mothma and Dodonna look at each other. Dodonna swears under his breath, and passes a hand over his beard, reflexively, like he’s stroking a cat.

“The intention was never to kill your father,” says Mothma. “What we told you in the situation room was true, Jyn. We only meant to speak with him. Circumstances—”

“Circumstances or Draven?” Jyn spits through her teeth. Dodonna puts his shoulders back. “Was it just easier to craft the story after my father was dead? I know it would’ve been easier for you all if we’d died, why not give my father the same treatment? Smooth out the rough pieces. Make a pretty story for your history books.”

“How dare you,” says Dodonna. Mothma has gone white, death’s head white, Stormtrooper white. “You’ve done a lot for us, girl, but if you think—”

“If you think I’m scared of you, General, you’re wrong.” Her fingers are shaking, but it’s not from fear. “You can’t do a thing to me that the Empire hasn’t already done three times over.”

It’s a lie. She spits it at him anyway.

“Now, you just—”

“General Dodonna forgets himself,” says Mothma, cold and pointed as an icicle.

“Senator—”

“Whatever was done,” says Mothma, “I’m sure that it was done with the best of intentions. I’m not saying it was the right choice or the wrong choice. But the Alliance at large did not want your father dead, Jyn. We wanted to hear his side of the story, to have him testify in front of the Senate. Unfortunately, that never came to pass. You’re our only link to him, now. You’ve given us hope twice over, with the plans. And I know we have no right to ask, after all of this and everything we’ve done, but we need you to do it one more time. For the pilots, if for no one else.”

Jyn opens her mouth, and then shuts it again. Bugs against a shield. Tiny X-wings against the enormity of the Death Star, if the ridiculous plan that Dodonna’s concocted will even come close to working. It’s the only chance, she thinks. It’s the only choice. It feels impossible. Thirty-five minutes, says the terminal. They’re running out of time.

Rebellions are built on hope.

“Okay,” says Jyn. She shoves both her curled fists into the pockets of Cassian’s coat. “I’ll do it. But I want something in return.”

“You’re not in a position to be making bargains,” says General Dodonna, but Mon Mothma raises a hand.

“What is it you want?”

Her shoulder throbs. She shuts her eyes, breathes through the wave of prickling pain. “I want all the charges dropped against Cassian and Bodhi.”

“Not possible,” says Dodonna. “We can’t afford—”

“Then I won’t do it.”

“You’re not as important as you think you are, Sergeant,” says Dodonna, and he starts to puff up. Something in the lines of his face makes her think of Motti. “We can’t just arbitrarily excuse sedition and mutiny twice in a row, that’s not how this organization works—”

“I’m afraid that General Dodonna is mostly right,” says Mon Mothma. “The three of you knew what they were doing when you walked out the door, Jyn. The council’s ruling is—inflexible. Dropping the charges isn’t on the table, not for him or for you. We can’t release you a second time.”

Jyn’s ribs squeeze tight. She says, “What about Bodhi?”

“Weren’t you listening?” Dodonna pets harder at his beard. “We owe you a great deal for all you’ve done, Sergeant, but I think you’re mistaking gratitude for something else entirely. We don’t have a policy of negotiating with—”  

“He didn’t know.” Something winds into a tight knot in her throat. “Bodhi didn’t know. I told him to come with us. He thought it was an official mission.”

Mothma blinks, and sways back onto her heels.

“I very much doubt that,” says Dodonna.

“He did,” says Jyn, without blinking. Bodhi's going to kill her. “I told him it was sanctioned. He didn’t know. Drop the charges against Bodhi Rook. I’ll do your briefing with you. That’s my condition.”

Dodonna and Mothma look at each other in silence. When Jyn turns her head to stare, the engineers snap back to work.

“The longer we argue,” Jyn says, “the less chance we have.”

“Fine,” says Mothma. “Deal.”

“Senator,” says Dodonna, but Mothma sweeps her hand through the air, cutting like a knife.

“Deal,” she says again, more sharply. “In return for your testimony on the Death Star and your continued participation in matters involving your father, the criminal charges against Lieutenant Bodhi Rook will be dropped.”

“If we survive,” says Dodonna under his breath.

“Then what are we waiting for?” says Jyn, and pulls Cassian’s jacket closer around herself. There’s cold sweat trickling down her spine, like ice water. “Let’s get it over with.”

The briefing room is overflowing when they slip inside. Leia’s already there. She tips her chin to Jyn when Jyn settles by the wall, stays in her place near the pilots. They’re everywhere, the fighter pilots, most of them in orange, some green. One or two in blue. Draven’s standing at the back. So is Han Solo, and so is Chewbacca, the pair of then half-hidden in a doorway. Jyn looks at Han, and Han looks at Jyn for a long, unbearable moment before he turns his face away. Like he’s ignoring her, Jyn thinks. Or maybe like he’s ashamed to meet her eyes. It’s a familiar echo in her bones, the sheer effort and exhaustion of the look. If he leaves, disappears into the night, she might be the only person in the base who won’t chastise him for going.

Chewbacca croons a little, low and almost sad.

Baze is in the last row. He’s craning his neck, and pretending not to, resettling in his chair the moment he realizes she’s caught his eye. Luke Skywalker’s settled next to him, frowning at the blank screen. Luke’s whole face flickers between joy and consternation, light and shadow; he waves a little at Jyn, and then drops his hand. There’s no sign of Cassian, or Bodhi. Sick bay. The situation room. She scuffs her fingers over the fur around the collar of her borrowed jacket, rubbing with her thumb to work through nervous energy. Shara Bey is staring at her from the second row on the right, eyes wide.

“The kyberstar returns,” says a voice, loud and clear even as it shakes around the edges, and Admiral Raddus—tall, clouded, eyes rolling—shifts just enough to the side to let Chirrut peep through. Jyn can’t help it. Her lips quiver, and turn up as he limps past the admiral, past Mothma and General Dodonna, to take a place against the wall at her side. He’s thinner about the face and wider around the mouth than Jyn remembers, papery and vague, like he’s been filtered through fine mesh. Still, the quirk to his lips is the same, sardonic as a statue. “Took you long enough. We were about to send out a search party.”

“Shut up,” says Jyn. “You’re not funny.”

“I’m hilarious,” says Chirrut, and he bumps her with his elbow.

“Why aren’t you with Baze?”

“Eh. Bored.” Out of sight of the crowd he presses her palm, swift and strong despite the fragility around his mouth. “Figured you’d need the company.”

Jyn has to bite her tongue to keep her chin from trembling. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,” says Chirrut. “He won’t let it go ever again.” He drops his voice even lower, and says, “Bodhi’s in surgery. Where’s the captain?”

“Sit-room.”

He holds tight to her fingers, and Jyn does not let go.

“We have very little time,” says General Dodonna, “so I’ll keep this short. Thanks to the plans returned to us by Princess Leia, Captain Andor, and his team, we now know that the Death Star has a single, fundamental weakness. Despite its collective firepower, which in total equates to more than half that of the entire Imperial Star Fleet—”

She doesn’t listen. She doesn’t even try. Jyn folds her free arm close around herself, feeling the way she did down in the hole, down in her cavern with her knees drawn up to her chest and old tears tacky on her cheeks, the light dying. Next to her, Chirrut hums, a soft and distant thing, lilting and almost unreal. Something she’d heard on Jedha, an old Temple song, maybe. She shuts her eyes and sways, listening, and on her other side Leia bites off a little sound between her teeth.

“You shouldn’t worry,” says Chirrut, as Dodonna talks, on and on and on. So much for keeping it short. We have to go. It’s a drumbeat, a count-down in her head. They have to go. Let them go. We have to finish this. Just give us a little more time. All I want is a little more time. “There’s still a lot left to do.”

“The Force tell you that?”

Chirrut shrugs. “Which answer would make you believe me?”

She doesn’t laugh. She can’t smile without it wobbling. Chirrut squeezes her fingers, and then finally lets go. Jyn says, “I hate you.”

“—spent the past few days recovering the plans from Imperial custody, alongside Princess Leia and her new recruits—”

“Everyone does,” says Chirrut. “Your turn.”

“Sergeant Erso,” says Dodonna. “If you could say a few words.”

It’s like Scarif all over again. A stony silent room. Eyes on her face. Energy buzzes through her skin. Jyn starts to lift a hand to the crystal, and stops herself. Instead, she shoves her fists into her pockets, and clears her throat. Her palms are sweaty. She takes a breath, and the scorched fur of the coat catches in her lungs.

“This machine will scare you,” she says. “It’s like nothing that’s ever existed in the galaxy before. It is—it’s huge, and implacable. It’s destroyed cities. It’s destroyed planets. It seems like there’s no hope in fighting against it. It seems like we should give up and go home.”

There’s eyes burning on her back. Somehow, she knows it’s Leia.

“The Rebellion has faced impossible odds before,” she says. “We won. It hurt, and it wasn’t without cost, but we won. This fight, here, now, this impossible battle, this is what you’ve been waiting for. My father—” Galen, she thinks, Saw “—he gave his life so that we could have this chance. Melshi gave his life on Scarif so we could have this chance. Tonc and Pao. Sefla. More. People I never—never met.” Jyn draws a breath. The light blinds her. The shadows of the pilots glimmer, and flicker, and nod. “It’s them or us, now. Make sure it’s us.”

She looks back at Mothma. Mothma nods once, silent. Beyond Mothma is Draven, his eyes fixed and unblinking. Jyn stares back at him, and steps out of the spotlight.

“Red Squadron, Gold Squadron.” Dodonna folds his hands behind his back. “I want you on the attack run. Green, join up with Blue Squadron and keep a guard on the evacuation. If that thing sends out short-range fighters I don’t want them hitting any of our people before they make the jump to hyperspace.” He draws a breath. “May the Force be with you.”

“And also with you,” says Chirrut. This seems to be the signal. The pilots stand, file out. When Jyn goes on her toes, Han and Chewbacca have vanished.

“Jyn,” says Leia. “Come on. We’re needed in the council room.”

I’m not, Jyn almost blurts. She’s needed somewhere else, anywhere else. She could slip onto an evacuation ship, she thinks, almost idly, and get away, but no, that’s Lianna talking. That’s Lianna, and Tanith, and Kestrel. She’s Jyn, now. She’s made her choice.

“The Force is with us,” says Chirrut. “Don’t forget that.”

“Where are you going?”

“I have to talk with Baze’s new pet,” he says. “He’s been yelling at me all day."

"That makes no sense," says Jyn.

"I imagine it doesn't," says Chirrut. He squeezes her elbow again before disappearing back into the crowd. She catches a glimpse of him near Baze, speaking in a low fierce voice to Luke. Then the crowd of councilors buffets her away.

It fades into a buzz, then. She drifts after Leia, after Mothma and Dodonna. The sit-room’s emptied out, unnecessary personnel fading into shadows, into ships, into space. Cassian’s at the comms table, still; he lifts his head when they come in, his shoulders coming down away from his ears when he sees her, and says something into the headset that she thinks might be a snapped order. Raddus limps in after them, dips his head to her and says something that she thinks might be a compliment. Jyn waves it away, and listens.

Death Star in range in twenty-five minutes.

Twenty. Fifteen. She thinks that the world might explode, that the moon might shatter, that that kyber-born light, vivid, electric green, could fill the room and turn her bones to ash and her ash to dust and her dust to flecking molecules, vaporized, immaterial. She could be immortalized in the vacuum of space along with the rest of the universe, to be drawn into a black hole or into orbit, to be collapsed into star-stuff. Mixed up with the Rebellion, all the latent energy transferred into something new, some fantastical kind of martyrdom. Some sign that the Empire’s won. That this is the beginning of the end. Fourteen. Thirteen. Twelve. Eleven. Ten. “Biggs,” Luke says over the comms, “Biggs, where are you?” Leia, beside her, seizes her hand. Jyn doesn’t even realize it until her fingers start to ache. Death Star will be in range in five minutes. “Negative,” says a pilot. “Negative. It didn’t go in.” She looks up. Cassian’s watching her. The situation room is silent, aside from the soft exclamations of C-3PO. Jyn can’t remember him arriving. There’s too much of a haze. My father died for this. Saw died for this. I nearly died for this. Please. Anyone. Please. She lifts her free hand, and she folds her fingers around the crystal. Cassian’s watching her, and she meets his eyes. Her heartbeat’s too loud for her to hear the pilot-chatter any longer. She watches him, and she thinks, If we’re going to die, then I’m content for it to be with you. Again, with you, here at the end. There’s a curve to his mouth that she thinks might be a half-canceled smile. Here at the end of it all, here at the threshold of hope and despair. I’m glad that I’m here with you.

“His computer’s off,” someone says, but she’s not listening. She’s caught, trapped, freed. She holds tight to Leia’s hand, Leia who lied, Leia who bought them time, Leia who dared, and she looks at Cassian, and she’s numb. She’s alive. She’s so alive that her nerve endings have scorched themselves to dust already, preparation for the white-hot light of the Death Star, the white-hot light of triumph or failure. The crystal pulses under her fingers like a heartbeat.

The Death Star has cleared the planet.

I could love you, she thinks, looking at him. I might already love you.

The room erupts.

For a second or two, Jyn can’t see. Something creeps over her vision like tears, and it takes a handful of blinks for her to be able to make out the looks on the faces of the Rebels, the joy and the haggard relief. Someone next to her elbows her as they throw their arms up in a whoop. Leia, next to her, has her hand curled around the edge of the board; she sways forward, eyes closed, breathing harsh. Across the room, Mothma’s hidden her face like she’s crying, though her shoulders aren’t shaking. When she looks up again, her eyes are dry and clear. Draven’s raised his gaze to the ceiling, hands behind his back, tension winding out of him.

She can’t find Cassian.

“Sergeant,” says Leia, and then when she lifts her head her eyes are gleaming. “Jyn—”

She stops. Leia’s mouth twists. She stands up straighter, and then before Jyn realizes quite what’s happening she’s put both her arms around Jyn and pulled her into a hug so tight that it almost pops her bad rib all over again. Jyn’s numb. She can’t hug her back. She can’t celebrate. She doesn’t know how to feel. This isn’t soft relief and joy, like on Scarif. This is just a kind of odd emptiness. Done, she thinks, it’s done, we’ve won, but the hopeless part of her can’t help but think this is a trick. Papa, it’s done. It’s gone. Leia’s drawn back before Jyn can do much more than flinch, wiping her eyes and putting a smile on her face that’s more of a baring of fangs, wild and triumphant.

“It’s done,” she says, and the smile gets a little more real. “It’s done.”

“It’s done,” says Jyn, and she watches as Leia vanishes into the crowd. A lieutenant with a scar on his cheek throws his arms around her next, and Jyn makes herself hold still so she won’t throw him to the ground, won’t shove him off. Done. It’s done. She’s so tired. She pushes back, through the cluster of people, out of the gaggle before she breaks someone’s sternum. It’s only once she’s out of the crush, back against the wall, eyes shut, heels of her hands crammed up against her face, that she catches the footstep, the hint of a touch on her shoulder.

“Jyn,” says Cassian very quietly. He doesn’t touch her. Jyn doesn’t know what she’s doing, what she’s feeling. She’s chaos. She uncoils, wraps herself around his ribs, hides in his shoulder, pressing in close enough that her nose aches. Her throat is sore. Cassian murmurs something she can’t make out, puts his mouth hard to the top of her head. He’s swaying a little. She thinks for a second it’s because his knees are about to give, that his spine is finally pleading out, but when she goes to squeeze him back into balance he makes an odd yipping sound and puts his nose to her scalp. Jyn’s lungs knot up. Her stomach hurts. When she tries to take a breath, it snags on vines.

“I know,” he says into her hair, and Jyn closes her eyes. She pushes her nose into the collar of his shirt, fists her hands up in the fabric at his back. Something catches in her throat again that could be a hiccup. “It’s okay.”

She should be happy. All she feels is a kind of emptiness inside her ribs, a warmth buzzing into her through the fabric of the coat, through the give of cloth between her fingers. Cassian touches his mouth to her hair again, and suddenly she feels safe. She can’t remember the last time she felt really, truly safe. The odd hiccupping cracks out of her again, and she holds on as tight as she can. It’s the still eye of a hurricane, and when she lifts her head, Cassian dips. Nose to her temple, first, and then his brow, until they’re leaning into space and the universe seems to echo at a distance and everything she is has narrowed down to the steadiness of a heartbeat under her palm.  

Jyn breathes.

Chapter Text

The full evacuation from Yavin IV takes the Alliance a little less than a week.

“There’s no point in keeping you locked up when you can help,” Mothma says, beneath the din of the celebration, ignoring the open stares of the guards that have been set on him since the Death Star’s destruction. Half the base, it seems, is getting riotously drunk, and the men at his back—just out of hearing, but close enough to shoot him if he makes a break for it—seem incredibly agitated about the fact that they can’t join in. They keep fidgeting, looking towards the raucous pilots with something envy-green around their mouths. Cassian can’t actually blame them. Still, even if he could, he wouldn’t want to take part. He wants, he thinks, to go to sleep. He wants so badly to sleep, and he wants to sleep with Jyn in reach, the warmth of her there in the middle of the night to prove to him that she’s still near and living and real. Neither of those things are happening anytime soon from the look of it. He keeps his hands behind his back and his face straight, filing it away. The exhaustion can wait for later. “Typically I would be assigning you to Draven, but—”

“I understand,” says Cassian. Mothma sips at whatever it is that one of the pilots has broken out of storage—it smells like it’s come straight from a bootleg still, and it’s making his brain melt—and hides her thoughts behind the rim of her glass. “Where am I going?”

“General Dodonna is conducting an overview of planets and moons to recommend to the Council in regards to the new base.” Mothma shrugs. “Your involvement in surveying Yavin IV was appreciated several years ago. You’ve been assigned to him, once you’ve been cleared for service by medical and filed your full report.”

“I gave my report to Draven.”

“You’ll give it again,” she says. “The rest of the Council would like to hear it.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Cassian hesitates. “I wouldn’t think the Council would want me working on relocating Base One. Considering the circumstances.”  

“The Council is aware of possible issues in regard to your assistance in this matter. It has chosen to ignore them in favor of making you useful.” Her mouth curves. “Considering the circumstances.”

“I see,” says Cassian. It sounds more like Senator Mothma and possibly Princess Leia have steamrolled whatever opposition was made to the idea, but he’d prefer to be out of custody than in it. There’s still a knot of bitterness tight between his teeth, though. Trustworthy enough to keep working, dangerous enough to be kept under supervision. A sign of hypocrisy, or a sign of desperation. Maybe both. “What about the others?”

“Sergeant Erso will be under the supervision of General Grafis until a better solution is found.”

Cassian does not wince. He absolutely does not wince. Instead, he says, very deliberately, “General Baccam Grafis, head of supplies and ordinances?”

“General Baccam Grafis, yes. Unless there’s another General Grafis I’m unaware of.” He thinks Mothma might be trying not to smile. “General Grafis has been made aware of the possible issues involved. He seems keen to try his hand anyway.”

On the one hand, putting Jyn to work supervising supplies and ordinances makes a bit of sense. It keeps her away from sensitive information, keep her under the eye of someone known for their fussy, neat-as-a-vibroblade organizational style. On the other hand, it puts her near weaponry. Not only that, it puts her near General Grafis, which is guaranteed to sour her mood. With the two combined, she has the opportunity to use one to defuse the other. She won’t—he knows she won’t, not with so much at stake—but some part of him wants to perch on a nearby shipping container, and watch her cut Grafis off at the knees.

“Masters Îmwe and Malbus are welcome to remain with the Rebellion for the time being,” says Mothma. Cassian shakes himself back to reality. "Due to their assistance in the Scarif matter, and on Eadu, they are guaranteed a certain number of rights, and if I’m honest, we’d prefer to keep them around then lose their support. However, they can’t stay forever without either taking on commission or agreeing to work as freelance agents, and that decision is, of course, up to them.” She takes another sip of her bootleg booze. “As for Lieutenant Rook, he is not being formally charged with you and Sergeant Erso, and will remain in sickbay for the time being.”

Cassian blinks, and internally scrambles. He keeps his face carefully neutral. Jyn. It sounds like something Jyn would pull. Whatever she did to get Bodhi released from custody, Cassian thinks, it’s probably going to end up biting her. Something flickers in his chest that might be pride. “I see.”

“I’m sure you do.” There’s a flinty kind of look on Mothma’s face, the kind of look she usually only gets when she’s bested the rest of the council in a drawn-out argument. She’s satisfied, he thinks. “Depending on whether or not he’s released before the evacuation is complete, the lieutenant might be roped into assisting. As it stands, he will stay on bed rest until he’s either dismissed by medical, or evacuated with some of the more critically wounded.”

“And K-2?”

“Staying in sickbay, so far as I know.”

It’s better than it could be. K-2’s visit to the situation room hadn’t been damning, exactly, but it hadn’t been particularly productive, either. He’d been midway through calling Draven something to the effect of a malcontent of blistering negligence and stupidity when Princess Organa had sent him off.  

“I want to make it clear, Captain.” Mothma’s eyes go sharp as shattered glass. “There is to be no contact between any members of the team known as Rogue One until after the hearing, and that’s only if you’re exonerated. In light of the crimes you’ve been accused of, the more time you spend with the people who were accused with you, the more time you have to—”

“To build a story, I understand.” He wants to rub at the bridge of his nose, put pressure on his sinuses, punch the wall until his knuckles bleed. He keeps his hands tight at the small of his aching back. He does understand. He hates it, with a viciousness that’s dizzying, that makes his mouth turn to copper and the tendons in his arms shake, but he understands it. “I’ll stay away.”

“Captain Andor,” says Mothma. “I won’t get a chance to say this later, so I’ll say it now—and if you tell anyone about it, I will deny it was ever said, is that understood?”

He blinks again, much slower this time. He’s never had the kind of relationship with Mothma where she’d feel comfortable confiding in him—he’d reported to her, sometimes, but more frequently he’d made his reports to Draven alone, sometimes Draven and Mothma together. Considering some of his more sensitive assignments, it had been expedient to keep the political face of the Alliance out of the line of fire, so to speak. “Yes, Senator.”

“It was very well done,” says Mothma. “What you all did, it was well done. You did it out of loyalty and you did it out of a desire to see the galaxy safe, and for that we all owe you more than we can ever say. You’ve sacrificed a great deal to do a job that the rest of us couldn’t, and came back knowing that your only welcome would be the inside of a holding cell. There’s a special kind of bravery, in that.”

Cassian turns to look out at the party. It’s an impromptu thing, mostly people collecting beneath the remaining ships, laughing, shouting. Someone’s lit a bonfire in the middle of a landing pad, and there are couples dancing around it. He’s not entirely sure whose idea that was, considering how close the engine oil is, but he’s glad that Mothma’s picked a spot at the very edge, far away from any shrapnel that might fly. “We did it because it had to be done,” he says, finally. “For many reasons.”

“For Sergeant Erso to exonerate her father,” says Mothma, and Cassian’s in the sitroom all over again, holding on as Jyn tries not to fly to pieces. She’d been escorted away by armed guards, after, and he'd folded himself up again as best he could, so he can stand here, now, in front of Senator Mon Mothma, without losing his temper. “For the Rebellion to stay in one piece. For the galaxy to remain free. To take revenge for Jedha. Or something else entirely, perhaps.”

“Some of those,” says Cassian. “Maybe.”

“Regardless of the reasons why, it was a brave thing,” she says. “And if no one else thanks you for it, then I want you to know that I do.”

He thinks, for a moment, of being in sickbay, only a few days ago. Mothma, carefully weighing her words. They instead of we. Alone, not never. He dips his head, very slowly. “Thank you, Senator.”

Mothma’s eyes glimmer oddly in the firelight, the blue flashing silver. She says, “We’ve done a great many wrongs to you, Captain. And to Sergeant Erso. I don’t think we can ever truly repay the debt.”

He doesn’t say anything, really. You can always get more answers with silence than words. Nobody likes hearing an echo between two people. Mothma knows that as well as he does. Still, she looks up at the sky, at the stars. It’s too dark to make out the pieces of the Death Star, still spiraling in Yavin IV’s orbit. “I used to wonder sometimes about the cost,” she says, in a voice like she’s dreaming. “The necessities of the Rebellion outweigh the humanity of any of the rebels within it. Wars are not won cleanly, and never have been. We have been trying so hard for the last eighteen years to run from war, Captain Andor. Every effort I made with Bail, with the Alliance, was to try to finish this without spilling too much blood. And now we’ve come to war, outright, and I realize that that’s all it’s truly been for the last two decades. That to some here, this life is all you’ve known.”

Run, Cassian, Mebwe had said. Run. He’d been sixteen and frightened and following orders. Mebwe had told him to run. He’d run. The little girl on Onderon, Neera, gap-toothed and eaten up by fury, had been a twisted reflection.

I was a child. You were a child. Did it stop you?

“Everything I’ve done,” says Cassian, “was for the Rebellion.”

“Yes,” says Mothma, eyes still glimmering. “But you were a child, Captain. Jyn was a child when Saw took her in. This war was never supposed to be fought by children.”

Cassian doesn’t know what to say. He keeps his mouth shut. Onderon flickers in his head. Neera. Mothma blinks, and abruptly, the vulnerability vanishes. She takes another sip from her cup, and then says. “I wish that the mission could have been officially sanctioned, Captain. You’re too good at your job to be lost to a court martial.”

“Me too,” says Cassian, after a long moment.

“That I knew already,” says Mothma. “There’s going to be an award ceremony tomorrow for the pilots who destroyed the Death Star. Your medical check will be conducted during that time. General Dodonna’s men should come to collect you after.” 

She pauses, again, like she wants to say something. She can’t—they both know she can’t say what she wants to, the apology, the you should be up there, too. Cassian’s not sure he would accept a medal of honor, even if it’s ever offered, but the moment lingers. He dips his head once.

“Understood,” he says.

Mothma lifts her glass to him as the guards sweep forward to usher him away. 

He makes his report first, the next morning. Starting before dawn, three hours of back and forth, of prying every detail out of him that they can manage. (He sees Jyn on his way out, wrung dry and quiet; they pass each other in the hall, Cassian leaving, Jyn coming in. There’s no time, they can’t stop moving, the guards won’t slow, but Cassian keeps his eyes on hers, and Jyn looks at him with her lips parting, a sudden flicker of something around her mouth that might be her will to fight. Breathe, he wants to say. Breathe. They lead her into the room he’s just left, shut the door, and then he’s turned the corner, and there’s nothing left to do about it. It’s still far more than he expected. Cassian lets it wash over him, just for a second, before sealing it up again in the back of his mind.) He’s already nursing a headache when he heads to sickbay, and it doesn’t help that they take him the back way to get to the bacta tanks, through maintenance as opposed to through the front door. To keep him out of sight of Bodhi and K-2, probably. The headache just gets worse when the medical droid that turns up is the same one he remembers from first being stuck here, to say, in its prim, inhuman little voice, that he’s an idiot.

“Previously the damage to the lumbar region of your spinal column was not insignificant, but it was reparable,” it says, once the guards have settled him in a chair and gone to glower around the door frame. “Had you remained on bedrest and finished your course of allotted bacta treatments, the damage would be almost entirely gone at this point, and there would be nothing to be concerned about. However, due to excessive motion, several relatively minor nerves have been damaged to the point of difficulty, which is causing the pain you are currently experiencing.”

“I figured out that much,” says Cassian.

“So long as you do not exacerbate the damage even further, you are currently at low risk of transforming the injury into something severe enough to cause real concern in regards to optimal functionality,” says T12. “The pain will continue, and it is hard to say for how long or at what severity. Spinal column injuries are difficult to predict. As such, you have two options. The first is surgical intervention, which, even with the medical techniques currently available to the Alliance, carries a risk of further damage to the spinal column. This may result in a reduction of mobility, but it will also reduce your daily pain to almost nothing.”

His head swims. “What do you mean, reduction in mobility?”

“Depending on the hypothetical damage which may be caused by the surgery, you may lose a significant amount of feeling and function below the waist,” says the droid. “Your ability to walk may become compromised, not to mention control of certain internal functions. It may necessitate use of a catheter. It may also result in difficulty in regards to sexual activity. Are you sexually active?”

“That’s not the point,” says Cassian. “What’s—what’s the risk of causing further damage? If I decide to do the surgery.”

“Seventy-eight percent, approximately,” says T12 cheerfully. “With techniques currently available to the Alliance, it is unlikely that this treatment will achieve optimum results. Again, this damage is only theoretical; with your nerves as they are, if the surgery is entirely successful, these side effects may not occur at all.”

Cassian curses under his breath, and rubs at his eyes with his thumbs.

“The second option is simply a localized, intensive treatment of the damaged area with the remaining bacta allotted to your case,” says T12. “It would be far less invasive, and thus pose far less possible danger to the spinal column. However, as the bacta levels required for your condition were predicted through a model applied during your previous visit to sickbay, it will not be enough to completely heal the current level of damage. You will likely require continuing treatment. The pain will be reduced from its current levels, but it will not alleviated. There is also an eighty-two percent likelihood that it will be near-constant.” The droid pauses. “Would you like to take time to consider the options? It is recommended that you discuss the decision with others.”

“No,” says Cassian, and runs his hands over his face. He’s so damn tired. He doesn't have time to think about it. “No, I don’t—no.”

T12 rolls again. “People who have lost mobility in their legs have perfectly regular, healthy lives, Captain Andor, there is no—”

“That’s not the problem, I don’t—” He's kept himself to himself for years, through necessity, through the mistrust bred by intelligence work, but he's seen other victims of the war. A decision like this isn't just picking between two bad options. They are two bad options. Constant pain, constant suffering, on either side. Mental or physical, either way. Either way, either path, he'll survive, he'll keep moving, but either way it'll eat away at him, the frustration of it. Surgery or no surgery. Pain or no pain. Working legs, or not.

It would mean the end of fieldwork. That's no great loss. He doesn't expect to ever get back into the field, not after what they've done. Even if, by some miracle, he's cleared, he can't do the work Draven would expect of him, anyway. That would restrict him to administrative work, or work on-base, on-ship. Grounded either way. A week ago, ten days ago, it would have been the Alliance taking his life away, all his chances to run from what lurks in the dark. It might still be that. But that has nothing to do with the surgery, not really, not truly. Take a huge risk now, or wait and see. Calculate the odds. Take the chance.

There's not really any choice at all, when he thinks of it that way.

“Do the second treatment,” says Cassian. “The intensive one.”

“You are certain?”

“I don’t care if it hurts.” I probably won’t live much longer anyway, he almost says, and then bites it back. He doesn’t want to consider that. He reels back from it. “The second one. How long will it take?”

“Today? Several hours.” The droid rolls back and forth. “You will have to be sedated for the process, and you will not wake until roughly eighteen-hundred hours. It is likely,” T12 adds, “that you will be the last user of Rebellion bacta before the evacuation is complete.”

“Fine,” says Cassian. “Do it.”

The guards, at the door, exchange looks. “I’ll tell Dodonna,” one says, and vanishes through the passage.

Cassian knots his hands in front of his face, shuts his eyes, and lets himself think.

.

.

.

“You can’t be angry forever,” says K-2. “It’s inexpedient and irritating to everyone around you. Especially me, because I’m stuck here dealing with you being annoying.”

“Sorry,” says Bodhi automatically. He’s not particularly sorry about being angry, but he’s sorry for upsetting K-2. K-2 is, much as he would probably be loath to admit it, actually just as frustrated to be stuck in sickbay as Bodhi is at the moment. Actually, he might be even more discomfited by the whole thing than Bodhi is, if only because K-2 isn’t accustomed to being around medical droids, to being away from Cassian for this long, or to being around medical droids while simultaneously being away from Cassian. For whatever reason, it’s leaving K-2 even tetchier than usual. In the three days since the destruction of the Death Star, Baze has threatened to dent K-2’s head in not once but twice, and considering Baze’s immense levels of patience, that’s saying something. Bodhi himself can’t hear it half the time. He’s too busy nursing his temper.

“At least the Guardians can leave when they get sick of you,” says K-2. “I’m stuck.”

“Are you saying that I shouldn’t be angry?”

“It’s stupid to be angry about getting out of a court martial, that’s all I’m saying.”

“I’m not angry about that part,” says Bodhi. “I’m angry that they’re still going to be punished, and I’m not. We all—we all agreed to go. We all did it. And you. They shouldn’t be the ones to pay for it.”

“I’m a droid,” says K-2. “The Alliance doesn’t recognize me as capable of committing a crime. Neither does the Empire, in fact. I am programmed to take orders. Ergo, I do not have free will, and thus cannot be held accountable for my actions.”

If anything, he sounds pleased about it. Bodhi shifts on the bed, trying not to feel the ache in his leg, and says, “If you don’t have free will, then I’ll eat a boot.”

“It would be unwise for you to consume footwear during your recovery.”

“It’s my leg that’s buggered, not my stomach.”

“Now you’re being idiotic as well as aggravating and petulant.”  K-2 whirs again. “Do you require pain medication now?”

I require mobility, Bodhi almost says. I require my friends to not be convicted of a crime that I committed too while I get off with a slap on the wrist. I require the Alliance to shape up and behave like people seeking good, not politicians stuck in administrative nonsense. I require a lot of things. He bites his tongue, and holds them in. “Makes my head fuzzy.”

“If you say so,” says K-2.

Bodhi threads the blanket through his gloved fingers, crumpling it, wrinkling it. There are patches on the threadbare quilt that he’s picked clean away, and it’s not settling the itch, the nervous energy. The gloves are good for him, he knows they are, but—something. But he can’t scratch with them on. He can’t get the itch out if he doesn’t scratch at it. He’s caught somewhere between blood beneath his fingernails and a constant, trembling energy trapped just under the surface of his skin. He’s not sure which is worse. Wrinkling the blanket helps, a little, to keep the constant drone of nerves from eating away at his insides.

The medical droid who’s been supervising him claims that his surgery went well. So does the doctor that’s been set to oversee sickbay during the evacuation. “The cast is just to keep the bone immobile while it sets,” he’d said, when Bodhi had woken the first time to find Chirrut and Baze stationed at the end of his bed like sentinels, Chirrut leaning against his quarterstaff to keep his weight off his feet. “The bacta tanks are being drained to move them, otherwise I’d just put you in there. For now, we’re making do with bone stabilizer sprays, and considering the damage done to the artery, we have to be careful with those.”

He’d slept, he thinks, through the destruction of the Death Star. Or not slept, but been unconscious. It’d been destroyed, and he’d not been outside to see it. He’d not witnessed it. The itching under his skin gets worse every time he remembers. Everything he’d given up for it, everything Galen had given up, everything they’ve all suffered, and he’d been unconscious, he hadn’t seen—

Trina and Byx, the Imperial cargo pilots, keep nudging at him in his sleep. He can’t stay under for more than a few hours at a time. It’s Trina, and Byx, and then Galen, looking at him across a cafeteria table, saying, I know you can do this. You have to do this, Bodhi. You have to.

He should have been awake to see it finished. He should have seen it done. He should have been awake. Some part of him can’t believe it’s over until he sees the shards in space, like Alderaan, like the blast that had wiped Jedha from the galaxy. He can’t know, in his bones, that it’s finished until he sees the broken pieces, and there’s something sick and sadistic in that, but he can’t stop fidgeting. He can’t know. That thing killed my family. That thing killed my city. That thing killed a planet, and now two of the only people I have left in the universe are going to be punished for something we all did, and I’m stuck here in a bed. 

There’s not a lot he can do at the moment, with his leg in a cast, no crutches available, and an irritable droid settled at his bedside like some kind of professional bodyguard. Bodhi had been under the impression that Cassian or Jyn—or Cassian and Jyn—had set K-2 on him as a watchdog before Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker had rambled in to see him after the award ceremony and the princess—“Leia,” she’d said, “please”—had mentioned that K-2 had been judged to be irrelevant to the evacuation efforts, and that instead of being temporarily deactivated, she had requested he watch Bodhi, instead.

“It seemed expedient,” Leia had said, “considering Captain Andor is—temporarily unavailable. K-2SO has a history of not getting along with anyone else in the Alliance.”

“That’s because compared to Cassian, most of the Alliance is very stupid,” says K-2. Luke, sitting on an empty bed next to Bodhi’s, had ducked his head to keep from laughing. “Of course, Cassian is only marginally less stupid on occasion, but he at least does not believe I am going to revert to my original programming and blow the entire Rebel Fleet up. It is not possible for me to revert to my original programming. The pathways are too badly scrambled.” 

“That’s encouraging,” Luke had said, but in a mostly nice sort of way.

“Don’t you have ships to load?” K-2 had snapped, and then, of course, the subject had been changed. Luke had gone to speak to Chirrut about something, and Leia had vanished back into work, and Baze had settled at the end of Bodhi’s bed and dozed off, leaving Bodhi staring at the wall again with nothing to keep his brain from going in circles.

He could, Bodhi thinks, convince K-2 without much effort to carry him out of sickbay, but that seems ridiculous. Too many people would notice, and besides, what is he supposed to do? The Rebel Alliance is evacuating. Whatever is going to happen to Jyn and Cassian—“a hearing,” Baze says, at about four in the morning on the second day. “Whole Council’s going to vote on whether or not to send them to a court-martial.”—he can’t exactly do much about it with a malfunctioning leg, a grumpy droid, and two Guardians who just seem to be hanging around waiting for something.

“This isn’t the end,” Chirrut tells him. “You don’t have to worry.”

“I’m not worried,” Bodhi says. “I’m angry.”

“Sometimes one feeds into the other,” Chirrut says, and Bodhi had stopped paying attention, then. He’s not very good at holding on to anger. Maybe he was, before, but now it keeps trying to slip away from him, keeps trying to fade. He doesn’t want to stop being angry about this. He shouldn’t. The unfairness of it all blisters the inside of his skull. Why are they being punished for doing the right thing?  

A little voice in his head says, sometimes, that he ought to steal another ship, a droid, Jyn and Cassian and Baze and Chirrut, and just—go. Leave without a trace. It’s so blisteringly unfair that in the face of everything, every single thing that they’ve done, that the pair of them are being punished. It hurts, in a part of him that should be callused over by the Empire. It’s petty and stupid, to punish them for doing the right thing. For doing the thing that had saved them all, every single one of them. Luke Skywalker fired the final shot, but the only reason he could is because of Rogue One. Luke Skywalker has a medal, now. Jyn and Cassian are being held pending charges.

 “I should be in custody too,” he says to K-2, abruptly. “I should.

“We have argued this point fifty-eight times,” says K-2. “I have won fifty-eight times.”

“You haven’t won. I just stopped arguing with you because you weren’t listening.”

“That’s winning,” says K-2.

“By your definition, maybe.”

“You are not in custody,” says K-2, “because one or both of them decided that it would be better if not every single one of you go down for the crime. You should appreciate this.”

“I don’t,” says Bodhi. “I don’t. That’s not how it’s—that isn’t how it’s supposed to work, that’s not how it’s supposed to be, we’re—the six of us aren’t—”

We’re all we have left. Without each other, we’re alone. You and Jyn and Cassian, Chirrut and Baze—they’re all he has. He can’t remember his own family. His mind is mixed up. He has no city to go back to. He’s wanted by the Empire. Half the Alliance would be willing to forget he ever existed. They’re all he has, and he won’t let them go down without him. He can’t. He pinches the bridge of his nose, breathes. The panic is so close it’s like his own shadow, something he could reach out and touch without truly feeling it. He can’t get a full mouthful of air.

“Bodhi,” says K-2. “You are on the verge of hyperventilation. You must slow your breathing. I am not capable of assisting you like the Guardians are.”

Bodhi waves his hand. “I’m fine, I’m—I’m fine. I’m—”

“—idiotic,” says K-2. Bodhi chokes.

“Sometimes.” He drags in air through his nose. “I’m the pilot.”

“That’s irrelevant.”

“Helps me think,” says Bodhi, and goes back to picking at his hands. He stops when he can only find the slick, water-resistant fabric of the gloves under his fingers. “It’s—it helps me think. Reminds me of—things.”

K-2 whirs for a bit longer, and then says, dully, “Humans are impossible.”

Bodhi ignores that too. There’s no point into feeding into K-2’s nonsense when he’s in a mood about humanity. It doesn’t do anything other than give him more ammunition for his rants on how sentient beings need to disable their own mental processes and leave it up to logic, instead, “though I simply specialize in tactics and strategy, what would I know about what happens when the universe is left to its own devices with no restraint whatsoever?”

He can’t just sit here. He can’t just sit here. It’s bothering Chirrut and Baze, too, he can tell that much even if they don’t say anything about it. It’s why they keep wandering when they get the chance, keep slinking around the base like if they do it often enough they’ll run into some miracle that will fix all this at once. None of them want to be sitting around waiting for whatever is going to happen to Jyn and Cassian to just happen, with no interference. Short of breaking them out of whatever custody they’re in, though, there’s not much to do until the hearing itself, and the evacuation has put all possible hearings or whatever else the Council wants to call this flagrant disregard of common sense and universal justice on hold.

Waiting, Bodhi decides, is its own, special kind of hell.

He thinks, at first, when the door opens, that it’s Chirrut and Baze coming back from whatever recon mission they’ve assigned themselves. It isn’t, though. There’s a pilot at the far end of sickbay, the patches fading and worn on the sleeve of his jacket. He’s stocky more than short, pale-skinned and dark-haired, a sharp nose and heavy eyebrows; he scans the sickbay just once before he catches sight of Bodhi, and of K-2, and angles for them.

He’s tired, Bodhi thinks. They all look tired, every single Rebel, but this one is tired. He looks worn at the edges, a bad hologram. Like Cassian was, at the beginning. He stops, abruptly, between Bodhi’s bed and the next one over, and stands very still.

“Lieutenant Rook.” He shifts his feet across the floor, almost scuffing his shoe like a child, before gesturing at the bed. “Can I sit?”

K-2 says, “You can, grammatically and physically speaking. It’s difficult to say whether or not you will. Or if you should.”

Bodhi kind of, maybe wants to die, just a little bit. He also kind of really agrees with K-2 at the same time. Whatever any Rebel in uniform wants, he’s learned through experience that it isn’t always good.

To his credit, though, the man blinks again. The corners of his mouth turn up. “May I sit?”

“Yes,” says Bodhi. K-2 is practically bristling. “Yeah—yes. ‘sfine.”

The stocky man drops down onto the next cot over, and folds his hands over his knees, awkwardly. He doesn’t seem to have much to say. He looks at the wall for a bit, like it’s going to give him answers, and then at K-2, who’s watching him without budging, like he thinks that the man’s going to suddenly fly at them with a knife. “I thought you were Andor’s droid.”

“I am temporarily assigned to watch over Lieutenant Rook until his condition improves,” says K-2, snottily. “Obviously. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

“You would,” says Bodhi, before he thinks better of it. “You fret.”

“I do not fret. I am incapable of fretting.”

“Just like you’re incapable of making decisions based on free will,” Bodhi says, and ignores the distinctly outraged noises coming from K-2. The man on the next cot over ducks his head like he’s trying to hide another smile. “Who are you? I’m sorry, I don’t—I’m not—I’m not good with faces. Dunno if I ever was. Definitely not now.”

“Wedge Antilles,” says the man. There’s a scrap of red around the patch that means X-wing fighter. Red Squadron, Bodhi thinks. Unless that means something different, and he just can’t recall. “We haven’t met before.”

“Oh.”

Wedge Antilles peers at him for a minute. Bodhi picks at his gloves, and tries not to squirm too much. There have been enough people staring at him over the past few weeks that even the thought of it is enough to get the ants under his skin moving again. Finally, Antilles says, “Sorry, this is—strange. I wanted to see how you were doing.”

Bodhi says, “My friends are in custody and I’m stuck in sickbay.”

Wedge doesn’t flinch. “So not well.”

“No.”

“I figured.” He considers again. “Few months ago I was confined to sickbay while the rest of my squad had a mission on the Outer Rim. Two of them went down while I was trapped in bed. Felt like hell. Not the same, but I’d guess it feels similar.”

He doesn’t know how to respond to that. Bodhi ducks his head, and fusses with the hem of the blanket.

“You’re going to be released soon,” says Wedge Antilles. “Probably. And I know you don’t know me, but can I offer some advice?”

K-2 mutters, “You’re going to anyway.”

“I wouldn’t,” says Wedge. “If you didn’t want to hear it.”

He seems to mean it, too. His gaze is steady, his mouth is steady. Bodhi twists the blanket between his gloved fingers. “What—what advice? What advice?”

“There’s talk,” says Wedge. “About the people in Rogue One. Not Andor, he’s known here. Quiet, sure, and he doesn’t really get along with anybody, but people know him. They trust him. But after—” He pauses. “Even with the princess speaking up for you, there’s talk about you and Erso. People are saying that since the pair of you came from the Empire, you shouldn’t be trusted.” Wedge weighs something, considers it. “I know you didn’t have much else between Scarif and Onderon, but you might consider switching out your uniform for something that has Alliance colors. Might make things easier for you once you’re released.”

He says it noncommittally, like it’s not much of a thing at all. His hands clench on his knees, though, and his mouth tightens, just a little, at the corner. Bodhi veers, wildly, between half a dozen things. Sudden, stinging hurt. Frustration. The anger roars back. Through gritted teeth, Bodhi says, “I don’t care what they—what anyone here thinks of me. I don’t.”

“Really?”

“I defected,” he says. “That’s—it’s not their business. I defected. I left. I’m here to help. What does it matter what I wear?”

“It makes people think you might still be loyal to the Empire, somewhere,” says Wedge Antilles, without blinking. “It makes some parts of the Rebellion uncomfortable. Now that Alderaan and Jedha are gone, it’ll just get worse.”

“I don’t—I don’t care. It shouldn’t—” The words scatter and reform. “It matters to me where I came from, it—I need to remember. Sometimes I don’t remember things well. And I need to—I need to remember. I made the choice, I need to remember it. I can’t—”

He can’t forget. He shouldn’t forget. If not for Galen making him think, he might still be an Imperial. If not for one choice, he wouldn’t be here now. And at the same time, he can’t forget that the Imperials he knew are human. He keeps remembering faces he’d caught in passing in the Death Star, officers and maintenance workers, Trina and Byx, the man he’d clocked over the head with a droid panel, the Stormtrooper who’d asked him about Shack. So many of them. He can’t sleep for thinking about them, these people who are not just a uniform, who, like him, could have made the right choice. If they’d had time. If they’d had the chance. He can’t say that aloud, not to anyone in the base. He can’t. The uniform says it for him, somehow. He’s not giving up the uniform.

“You made him yell,” says K-2. “He doesn’t like yelling. If you keep upsetting him, I will remove you.”

“It’s fine,” Bodhi says, as Wedge’s eyes get wide. “K-2, it’s fine.”

K-2 bristles again, but shuts up.

“What do you care, anyway?” Bodhi says, suddenly blazing. “What does it matter to you? Clearly nobody in the Alliance gives a damn what you do, anyway. It’s all about where people come from. Nobody’s ever going to accept that—that any of us did the right thing just because of where we came from or if we left or if we stopped or—or any of it. Who our parents were. Where we—where we were born. So what do you care?”

Wedge tips his head, just a bit. He tucks his chin. “I could just be trying to help.”

“Nobody here does something without a reason,” says Bodhi. “Nobody—nobody does.”

Wedge gives K-2 another half a glance. He looks back at Bodhi. The silence is less defensive than it is thoughtful, and it gets Bodhi’s back up, gets the temper prickling between his teeth snapping like sparks. Finally, Wedge says, “I defected.”

Bodhi opens his mouth, and shuts it. He fists his hands in the blanket. “Oh.”

“It was a few years ago,” Wedge says, still in a mild, this means nothing sort of voice. His fingers are knotted on his knees. “A lot of people here have defected. Still, there are even more who have reason to be scared of the Empire. Or hateful. You know that, Jedha—” He stops. “You know that. It makes things—easier. If you blend. That’s all I wanted to say.” 

His brain’s glitching. There are shorts in the system. Bodhi looks at his knees. He thinks of the day before Jyn woke up, the hard stares, the snapping. A fist in the collar of his uniform, shoving him back against the wall. How much of the Rebellion is made of up of old Imperials? How many people have been pushed into walls, hissed at in corridors? It makes things easier, if you blend. He flexes his fingers in and out, and suddenly the coiling, corrosive energy in his hands simmers down to something more manageable. “I wouldn’t have been able to help as much as I did if I blended,” he says. “With—with Scarif. And Eadu, and the Death Star. I wouldn’t have been able to save my—friends. If I’d blended.”

Wedge looks at him through his hair.

“I don’t care what they think,” Bodhi says again. “I don’t—I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I made—I made a choice. I came and did the right thing. And if people hate me for keeping the uniform, then—then people hate me for keeping the uniform. It doesn’t change the fact that I made the choice. That—that I made the choice.” He picks at a thread coming away from the seam. “I made the choice.”  

He waits, then, for Wedge to regroup. To argue another way. Instead, Wedge just turns that over in his head in silence before he leans back.

“Okay,” he says.

Bodhi eyes him for a bit. “Okay?”

Wedge shrugs. “You’ve convinced me. Do I need to say anything else?”

“You think it’ll convince the councilors at the hearing?” says Bodhi.

He rests his elbows on his knees, then, folds his hands together. “That,” says Wedge, “will take more.”

Chapter Text

It’s hard to remember that they won when her guards shove her into her new cell.

Jyn blows her hair out of her eyes, and catches her balance before she runs right into the opposite wall. The Montressor is the Rebellion’s new flagship—one of a handful of Mon Calamari cruisers that one of the admirals had brought in to the Alliance, older and a bit less high-tech than the Profundity had been, but still enormous, and still equipped with literally everything an army could need while on the run from an Empire. She’s a little surprised they’re keeping her on the flagship, considering Draven’s initial attempts to keep them as far out of sight as possible, but—Leia. This is probably Leia. Leia and the other councilors on their side. If there are any.

Being in the cell, in some ways, is better than wandering around with General Grafis. With the general, people had been constantly watching. She’d been weaponless, paraded around as an assistant, and watched. Everywhere they’d gone, people had watched. She’d heard Scarif whispered sometimes, and Eadu, and Death Star. Andor and Jedha and Gerrera. Every time she’d looked around, people would avoid her eyes. She’d even caught Grafis doing it. Grafis’s assistant Uchima, too. There might be cameras in this cell, there might not, but at least in here she can’t feel people’s eyes on her. She can’t see them turn and look as she’d followed General Grafis around on his assignments. In here, there won’t be any whispering, no hissed questions. No one telling her to talk, no one who might draw a blade on her back. In here, there’s just silence. In here, she’s alone.

Alone, she thinks, and imprisoned.

She threads her fingers through the fur around the hood of Cassian’s coat, and takes stock of the Montressor’s cell block standards. The Rebellion’s new flagship doesn’t have much to show for it, prisoner-wise. A toilet, hidden behind just a little bit of a barrier. The Rebellion cares more about privacy than the Empire, at least. A cot, no sheets. Room temperature is much lower than she’d like. Too cold. She ought to be exhaling mist. All the hair is standing up on her arms. She does up the coat, pulls the hood over her head. Burly Guard—she’d heard his name, she knows his name, she just refuses to use it even in her head—had confiscated the vibroblade she’d snitched on the second day from one of the supply boxes, after not finding it the other half a dozen times he’d frisked her over the past few days. She’s not sure if she should curse herself more for being sloppy, or curse Burly for getting smarter and actually checking the inside of her collar. No vibroblade means she’s weaponless again, and the red light blinking above the door says she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Jyn drops down onto the edge of the bunk, pushes herself back against the wall, leaves her boots on the mattress. It’s not like it’s going to matter, if she sleeps in her dirty clothes. She’s slept in much worse places than this. At least the light is on in this one.

Don’t leave me here.

Jyn catches the chain of the kyber crystal with a crooked index finger, and starts petting her thumb over the contours of the stone. Against her back, the Montressor begins to hum. Hyperspace, she thinks. They just made the jump to hyperspace. They’re officially away from Yavin IV, and going wherever it is the Rebellion thinks they ought to go. “We haven’t decided on a new base, yet,” Grafis had said, marching about like he’d long-since had an iron bar welded into his back instead of a living spine. “Which to us means that we have to be careful to separate the daily necessities from the things that the Rebellion doesn’t need every day.”

“Oh,” Jyn had said, waspish. “So, bombs from bandages, then.”

“Exactly,” Grafis had replied, sniffing, and gone on to detail exactly what kind of bombs they would keep out of storage, and what kinds they would keep in storage. She can probably recite the entirety of the Rebel armory by now. The Jyn from before all this would be sincerely considering selling that information to the highest bidder. The Jyn from now would rather forget everything she knows about what the Rebellion really has. Spit and electrical tape and pure stubbornness, that’s all that’s keeping the Rebellion together now. How did they manage for this long? It's more than Saw ever did, but the Partisans had been running from the inevitable. Now the Rebellion is at war, and it can barely manage to feed its own people every day.

Rebellions are built on hope. The Alliance runs on it. Cassian runs on it, not her. Jyn runs on anger, or she did. She’s not sure what’s keeping her going, now. She draws her knees up against her chest. I was born in prison, and prison has followed me all the days of my life. In a cell again, and this time for winning. For doing the right thing not once but twice. She hasn’t seen Cassian since giving her report, and she hasn’t seen Bodhi since they were arrested; no one will tell her if Chirrut and Baze were granted a place on the evacuation ships. She’s alone in here, in this cell, and no one’s watching her, and there’s nothing to distract her from the noise.

What now? Fall asleep with Sefla and Melshi and Pao staring at her in the dark, with Alderaan tumbling through her head in pieces. What now? Wait to see if the Rebellion cuts her loose or keeps her chained, wait to find out if she can grab everything and run or if she has to make a long-term escape plan. What now? Wait, and pretend that there isn’t a handful of monsters lurking just outside the door, grief for her father, grief for Saw, a howling maw of something that’s waiting to swallow her whole. What now? Wait. Watch. Plan. Figure out her next move. With the Death Star gone, there’s nothing to run toward. With the Empire still around, there’s everything left to fight, but there are Alliance locks on the door. What now? Cassian. Maybe. She can’t think of Cassian. If she thinks of Cassian, she’ll lose her nerve. She’ll get soft, and they’ll pry the armor off her, and tear her skin away with it. What now? Go numb again. Pretend nothing matters.

Hope is hard, she thinks, when you live alone.

The click of the door makes her jump, and Jyn hates herself for it. Her first thought is that it’s someone bringing rations—there’s no slot in the door, and no dispensary; food will have to be carried in by hand—but no; when the door slides open, and fresh warm ship air rushes in, it’s Draven who slides in with it. Not Leia, not Mothma, not Raddus, but Draven who steps inside, and nods at the guard before the door slides shut again.

“Sergeant Erso,” says Draven.

Jyn curls her hand in the fabric of the coat. She fantasizes, briefly, that it’s the hilt of a knife. The anger’s back. It’s flushed hot into her face, into her hands. Papa, she thinks. Cassian. All of it. Draven, watching as the guards had put Cassian in the dirt. Draven giving the order for her father to be killed. He’s a smear of olive and earthy brown against the sheer white walls, a flash of color and sound in the blank, endless hum of the engine. She wonders how much trouble she would be in, if she broke his nose. Finally, when Draven stands there for almost a full minute without saying anything more, Jyn yanks Cassian’s jacket closer around herself, hiding her fists in the sleeves.

“Did you want something,” she says, “or are you just here to stare?”

Draven frowns. His hair is rusty, almost. Greying along the edges, but even at the beginning, she’d thought it was the color of rust. Old metal, she thinks. Wearing through. “Excuse me?”

“You’re here,” she says. “You’re standing there. That means you want something.”

His mouth puckers, ever so slightly. “I think you’re overestimating your importance to the Alliance, Sergeant Erso.”

“Really? Because all the Rebellion’s ever asked me for is more favors.”

“We requested your assistance in the matter of Saw Gerrera,” says Draven. “Everything after that, you undertook of your own will, and I’m going to remind you that the vast majority of it was against the recommendation of Alliance High Command.”

Something rank and nasty curls between her teeth. Jyn turns her face away from him.

“Still,” says Draven. “I came to thank you for your assistance. The evacuation went…smoothly.”

You ordered my father killed, she thinks, and stares at the wall.

“General Grafis has informed me that you were incredibly cooperative during your time assisting him,” says Draven. “Albeit surly. It may alter your verdict, if the Council decides to take that into consideration over the course of the hearing.”

“What do you want?” says Jyn.

“I’m sorry?”

She pushes away from the wall, sets her feet on the floor. She wants to be able to move, if she has to. “You didn’t come here to praise me. What is it you want?”

Draven’s eyes go flat, somehow. They crease at the edges, but he’s not smiling. It’s more like he’s weighing her. “I told you,” he says. “I came to thank you for your assistance in the evacuation.”

“Fine,” says Jyn. “Now get out.”

“Your friends keep asking about you,” says Draven. “If you’ve been wondering.”

“Get out,” Jyn says. But—asking. Not asked or have asked but asking. Asking, present tense. They’re on board. They have to be on board. Of course, Draven could also just be saying it to fuck with her. “Leave me in peace.”

“If you wanted peace, you never would have gone after the plans.”

Jyn scoffs, and fists her hands up on her knees.

“Good men died, you know,” says Draven. “You could have destroyed the entire Rebellion with your recklessness. In going to Scarif, you could have killed us all.”

“Right,” says Jyn. “Because the Empire would have forgotten to use their shiny new planet killer if you’d been quiet enough about running away.”

The tips of Draven’s ears go red. “I won’t debate military tactics with a thief.”

“Dunno what you’re here for, then.” She knocks her heel to the floor a few times, listening to the hollow echo behind the metal. “If you’ve lost track of the rendezvous point, I can’t help you. I’ve been in here since we broke atmo, I didn’t see who wandered off with the coordinates.”

“Considering your current situation, Sergeant, you’d think making glib jokes would be the last thing on your mind.”

“I don’t have much else to do, right now,” she says. “That happens when you’re stuck in a cell.”

“Well, you won’t be for much longer.” Draven folds his arms, and leans back against the door. “Your hearing’s been scheduled.”

Jyn looks at him, and folds tighter into her stolen coat. The collar doesn’t smell quite so much like Cassian as it used to, more like dust and Yavin IV, and something in her aches with the loss.  “When?”

“Starts at 0800 hours tomorrow,” he says. “Considering the precarious position the Alliance has found itself in, and the amount of time we’ll be spending in hyperspace, the Council’s elected to deal with the matter as quickly as possible.”

“The Empire at least started at 1030,” says Jyn. “When they put me on trial for assault. Though their cells weren’t as shiny. More used. I’m guessing you’ll get more practice at throwing people in prison soon enough, though.”

“Nobody likes you very much, do they, Sergeant?” Draven says.

“Not generally, no.” Jyn shuts her eyes. “Nobody likes you much, either, do they, sir? Somehow I don’t see you as the one getting invited to Rebel weddings.”

Draven doesn’t flicker. She hadn’t really expected him to. It’s a cheap shot, and he’s the head of Rebel Intelligence; if she could get to him with a punch like that one, the Alliance would have failed a long time ago.  Still, there’s a beat before he says, “Is that how you’re going to defend yourself at the hearing? Flinging insults?”

“Like you all haven’t already made your decision about what to do with us.”

“I think you’d be surprised.”

Jyn dangles her hands between her knees. “If you don’t want anything, sir, I was going to try and sleep. I apparently have a hearing I have to make, tomorrow.”

Draven doesn’t reply. He also doesn’t move. He stands there, arms crossed, leaning back against the clean white door of her clean white cell—like a sanatorium, it crosses her mind in a flickering, like a box meant to keep a madwoman in—until the silence gets near unbearable, staring at her. She wants to fly up off the floor, come at him with nails extended. It’s something that Imperial interrogators do, too, stand there in silence, wait for you to hang yourself with your own words. Most sentient beings can’t stand a good long silence. Jyn keeps her mouth shut, and waits.

“You know what the biggest danger to the Alliance is?” says Draven.

Jyn goes back to knocking her heel against the floor.

“The Alliance,” he says, “cripples itself through too many voices. The Empire has it wrong, one voice can’t speak for all, but too many people shouting at once crushes freedom just much as one man dominating over the rest. The more complicated the narrative gets, the slower it moves, the more bogged down it becomes in politics, fripperies”

She fists her hands between her knees. “Senator Mothma agree with you on that?”

“Senator Mothma isn’t the head of intelligence,” says Draven. “I am. Too many voices muddy the narrative of the Rebellion.”

“And that’s what you think we are,” she says. “We complicate the narrative.”

Draven looks at her for a bit. “Why did you go to Scarif?”

Jyn says, “I’m not playing this game with you.”

“Did you go there to save the Rebellion, the way you claim, or did you go there to take back your father’s work? To give yourself some chance at revenge for what had been done to your family?”

“You’re a bastard,” says Jyn, and shuts her eyes. “And I’m not playing this game.”

“It doesn’t matter which, to be honest,” says Draven. “Not really, not to the history books. You and the men who followed you to Scarif did an impossible thing, a miraculous thing. You saved the Alliance, not once but twice. That fits into the tapestry. That’s not the problem.”

“I’m not playing this game.

“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about who you are,” says Draven. “Jyn Erso. I’m not sure if you even really know who Jyn Erso is, considering all the years you’ve spent living under different names. It’s clear enough, though, from what you’ve done, that Jyn Erso is no one to be sneezed at. The fact of the matter is, though, Jyn Erso isn’t loyal to the Alliance. Jyn Erso is loyal to Jyn Erso, and Jyn Erso alone.”

“That’s not true,” says Jyn.

“How long did you spend with Captain Andor before you managed to get him to go directly against orders?” It’s a rhetorical question. Still, Draven answers it. “A few days. Not even that. One of the most decorated intelligence officers in the fleet, and after spending a few days with you, he turned his back on his orders to fly out on not one but two of your suicide missions. Lieutenant Rook had his own motivations, but he had still been willing to sacrifice his life to your cause within days. The Guardians of the Whills have no reason to be as loyal to you as they are, and yet they followed you across the galaxy without hesitation. You’re intelligent, and charismatic, and you wield both of those qualities like blasters. Get people to like you, to follow you—”

It feels as though someone’s slipped ice down her throat, and closed off her airway. A spreading cold through her chest. Yes, she thinks. No. That’s not true. But some of it is. “I didn’t make them do anything, I didn’t ask them for anything, I just—”

“That might be the truest thing you’ve ever said,” says Draven. “You didn’t ask. You didn’t make them. They volunteered. The second time, too, I think. You didn’t ask. They offered before you said a word. Captain Andor, Lieutenant Rook, the Guardians. You needed their help, and they volunteered it before you ever opened your mouth.”

Jyn presses her lips tightly closed.

“If you were loyal to the Alliance, then there would be no problem. You’d be an undeniable asset, a new hero, a pretty, charismatic, inventive natural leader. But you’ve proven, over and over, that the only thing you care about, the only motivation you have, is your own bloody agenda.”

“I don’t have any agenda, all I wanted was to be left alone, I didn’t ask for any of this—”

“Why did you really go to Scarif, Sergeant Erso?” Draven’s mouth is thin, almost invisible. “Did you go to save the Alliance? Or did you just go to kick sand in the Empire’s eye?”

“I did it because it had to be done!” She’s on her feet, and she can’t remember standing. “I did it because if I hadn’t done it people would have died, I did it because if I hadn’t then the Alliance would have been in pieces and there would have been no—”

No hope left. It sticks on her lips. No hope, no chance, no choice.

“Don’t play self-sacrificing with me,” Draven says, and for the first time color flushes into his face. “You might be a hero, Sergeant Erso, and you might nearly be a martyr twice over, but you’re not what any of them think you are. You’re not here for the greater good. You’re here because you wanted something, and this was the way you could get it.”

“That’s,” Jyn says, and then stops, because welcome home is thrumming in her head, and she can’t shake it free. “Hundreds of Rebels have stories like mine, why do you—”

“Because hundreds of Rebels don’t survive two suicide missions into the heart of Imperial territory,” says Draven. “And hundreds of Rebels don’t have the kind of charisma that sways people from all walks of life to your side.”

He stops there. Jyn, though—Jyn keeps going. “And hundreds of Rebels don’t muck up the narrative. Hundreds of Rebels aren’t living proof of how the Rebellion did terrible things to get where they are.”

Draven says nothing. He just stares at her.

“You had my father killed,” says Jyn, cold. “When blasters didn’t work, you did it with bombs, because he made things more complicated. You had him killed because he didn’t fit.”

“Your father was an incredibly dangerous man who posed an enormous threat to the Alliance—”

“My father was a victim!”

“Stop telling yourself fairy tales, little girl,” says Draven, and suddenly he’s sneering, broad across the mouth. “Your father was an Imperial scientist—”

“They killed my mother, they told him they would kill me if he didn’t cooperate, he gave us the key—”

“—and none of that changes the fact that he created a weapon that could have given the Empire supreme power for thousands of years—”

“He didn’t have a choice!”

“And I didn’t have a choice!” Draven snaps. “I could not in good conscience let your father live and wreak more havoc. Whether he was willing or no, he created a weapon that destroyed an entire planet. He had to be eliminated. For the good of the galaxy.”  

Jyn’s speechless, for a second. Shaking with fury. Her hand’s closed tight around the kyber crystal. She draws in air through her nose, holds it tight in her chest until it burns. She says, “Maybe I am in an Imperial cell, after all.”

Abruptly, Draven turns scarlet. He lets his hands fall to his sides. “Are you suggesting—”

“The Empire killed my mother,” she says. “The Empire put me in prison. The Alliance killed my father, and threw me in another prison, only instead of sending me to a labor camp, you people made me some kind of hero and wanted to trot me out for pilot morale. So far as I’m concerned, there’s not really much of a difference between you.”

The transformation is quick. Draven’s face evens out again. He leans back. Settles his hands. Color lingers in his cheeks. Still, his voice is smooth when he says, “I’m sorry to hear that, Sergeant Erso.”

“No, you’re not.”

He shrugs, and taps against the door. “I don’t hate you, you know. And in a way, I’m disappointed that this has all happened the way it has. I think you could have been an incredible agent, if you’d agreed to work with us.”

“You—” Jyn loses her voice. “You people are supposed to be better. You’re the ones who are supposed to—to have faith in others. You’re the idealists. You’re supposed to be better than this. You’re the ones that are supposed to have hope.

“They are,” says Draven. “I’m not. You need both kinds of people for a revolution to blossom.”

It’s true, she thinks, but it’s still a knot of magnetic rage in her chest, weighing her down. She says, “So you’ll punish your own people for doing the right thing.”

“It needs to be made clear,” says Draven, “that the Alliance will not tolerate rogue operations from its soldiers. No matter what kind of heroes they really are.”

The door slides shut. Jyn presses her back to the wall, and crams the heels of her hands into her eyes. She doesn’t stop hyperventilating until her vision spots out at the edges.

.

.

.

“Do you think they’re going to be found guilty?”

“You’re supposed to be meditating,” says Chirrut. He doesn’t open his eyes. Luke’s buzzing like a nest of wasps on the opposite bed. It’s more a sound than a movement, since he’s been perfectly still for a full hour, now, but Luke Skywalker has too much energy to manage that for long. He’s not entirely sure if it’s Luke’s connection to the Force, all the messages of the universe catching and snagging at him and dragging him every which way without him realizing, or if it’s just Luke himself, jittery and overexcited and ready to dive headfirst into trouble.

It’s probably the first one. As reckless as Luke can be, Chirrut thinks, and as suddenly as his moods shift, that’s more due to everything that’s happened to him than any kind of inherent changeability. Luke himself is steady at the core. The Force just wants to pull him in every direction at once. It’d been worse on Yavin IV. Luke’s steadier in hyperspace, if only a little. Probably because they flash past worlds too fast for him to pick up on all the threads that come attached.

“I am meditating,” says Luke. “I just forgot to ask you before we left. And then I had to run reps with Wedge and the people in Gold Squadron—they still don’t know where to put us, if they’re gonna make a whole new squad or if they’re just going to fold us into other wings, but we tried it out with Gold Squadron yesterday, and they’re doing some maneuvers I’ve never ever seen before, and that means I was distracted, and then I forgot. And I remembered, so I’m asking you now. Do you think they’re going to be found guilty?”

“What’s happening today is a hearing,” says Chirrut. “Not a trial. The point of a hearing is to decide if they’re going to go to trial.”

“So you think they’re gonna be found innocent.”

“Meditating means no talking,” says Chirrut. “I told you that.”

Luke makes an impatient noise. He’s flashed from melancholy to loud in the past day, in the Force as much as anything else, and it’s making Chirrut’s head ache a bit. “I told you, when I try to empty my mind other things flash in. I can’t help it. It just happens.”

“Your brain does not control your actions.”

“I’m pretty sure it does.”

Chirrut leans back, and sighs. “You are a terrible student.”

“Or maybe you’re not a good teacher,” says Luke. Chirrut snorts. “Do you think they’re going to be found guilty? And sent to trial?”

“Do I think who’s going to be found guilty?”

“Master Îmwe —”

“I don’t know.” He resettles his hands on his knees. “The Force does not speak to me the way it jabbers at you. I only get flickers, not words. Certainly not full conversations.”

“I don’t get conversations either.” Luke curls his hands. “I barely even get sounds.”

“Because you don’t listen,” says Chirrut. “You have to listen before you can hear.”

“This is one of those you have to quiet your mind before you can speak things again and I really don’t know how to do it.” He rocks back and forth. “Ben—Ben said I had to use my feelings to hear the Force.”

“That’s true,” says Chirrut.

“But you say I have to clear my mind out and listen before I can do even that, and I don’t see how one connects to the other.” Luke makes another impatient, squawky sound. “I don’t even know how I listened to my feelings the last time, it just kind of—it happened. I heard Ben, and then I just—knew when to press the trigger. It wasn’t—nobody told me when, I just knew when. And I can’t reach it again.”

“Because now you’re trying too hard.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

He gives up. Chirrut opens his eyes, and finds his quarterstaff, propped against the bedside table. Luke scrambles up off the end of the mattress, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “I am not a Jedi,” Chirrut says. “In a year, or less, you’ll be able to teach me more about the ins and outs of the Force than I will ever be able to teach you. But one thing I do know is that you can’t hear what it has to tell you if you let your head get as messy as a gaggle of eopies.”  

“I don’t—”

“You can’t hear anything if you don’t listen.” Chirrut prods him with the end of his quarterstaff, gently. “That’s the first rule of any conversation. I would have thought you’d have learned that by now.”

“Master Îmwe—”

“You can’t hear anything if you don’t listen,” says Chirrut again, and prods him harder. Luke winces, theatrical, and scoots out of reach. “So shut up and listen, little puppy.”

Luke waits until he passes, and then pulls an elaborate face behind his back.

“It’ll stick that way if you keep doing that.” Chirrut sighs. “I should never have agreed to keep an eye on you. It’s like being stuck on babysitting duty at the Temple all over again. The novices hated me.”

“Can’t imagine why,” says Luke.

“You’re a terrible student,” says Chirrut again. “I want a refund.”

“Where are you going?”

“If I didn’t tell you, would you stop asking?”

“No,” says Luke. “Where are you going? The hearing doesn’t start until 0800. The doors won’t even open until 0730.”

“This is what happens when you plug your ears to the Force,” says Chirrut, and taps Baze’s boot with the toe of his. Baze, who’s been mostly awake this whole time—he’d snored once or twice in the first half an hour of silence, but that’d been more to convince Luke than because he was actually asleep—gets to his feet. “You follow blind men around not knowing where they’re going. A dangerous choice.”

“Why?” says Luke. “It’s what he does, and he seems fine.”

Baze rolls his eyes.

“Baze is a Guardian,” says Chirrut. “And a lot more skilled with a cannon than you. He has more training and far more practice.”

“And if I didn’t follow you around,” Baze says, “you’d fall in a hole.”

“I don’t think the Force would lead me into a hole.”

“You say that,” says Baze, “because you haven’t seen the craters you’ve dodged.”

Luke makes a noise that’s a cross between please stop flirting, it’s revolting and you’re being obnoxious. “You still haven’t said where we’re going.”

“If you’d listened,” says Chirrut, “you’d know. Come on.”

It’s before 0800 hours, yes, but the Rebellion never sleeps. If they do, Chirrut thinks, it’s with their boots still on and guns on their hips, ready to run at a moment’s notice. They get a few nods on the way up to the council room, one from a pilot that Chirrut’s never met, one from Mothma’s assistant, whose antenna waggle at the three of them in a silent please don’t cause too much trouble before she darts down another corridor towards the bridge. Luke fidgets, rubbing his thumb, middle, and forefinger together in a cyclical rhythm. He waves at someone at the far end of the hall, and then says, out of the corner of his mouth, “Y’know, when I asked you to help me figure things out—”

“You were shouting very loudly,” says Chirrut, serene. “I did it more as a favor to myself than because anybody asked. If I’d had to stay stuck with you yelling all the time, I’d have gone mad.”

“Whatever,” says Luke, and flicks open the keypad. “When I asked—”

And he had asked. Can you help me? Very soft, very afraid. The Rebellion’s golden hero had been afraid. Lonely and heartbroken and afraid. Even if Ben hadn’t asked, Chirrut would have agreed just for that.

“—I don’t really remember there being a part of the deal where I get you into the council room whenever you want.”

Baze is actually trying not to laugh. Chirrut fights off the urge to step on his foot.

“Is that where we are?” he says. “I hadn’t realized.”

“Right,” says Luke, very slow. “Of course.”

The thread tugs harder in his chest. It’s faint, this one, just barely the notion of a thought, but it’s yanking over and over, thin and wavering and golden. Chirrut reaches out with his free hand, and finds the nape of Luke’s neck, grips it tight. Luke’s shoulders bounce up and then down again; he hisses through his teeth. “Your fingers are cold.”

“Let go of that,” says Chirrut, and Luke blinks. He shuts his eyes. “Remember what Ben told you.”

“The thing about feelings or the thing about destiny?”

Chirrut shakes him, gently, back and forth. Act like a puppy, get treated like a puppy. “Listen.”

With his eyes closed, Luke’s a sheet of gleaming pearl beneath the skin. The light erupts, and yanks itself back down again, strings threading every which way, tangling, spiraling. There’s a deep, raw hole in his chest, a gaping wound, and it’s one that’s been bound off by the light, something that hasn’t been touched. Names flicker in the dark. Owen. Beru. Ben. Owen. Beru. Ben. Uncle. Aunt. Friend. The longer he pretends not to feel it, the more it will hurt when he does. Chirrut steps away from the thought, spreads wide. The council room is full of familiar notes, and foreign ones. Mothma’s slow, lovely chime. Admiral Raddus, murky, shadow and light. The veritable ball of durasteel that is Leia Organa. Her mind is the deep boom of a temple drum, dim and distant, closed off and walled up. Chirrut can only catch reflections of it, not the full tangle. It’s as if the Force has threaded around something invisible, flashing light and dark around the edges, almost like a solar eclipse. The thread worms its way through all of them, slender and only barely catching the light. Chirrut can’t tell where it goes. Luke relaxes, ever so slightly, under his hand.

“Listen to what?” says Luke. “I don’t hear anything.”

“Sometimes I wonder if you’re being deliberately dense.” Chirrut squeezes. “I’m blind, little one, and I still see better than you. Listen. Look.”

“I don’t,” says Luke, and then stops. His eyes are still closed when he lifts a hand, rests it to the center of his chest, like he’s looking for something. The pearly gleam beneath his skin ripples again, once, twice, three times, and the golden thread that sings with potential in Chirrut’s senses gets just a little stronger, grows just a little wider. There’s a jumping, whispering little oh that rings out in the air. Then it fractures. The light snaps. The string fades again. Still, Luke blinks, and is speechless.

“Better,” says Chirrut. “You almost had it that time.”

“Why couldn’t I do that before?” Luke drops his hand. “I couldn’t do that before even when I was trying, it wasn’t—”

“You keep trying too hard with this,” says Chirrut, and touches one finger to Luke’s temple. He drops his hand, and touches his sternum instead. “You need to use this, too.” 

“It’s better to listen to him,” says Baze, when Luke doesn’t reply. “He usually seems to know what he’s talking about.”

“I think that’s the first time you’ve ever admitted that.”

Baze scoffs, and turns his face to the wall.

“The more you feel, the more you hear, and the more you see.” Chirrut taps his quarterstaff to the door. “Open it up.”

“Bossy,” says Luke, but he inputs the code to the door anyway. He’s buzzing again in Chirrut’s vision. Excited, this time. At least someone has something to be excited about today.

The Montressor was a ship built by and for Mon Calamari, and it shows in the sweeping tables, the curving datascreens, the humidifiers pumping cool, wet air through the oxygen vents. The climate control system in most of the ship has been set to the driest that the Mon Calamari can manage without their skin cracking, but the council room is humid enough to make Chirrut’s robes stick to his skin as they slip inside. Baze rolls his shoulders, and hisses through his teeth. It’s clammy, that’s the right word. Baze has never done well with clammy. Luke doesn’t seem to notice; he dips his head in a little nod, and then breaks away from the pair of them to go and chatter with Leia Organa, whose hair is drooping just a little to one side. She at least sounds pleased to see him. Chirrut can’t tell if it’s a ruse or no, not with her mind as well-shielded as it is, but she doesn’t shoo Luke away, either, or snap at him the way she does Captain Solo. Mothma’s in the far corner, going over something on a datapad. It’s Raddus who lifts his head, gestures them forward. Baze clears his throat, and says, under his breath, “Still have no idea?”

“If I did,” says Chirrut, “I’d have mentioned it.”

“You never mention anything.”

“And you never mentioned telling the puppy to give me shit, but somehow I know it was you.”

Baze bares his teeth in a grin. “Tell me you’re not enjoying it.”

“Master Îmwe,” says Raddus, before Chirrut can kiss Baze’s mocking mouth the way he wants to. “You’re up early. Boy keeping you busy?”

“We still keep temple hours,” says Chirrut. “Admiral.”

Raddus’s eyes roll. He clicks. “Master Malbus.”

Baze folds his arms over his chest again.

“We apologize for the intrusion,” says Chirrut. The faint golden thread hasn’t faded, exactly, but there’s no real clue as to where it goes from here. The slow sad melody of Jyn’s kyber crystal hums underneath it, trembling just a little, something more like remembered grief than immediate agony. At least she’s here. He’s been losing track of the kyber crystal beneath the rumbling of the ship, catching it in waves. At least she’s still on board. “You’re probably busy.”

“No problem. Not much to do in hyperspace. We stand and wait to see if something goes wrong, or if one of the proximity alarms goes off. Nothing has so far.” He seems slightly disappointed to say that, like he’s been wanting them to, and the lack of fight upsets him. “Pity we had to leave Yavin IV, though. This new planet we’re settling on for the time being doesn’t have a name. Hasn’t even been categorized as livable; it barely has an atmosphere humans can breathe, let alone any of the rest of us. No resources to speak of, either. High Command’s official position is that the Empire won’t want to look for us on a planet where nobody can live, but then again, most of High Command is going to be circling around in the atmosphere not dealing with ground conditions.”

“Sounds pleasant.”

“Not something I have to deal with, at least,” says Raddus. “I’m assigned to the Montressor. Now, was there something you needed?”

“Not really. Just wandering.” The thread keeps escaping him, just like the kyber crystal. Rest, he thinks, stop straining yourself, the pinch in the back of his head is getting stronger again, but this means something. He’s certain this thread means something, just like the Force nudging him to Captain Solo meant something, just like Ben’s voice echoing over the devastation of Alderaan meant something. Just like the starshine gleam of Jyn’s necklace in the crowd had meant something. “Should you be telling us any of that, Admiral? Isn’t it classified?”

“What’s classified at this point is the list of planets we’re considering for semi-permanent resettlement. Besides, you’re here, and you’ve already saved our sorry carcasses once. If anyone’s going to be leaking confidential information, I doubt it will be either of you.” Raddus’s eyes roll back and forth again, and he laughs, wet and sloppy, whacking his walking stick against the floor. “Damn pity you haven’t signed up with the Rebellion yet. We could use one of the last Jedi.”

“Not a Jedi,” says Chirrut, easily. “I just have good hearing.”

“If you say so.” Raddus whacks the floor again with his stick, and swipes one curled, heavy hand over the nearest datascreen, muttering under his breath in something clicking and unhappy when whatever he’s looking at shifts. “I already talked to your friend about joining up, but he said it’s not up to him.”

“Baze does as he likes,” says Chirrut, “which seems to be lecturing me whenever is convenient.”

“No one else does,” Baze says, and then clams up again. He digs his fingers into the meat of his arm. There’s a knot of something that’s not-quite-suspicion hanging in the Force around him, something shivery and shifting, mixed-up. Chirrut prods at it, and then backs off. Baze is suspicious of everyone and everything, and it’s kept them alive more than once. Besides, if he’s talking, he likes Raddus, and that in and of itself is important enough to let him be.

“True,” says Chirrut finally. “Are you coming to the hearing, Admiral?”

“There we go.” Raddus swipes at another screen. “Knew you had to be here for something. I can’t talk about that with you, Master Îmwe, not in detail.”

“I odn’t understand.”

“I’m on the hearing committee,” says Raddus. It sounds like it’s causing him physical pain. “Normally I would have recused myself, I don’t have any interest in court matters, but there are only five eligible councilors available, and since I’m one of them, I’m obligated.”

Baze grunts. “Eligible?”

“Technically there are seven councilors with the fleet at the moment, but two of them can’t sit on the committee for personal reasons.” Raddus shrugs. “The Princess Leia has been listed as a potential witness in the event of a trial. She can’t judge and deliver testimony. And then Draven also has to recuse himself, considering—” he nods at Baze. “Well, considering.”

“Considering I hit him,” says Baze.

“Considering he was incapacitated by an unaffiliated party who cannot be tried during Captain Andor’s alleged mutiny,” says Raddus. “Yes, considering you hit him.”

“I didn’t hit him that hard,” says Baze, and this time, Chirrut actually does step on his foot.

“If they were still considering bringing charges from the original Scarif mutiny I wouldn’t be on the committee. For similar reasons.” Raddus rubs at his injured leg, and goes back to cursing the data. “That’s already been dismissed, though, and by Alliance law we can’t accuse the same people of the same crime twice. Two instances of the same crime, yes, but not the same crime twice.”

“If they’ve already been let off once—”

“If the plans hadn’t been lost, that would’ve been that. But the second mutiny on top of everything with Scarif and the Death Star—” Raddus makes a noise in the back of his throat, like a rusty pipe being pulled from a waterlogged wall. “Too many eyes. Scarif changed the face of the Alliance. We have to follow the rules now. Have to be stricter, or so Draven and his contingent keep reminding us. Can’t let our own people get away with mutiny and sedition, not with the whole galaxy watching.”

Baze mutters something under his breath that he never used to say before he’d left during the Clone Wars. Chirrut, decades later, still has no idea what it means. It has the woman working on one of the nearby screens jerking her head up and hissing through her teeth, though.

“Believe me, if we could avoid this, we would. Stirs up a lot of bad blood.” Raddus collects a datapad, glances back at the rest of the room. He says, “Look, you didn’t hear this from me. Let this play out. They enter their plea, the council hears the evidence of the defense and the prosecution, makes a decision as to whether to bring this to trial. Nobody wants a trial, the council included. The Alliance barely has a legal system, and we’re going off of what little we can manage when we’re at blue standard and on the run from the Empire. There’s nothing much that anybody can do. Besides, you’re not with the Rebellion. It doesn’t affect you.”

The little golden thread tugs hard at his chest. Chirrut sweeps his staff over the floor. “They followed the will of the Force, Admiral, and saved thousands of lives. Possibly millions, or billions. If they hadn’t retrieved the plans—”

“There’s a very high likelihood that we are only alive today because of their actions, yes,” says Raddus. “But the hard facts aren’t on their side, Master Îmwe, you and I both know that. Their best hope is to plead guilty to the sedition and the mutiny and take whatever sentence the council agrees upon, and you have no idea how much it irks me to say that.”

“I have some,” says Chirrut. It’s making his teeth rattle. His knuckles ache on his quarterstaff. “There’s a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit, and the spirit—”

“Would let them go free, but since reality is brutish and unreasonable, I’m stuck on the committee that might strike them from the Alliance roster with dishonorable discharges.” Raddus grunts. “I’m in a poor mood this morning, Masters. I apologize. It’s the stink of bureaucracy. We hate it, but it keeps the world turning, on occasion.”

In another corner, Luke says something loud and indistinguishable over the hum of the engine, and spreads his hands wide. Leia laughs.

“What I can tell you is this,” says Raddus, suddenly. “Mothma’s scrounged up an attorney for them from the rank and file. Don’t know much about her, but if she’s worth anything, she’ll be able to negotiate the hardliners on the council down from a stricter sentence. You didn’t hear that from me, either.”

He looks at Chirrut, and then at Baze. His eyes roll one last time. Then he turns, and limps to Mothma.  When Chirrut listens again, the golden thread has faded. The Force is quiet. Whatever it’d brought them here for, it’s out of his reach, now.

“Chirrut,” says Baze. He touches his fingertips to Chirrut’s back, drops his hand just as quickly. Sly reassurances, Chirrut thinks. Careful comforts. “We should go.”

Chirrut sways, back and forth, eyes still shut.

“Chirrut.”

“I know,” he says. “I’m coming.”

Chapter Text

Aden Marella slams things. She would slam the door, Cassian thinks, if she could manage it. As it is, she’s slammed her case to the tabletop, and herself into the chair, and now she’s tapping her stylus repeatedly against her datapad, as if it’s going to do anything to peel away some of the energy that’s chafing at the inside of her skin. Her lekku are fidgeting on her shoulder, shifting and twitching like grumpy snakes. She’s been silent the whole time, apart from that. Twi’leks communicate through their lekku as much as through speech, Cassian knows that, but he can’t read lekku, and he can’t read anything about Aden Marella’s face, either, not when she’s staring down at the datapad with her mouth twined up into a knot. He has no way to know whether or not this is normal lawyer behavior, so he’s just kept his mouth shut. It seems safer that way.

“Right,” she says, finally. Her yellow eyes flick, from the ‘pad to his face. “Have you read this?”

Cassian shakes his head.

“Your report.” Aden Marella pushes it across the table at him. Cassian, in binders, catches the datapad, and doesn’t look at it. “Record of your arrest. Among other things. Seems mostly straightforward.”

He darts a glance at the pad. Andor, Cassian Jeron. Cpt. Intelligence Division. Erso, Jyn Lyra. Sgt. SpecForce. Rook, Bodhi. Lt. is nowhere to be seen. He doesn’t ask.

“You stole a ship,” says Aden, “you took it to Onderon, acquired another ship—from what’s left of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans, who are known opponents of the Alliance, which, thankfully, they haven't added collusion on the list of charges for—and flew to Alderaan, where you were captured by the Empire, interrogated by Darth Vader, broken out of custody by General Obi-Wan Kenobi, stole your ship back, took out the tracking team, and arrived back here on Yavin IV with the plans intact.”

“Yes,” says Cassian, finally. “Sounds right.”

She looks at his wrists, and then says, “And you did all of that while suffering from a spinal injury.”

Cassian doesn’t move. There aren’t fireworks going off in the small of his back, not the way there were before. Now it’s just pain, a persistent dull ache that puts his bones on edge, makes it hard to move quickly. Gnawing, like a broken tooth. “This report doesn’t include my medical records.”

“No,” says Aden. “But it’s also all over the Montressor. Everyone’s talking about how an injured spy went rogue with the daughter of an Imperial scientist and a defector cargo pilot.” She purses her lips. “From what I’ve heard, some people think he’s also defective, but that has little if nothing to do with the actual case. Your injury does.”

Brilliant, he thinks. “It’s better than it was.”

“Your back or Lieutenant Rook’s mind?”

“Both.”

“So you did have a lumbar injury.”

He says, “I don’t really see why it matters if I did or not.”  

She stretches her hands out behind her back, linking them together. Her lekku shift over her shoulder. “And all of this was after you executed a last-minute infiltration of the Imperial Databanks on the planet Scarif, which involved sneaking past one of the tightest checkpoints in the galaxy, breaking into the Citadel tower by posing as Imperial officers, and transmitting the Death Star plans to the Profundity while the rest of your team engaged in both surface and over-planet combat with Imperial forces, including Darth Vader.”

When you put it like that, he thinks, it almost sounds impressive. “It went FUBAR.”  

“Fuck,” says Aden. “You Intelligence types are kriffing mental.”

Cassian shuts his mouth again, and watches her. She rubs a hand over her face, scarlet to crimson. Middle-aged, he thinks. Hard to tell with Twi’lek sometimes. Her black lipstick turns her face to blood and shadow. Scars stand out shiny on her wrists. A slave, maybe, once. Or an indentured servant. Push hard at that and she’ll push back, he thinks. Aden Marella has a hard mouth and harder eyes. The scars over her wrists are too thick to break through. Push hard at what she’d left behind on Ryloth, maybe. At her transformation from slave to attorney. At the scar on her cheek, puckered deep, like an old burn. Maybe then she would bend, if he needed to make her bend.

Everything is an interrogation. He can’t remember if Mebwe or Draven had been the one to tell him that. You need to reach the heart of your target before they reach yours.

Promise me.

“Right,” she says, and he wipes his face clean of expression. “I’ve only had the past—approximately four hours to actually gather the details of your cases, because the Council only decided they were going to hold your hearing at 1800 hours last night, and Mothma had me dragged in from the Tsarnak to come and consult. I expect as soon as this is done, I’ll be sent back out, and we’ll all be remembered as historical footnote of the first and possibly only criminal hearing conducted under the auspices of the Alliance as a governing body.” She draws in a deep breath. “Which means you should tell me right now if anything is going to come up that could be problematic.”

She’s clearly never worked with an Intelligence officer before, he thinks, if that’s her only question. Cassian opens up the datapad, flicks through the documents. “How does this work?”

“I’d have thought that as an intelligence man you’d have more than a general idea of how court hearings work.”

He lifts one shoulder (his spine sings a little with something close to an ache) and says, “I’ve never impersonated an attorney.”

Aden gives him a sharp, corner-of-the-eye look. “Are you trying to make a joke?”

“No,” says Cassian. “I’ve never had to impersonate an attorney. If I had, I’d know more detail about hearings. But I haven’t.”

She blinks. Aden says, “Hell, you aren’t joking, are you?”

This must be how K-2 feels all the time, caught between irritation and sour bemusement. “No.”

There’s a beat. She rubs both hands up over her face, and then scoffs. “Fine. The Alliance is running off the Coruscanti standard for hearings, so that’s at least a weight off.”

He sets his teeth in his tongue, just to keep from grinding them. “I don’t know what that means.”

“Means that we go in, you get sat down on a bench for the accused, we wait for the council to arrive, and then there’s a reading of the charges. You’ll be asked, once it’s through, if you plead guilty or innocent. If you plead guilty, then aside from whatever decision they make as to your punishment, that’ll be about all the Tusken can shake a stick at. If you plead innocent, then the prosecution, which, in this case, is going to be represented by some Bothan they scrounged from the political sector, goes over and interrogates you, Sergeant Erso, and all witnesses they care to call in. I cross-examine if necessary, and the supervising council decides whether to bring this to a full trial.” Aden taps one long finger to the conical guard over her right ear, deep durasteel grey. Death Star grey. “I still need to speak to Sergeant Erso before the hearing opens up, Captain Andor, which means I need you to tell me, now, what you’re planning to plead, and about any problems that could possibly occur that could make it difficult to put this case to bed.”

The binders catch on the knobby bone in his wrists as he settles the datapad back on the table. Cassian leans back in his chair. “If I plead guilty, no witness testifies?”

“If both you and Sergeant Erso plead guilty to the charges of mutiny and sedition then yes, the case will be closed without a need for witness testimony. Don’t need to beat a dead eopie after the thing’s already laid down.” Aden’s lips thin out. “Is there a particular witness you don’t want to testify?”

He doesn’t twitch. “We all have better things to do.”

“That’s not an answer.”

Whatever Jyn did to get Bodhi’s charges dropped, he doubts that Bodhi will take it well. Or has taken it well. He’s not entirely sure that Bodhi won’t lunge into the breach and try to take some of the blame alongside them, if witnesses are allowed to testify. Bodhi, who’d said We’re friends, maybe. Sort of. But there’s no burden to ease here. Having one more person go down is just a waste. Not when the Rebellion needs good people like Bodhi, who really, truly have a cause to fight for. And that’s not even taking into account the Skywalkers, Han Solo, Chewbacca, the droids, everyone who knows that Bodhi had just as much of a role to play in it all that he and Jyn did. If anybody gets a chance to talk, then whatever Jyn did to make sure Bodhi wouldn’t be charged will be completely undone, and that’s the opposite of what any of them need.

“It’d be better,” says Cassian, “if no witnesses were called. Other than that, I can’t say for sure.”

Aden looks as though she wants to strike him. She breathes deep through her nose. The lekku on her right shoulder twists at the very tip, like a viper turning its head. “Look,” she says. “Despite the fact that I’m of the opinion that this entire hearing is an absolute disgrace, you’re my client. By all technical and legal definitions, I am disallowed from revealing anything you tell me in confidence. That’s what attorney-client privilege is, Captain Andor. I don’t care if you’re protecting someone who’s committed worse crimes than mutiny and sedition. I do care if some cocksure Bothan whips it out in the middle of the hearing without any warning. So let me make this perfectly clear—” Aden curls her hand on the table, does not blink. “If you keep something back from me here, and it trips me up in the courtroom, then I will turn around and I will rip your guts out to feed them to you, bit by bit.”

He has no doubt she would, if she could get her hands on him. Cassian shifts his wrists on the tabletop, listening to the click of the binders. “Understood.”

“I hope so.” Aden’s lekku stills. “Does that mean there’s something I need to worry about?”

“If pleading guilty means that there’s no witness testimony, then no.”

“I presume that means you’re pleading guilty.”

“I didn’t really consider the other option.”

“Well, there’s a relief,” says Aden. “Honestly, there’s enough going on without adding this farce to the pile. Sometimes politicians have their heads too far up their own asses to consider the rest of us.”

He doesn’t have much to say to that. Cassian lifts one shoulder, and lets it drop.

“Read through that report,” she says. “Tell me if there are any inconsistencies or if there’s anything you forgot to mention. If we’re lucky, we’ll be done with this by 1000 hours, and we can all go back to work.” Her lips purse again. “Or maybe not, in your case.”

He draws the datapad back down onto his knees, and starts scanning through the reports.

There are only one or two minor errors. Someone working on the transcript mixed up Weeteef and Euwood Gor. The reasoning for their detour to Kilo Base had been classified as injury related, not fuel based. Other than that, it’s fairly clear. There’s been no modification. He hadn’t expected any. Cassian doesn’t slide the report back over, when he’s finished; he lifts both hands, offering it to her, and Aden stands and snatches it away. Her boots click on the floor as she steps back from the table, brushing her lekku over her shoulder and tapping at the ear guard again.

“Captain Andor,” she says, as he stands. “It was a very brave and stupid thing, what you did. We all owe you our thanks.”

Something sickly grey-green knots in the center of his chest, beneath his sternum. Cassian says, “I don’t want thanks from anybody. I did my job.”

“Not according to the Council you didn’t.”

“I protected the Rebellion,” he says. “That’s always been my job.”

“Still.” Aden touches the pad beside the door, and it slides open. “You’ll be confined in here for the next half an hour, and then brought to the room that’s been designated for the hearing. Any questions?”

“No.”

“Then I’ll see you in half an hour,” she says, and after his two guards slide in, the door shuts. His hands are suddenly damp. Cassian scrubs his palms against his ratty pants, and then tips his head back against the chair, looking up at the ceiling. It pinches just a little at his neck, at his spine, but this pain is much, much easier than it could be. Barely worth mentioning as actual pain. When his hands get slick again, he wipes it away.

“Nervous?” says the female guard. Her name’s Edmi, and she’s Alderaanian, he thinks. She’s had red eyes every day since she’d been assigned to his detail, and every time someone’s said Alderaan in her hearing she’s flinched like it’s a personal blow. It’s the first time that she’s spoken to him at all, since she and her partner were assigned to watch him, keep a close eye. Her partner, the Rodian, Grenno, wiggles xir antennae, and watches Cassian with huge, unblinking eyes.

Cassian shakes his head, and fades into the buzzing lamplight in the ceiling, the hum of the hyperdrive. He’s not nervous, not exactly. He’s not calm, but he isn’t nervous. There’s nothing for him to be nervous about, when it’s all set in stone, what has to happen. What has to come to pass. After all, there’s no denying that any of them are guilty.

He wipes his hands on his pants again, and refuses to answer the tapping trunks in the back of his mind.

The Montressor is one of the three MC75 cruisers that Raddus and the other Mon Calamari admirals had brought along with them after agreeing to fight alongside the Alliance. It’s the one most in need of repairs, from what he remembers. Older than the other two, and damaged. The Profundity had been lost over Scarif, and that means that the Montressor and the Tsarnak are the only two MC75s left to the Alliance fleet, necessary repairs notwithstanding. Still, Mon Calamari ships are blazingly clean, and when the guards march Cassian into the nearest lift and the doors slide shut, the white nearly blinds him. Cassian links his fingers together, and counts to ten. The air from the ventilation system blows cool and clammy on the back of his neck.

“This one,” says Edmi, and she pulls him forward by the elbow.

They’ve repurposed a board room for the hearing. Bright white, blazing almost, smeared somehow with the people inside. Towards the back, there’s a table with five chairs. The Council, though they haven’t arrived yet. To his right, the Council’s left, there’s another table, and a handful of seats. Princess Organa’s taken one towards the end. Shara Bey sits beside her, bouncing her leg. The deck officer from Kilo Base is here, looking massive and highly annoyed. Luke Skywalker sits on the princess’s other side, head dipped, pilot’s patches fresh on his shoulder. Han Solo sprawls at the other end of the table, legs spread, arms crossed, and the Wookiee, too large for any of the seats, stands behind him like a bodyguard. And then there’s Bodhi, a walking stick leaning on the table next to him, Bodhi whose wide eyes get wider when he sees the door open, sees Edmi and Grenno nudge Cassian through the gap. He’s halfway up out of his seat when Luke Skywalker, not looking around, grips him by the sleeve and pulls him gently back down. In the seats behind the witnesses (only a few, but they’re already filled, faces he knows, faces he doesn’t) Chirrut and Baze both lift their heads. Chirrut turns, murmurs to Baze out of the corner of his mouth, and then taps his quarterstaff against the floor, once, twice, three times in something like a salute. He’d known Chirrut was alive, Cassian thinks, he’d known that, he’d read the reports, but there’s still a wave of something almost dizzying that sweeps over him at the sight. Relief. He’s relieved. He barely knows either of them, and yet he’s relieved. When Baze nods to him, Cassian nods back.

K-2 is not in the room. Something icy drips down the back of his neck.

“Here,” says Edmi, and stops beside an empty bench. A bench, not chairs. Apparently, the accused don’t warrant chairs. The table just beyond is empty, Aden nowhere to be seen. “Sit.”

He sits. There’s no point in not sitting. Cassian bounces one leg, and then stops when his spine twinges. He knows how to be still. He’s known for years how to be still. Why can’t he be still now?

Grenno murmurs something in Rodian, and then heads back to the door, taking up a place beside the lock with xir gun crossing over xir chest. Aden is nowhere to be seen. At a table opposite the witnesses, a Bothan is going over a few datapads, hair ripping in soft consideration. Prosecution, presumably. Edmi shifts her grip on her blaster. They trust him, he thinks. Edmi and Grenno have trusted him for days not to disarm them. There’s no other reason she’d put her spare blaster so easily within his reach.

Run, Cassian. Run.

The door hisses open, and when he turns, his heart bounces up into his mouth. It’s Jyn. Her hair’s messy, pulled half-free of the tight bun, and her gloves are scorched on the right like she’d grabbed a blaster and it’d gone off wrong, but other than that she’s unharmed. Angry—her lips are pressed so thin that they’ve gone invisible, her eyes blazing—but she’s unharmed. She spits something at the guard that might be a name, trips when the guard tugs at her elbow, but she doesn’t budge; her eyes rove over the crowd, to the witnesses, to him, and they stick there, going wide and bright and sharp. A hard shell peels away from her face, leaving something aching behind. Her lips move. Cassian thinks she might be saying his name. When he goes to get up, Edmi puts a firm hand on his shoulder, and pushes him back down.

“Sorry,” says Edmi, but it’s distant. Jyn’s still wearing his jacket, and it’s yanking hard at his throat, his guts. Jyn. The courtroom’s whispering, and he can’t care. Jyn. Her guard brings her around to the bench, and Jyn yanks her arm out of his grip, reaching out to catch at Cassian’s fingers. He can’t remember lifting his hand. There’s a single, sparking moment where they link, where they’re connected, before the guard pulls her back out of Cassian’s reach.

“Keep your hands to yourself,” says the guard, and pushes her down onto the bench. “This is a hearing, not some Outer Rim bondage bar.”

Jyn blows her hair out of her eyes, pushes it back with bound hands. Her wrists are rubbed raw all over again. She can’t have been wearing binders for all her work with Grafis. It looks fresher than it should. Cassian stares hard at the guard’s back, wondering if he can get away with tripping the bastard, snapping a bone, but then Jyn clears her throat, and crosses her ankles underneath the bench, and he’s distracted. Gravity. The pull of a star. She clears her throat and crosses her ankles and peeks at him, and he’s tugged hard and fast into permanent orbit.

Cassian taps two fingers to the bench between them, and mouths, hi. The aching look flickers back over her face, something hidden and tender and quiet. The corners of her lips curve, just a little.

Hi. She mouths it, and he wants to kiss her. She can’t seem to manage anything else. Still, it’s enough. Jyn drums her fingers against her kneecap. She looks down at her hand on her knee, and then back up at Edmi, at the male guard, at Cassian, before tracing out something he can’t understand. A zig-zagging, lightning streak, one that ends in a loop, curling like an animal’s tail. It’s not a symbol he knows, but she draws it out twice with two fingers, and then turns her hand palm up. Probably it’s something the Partisans use, but the Partisans and the Rebellion have been at odds for so long that their signs have become dialectic; the only flickering motions he remembers from Tivik are stop, quiet, and explain. He shakes his head. Jyn wrinkles her nose, frustrated, and sketches the mark out again, cocking an eyebrow at him like that’s going to help.

Cassian raps his left knee three times with his index and middle fingers. Explain. The scowl on her mouth is right out of his memory, right out of her glaring at him after Onderon. She sketches the mark out again, dips her head to him, a living question mark, mouthing, Safe?

Jyn. It’s such a fight not to touch her, put his mouth to her hair. Jyn. There’s a wave of something up his throat that’s softer than he’s ever been in his life. Cassian nods, just barely a dip, and some of the stress fades from her shoulders. His coat’s too large for her. The sleeves hang forward over her hands. She shakes them back, the binders clicking, as Cassian sketches out the mark on his leg, and dips his head to her in turn. Safe?

Jyn jerks her chin up, and then her eyes jump to the empty table in the middle of the room. Aden’s arrived, without his noticing. She’s changed clothes, from whatever ratty uniform she’d used serving aboard the Tsarnak to something smarter, suited for some kind of ceremony. The ceremonial banishment of Rogue One, maybe. Something cracks and laughs inside one of the trunks in his mind.

“Grafis like you?” he says, before he can stop himself. Jyn turns her head, and her mouth hooks into something vicious and pleased.

“Not really.”

“Hey,” says the male guard who’d brought her in. Edmi’s lips go thin, but she doesn’t object. “We’ve talked about you talking, Imp.”

Jyn’s throat works like she’s going to spit. Cassian, without looking away from her, says, “She’s Alliance.”

“She’s no more Alliance than Vader,” says the guard, and he does spit, right on the floor of the boardroom. “I don’t know what she did to get you on her leash, Andor, but you’d better watch your mouth from here on out.”

Jyn rears back, a viper about to strike. She bares her teeth. “Or what,” she says, and then Edmi’s between Jyn and this male guard, and Aden’s storming over, yellow eyes blazing. Cassian curls one hand over Jyn’s wrist, raw and sore against his palm, and she turns her face up to him, scarlet in her cheeks. His spine is already aching. A rat is gnawing away at the place where they’d injected the bacta.  

“Counselor Marella,” says a voice. It’s Draven, halfway between the door and the last seat at the witnesses’ table. Jyn goes carbonite still under Cassian’s palm. “Is there a problem?”

“Thank you, sir, no,” says Aden. She drums her fingers against her sharply-pressed leggings. “Everything’s fine.”

Draven looks to Jyn, and then to Cassian, who stares back at him. Jyn stares, too, without blinking, her pupils blown wide. Draven is the first to look away out of the three of them. He takes the seat on Han Solo’s other side, and rests his hands against the tabletop. Bodhi, a few chairs down, mouths something that Cassian can’t make out. Jyn makes a sharp motion with her head, and Bodhi, wavering, drops back into his seat. The whole boardroom is whispering, and the Council hasn’t even come in yet.

Well, that at least settles the question of whether or not everyone thinks they owe Rogue One a thank you.

“Is there a problem here?” Aden snaps. She looks from Edmi, to the male guard, to Cassian, to Jyn, and then back to Edmi. “Private?”

Edmi wavers. “Private Kal was just—”

“I heard what he was just.” Aden cocks her hip. “Listen to me, you unbearable cyst. This isn’t criminal court on some backwater Outer Rim planet where the judges and the attorneys let you get away with whatever hazing bantha shit you want to. These two are Alliance, they’re heroes, and they fucking outrank you. So you treat them with the respect they’re owed, or you deal with me, and I swear I will make you eat your own—”

She says something in Twi’leki that makes Cassian want to whistle, that has Jyn’s fingers seizing against his palm. Private Kal turns red around the base of his throat, stands up straighter. “Ma’am.”

“Trade off with one of the guards on the door,” Aden says. “You’re out of here.”

“Counselor—”

Go,” Aden snaps, and Kal goes. Grenno’s the one to replace him, chittering quietly with Edmi behind the bench. Aden scowls furiously at the pair of them before turning her glare on Jyn. “And you—don’t you dare pick fights with the guards and add even more charges to your plate, you addle-brained bag of mynocks. I could kill you.”

Jyn digs her stubby nails hard into the back of Cassian’s hand, and rasps. Her fingers are trembling, just a little. “Nobody else was doing anything.”

“Sergeant—”

“It won’t happen again,” Cassian says, and somehow, miraculously, Jyn doesn’t bite at him for it. Instead, she leans her head hard into his shoulder, and breathes. “Thank you, counselor.”

Aden leans back on her heels, lets out a tremendous sniff. Something flickers across her face, too fast to see. “Captain—”

“One minute,” says Cassian. He puts enough iron in his voice that even Aden wavers. “Just give us one minute. Please.”

It’s the please that does it. Aden grumbles under her breath, and turns her back on them. Standing beside the bench, Edmi fixes her eyes on the far wall, like she’s trying not to watch. Cassian takes a deep breath (there’s a flush of warmth and her hair, something sharp like blaster fire, like smoke) and says, softly, “Jyn.”

She doesn’t nod, or twitch, or shudder. She keeps breathing, and tapping the heel of her boot against the durasteel in an uneven rhythm. Nerves. Fear, maybe. Furious and frightened. He’s seen Jyn frightened before, on the Death Star, on Scarif, but this isn’t like that. This is something older, swollen under her skin like an infection turned hard, something that has to be cut out in order to be dealt with properly. It takes an embarrassingly long moment for it to finally click. Wobani. They’d broken her out of prison, and before that she’d been on trial, and before that, well. The Imperials are famed for the brutality of their sham of a legal system. She has no reason to trust any kind of hearing, no matter who’s running it. And under that—he’s not sure. He can’t be sure. There’s something else there, but he can’t ask, not here, not now, not with all these people watching. He strokes his thumb over her skin, and turns just enough that he can scuff his mouth to her hair without anyone noticing.

“Jyn,” he says again. “All the way. Remember?”

She leans her head harder into his shoulder, and breathes out, shivery. Jyn lifts her head. When she nods, it’s with her fingers darting between his and holding on tight.

“All the way,” she says.

It’s awkward and uncomfortable to keep their hands knitted together when they’re both in binders. Cassian squeezes as hard as he dares, and then lets go. Jyn stays close enough that their shoulders keep bumping when she breathes, the hood of her borrowed jacket tickling at his sleeve.

“All rise,” says a voice, and they get to their feet together, all of them, scattered through the room as they are. Him, Jyn at his side, Bodhi struggling to his feet at the witnesses’ table with Luke Skywalker’s hand on his elbow; Chirrut and Baze in the crowd, standing like wraiths. Baze’s face is hard. Chirrut’s the most concerned Cassian’s ever seen him, eyebrows drawn together. He shifts his quarterstaff between his hands, and dips his head as the back door opens.

Raddus, first, on the far left. He limps, leaning heavy on a cane, drops down hard into his chair with a gusty sigh. Grafis, beside him, a small, round, fussy man with a puffy cloud of a beard, a spine like durasteel, and a fidgeting habit that leaves his fingernails in tatters. Then, in the middle, Mothma, the sharp light from the overhead glinting off her coppery hair. Dodonna pauses beside her seat, bending down to murmur something into her ear. Cassian catches done by 1100 hours and careful before the general steps away, and takes his own place. Then, finally—and Cassian blinks—Senator Tynnra Pamlo, her hood settled over her head, takes the final seat. Jyn goes brittle, leaning just enough to knock her shoulder into his.

“She was against Scarif,” she says, soft enough that he can barely hear. “She wanted to break up the Alliance instead of fight.”

Senator Pamlo resettles in the chair, and looks at them, as if she knows exactly what Jyn’s just said. She wets her lips, eyes flicking between Cassian and Jyn, and then she curls her hands around the arms of her seat and looks to Mothma. Cassian weighs it again, the variety. The Minister of Education in Pamlo, then the General of Supplies and Ordinances with Grafis; one of the Rebellion’s leading generals in Dodonna; one of its top admirals in Raddus; and a tiebreaker in Chancellor Mothma. Raddus is the only one, he thinks, that they can reliably say will be arguing for a lighter sentence. Dodonna is fair, but he’s strict, and in the face of everything the Alliance has before it now, he’d be no less willing to give them a slap on the wrist than Draven, especially with these charges. And Pamlo—she’s the Minister of Education, she’s avoided military matters for the most part, but with this it’s a toss-up, how she’ll lean. Especially if Mothma doesn’t wind up voting, if there’s no tie for her to swing it in their favor.

If she even would.

“You may be seated,” says Mothma, and Cassian blinks. He hadn’t been listening, and they’ve already opened the floor. “I understand that all of you are here this morning to attend to this in spite of the many duties that you all bear on your shoulders, so it is the hope of this council that the matter be resolved as quickly and as cleanly as possible.”  

“Please,” says someone in the crowd, not very quietly. Han Solo. “Courtrooms make me antsy.”

“Can you not be quiet for more than two minutes?” says Princess Organa, also not very quietly.

“Thank you, both of you,” says Mothma, and Princess Organa turns bright pink, ducking her head. Cassian forgets sometimes that she’s so young. Only nineteen. It’s hard to remember when she’s settled at that table in a SpecForce vest and heavy boots, a bit of something that could be grease or blaster discharge smeared on her cheek. Nobody’s dared point it out to her. “None of us are particularly comfortable with this circumstance, for a variety of reasons, Captain Solo—”

Han Solo scrunches down until his ears nearly clip his shoulders.

“—but in the interest of expediency, I think it’s best that we begin.” Mothma clears her throat. “Colonel Delto, if you could please read the charges.”

The colonel coughs, and swipes through his datapad. Cassian tunes out. Or, not entirely. Snatches of words filter into his head. He watches the councilors, and the lawyers. The crowd. The Bothan  Bodhi’s tapping his fingers repeatedly against the table, and it’s like a rolling, distant drumbeat. Shara Bey’s settled with her hair hanging forward to hide her face, her eyes. In the crowd, there’s a flicker of orange. Kes Dameron’s watching, too, one fist against his mouth. Waiting. Next to him, Jyn shifts her weight like she wants to run, and then settles back down onto her heels again, sighing slow and deep through her nose. She’s staring right at Draven.

“From what I understand—” Grafis touches his fingers to the tabletop. “At this point the accused enter their pleas. Counselor?”

“Before we go any further—” Dodonna puts his shoulders back, settles deeper into his chair. “I would like to put forward that we address the issue staring us all in the face.”

“Which is what,” says Grafis. “Exactly.”

Cassian’s never seen Dodonna fighting off the urge to punch someone in the face before. Then again, Grafis has a tendency to make everyone want to punch him in the face. Even Pamla looks a bit taken aback, her dark eyes flaring wide. “Regardless of the legality of their actions,” says Dodonna, mustache bristling, “Captain Andor and Sergeant Erso—and just to confirm, you did accept a commission, did you not, Sergeant?”

Jyn jerks her head in a crooked nod.

“Then regardless of the legality of what they did, Captain Andor and his team did ensure that we not only had confirmation of the Death Star’s existence and lethality but also had the means of destroying it. As everyone in this room is more than aware, the Empire had already destroyed one planet, one city, and one of its own installations before it tracked the Millennium Falcon to Yavin IV; the Rebellion would not have survived if they had not taken action.”

“You can’t know that for sure.” Pamla tips her head. “I apologize, General, obviously this isn’t exactly my realm of expertise, but what Rogue One did was not simply rescuing the Alliance, it was drawing it into war. I have to return to my home planet and tell my people to prepare for the worst, because of their actions.” She turns, dips her head. “I deeply respect all they have sacrificed and everything they have done to protect the Rebel Alliance, but many, many people will die because of this.”

“Many have already died,” says Raddus. “Alderaan is gone.”

“And the galaxy is mourning, but—”

“Rogue One—that is to say, Captain Andor and his team—” Sergeant Erso, Cassian wants to say, Sergeant Erso and her team, it wasn’t me, it was her, we followed her “—drew us into war, yes, but war was always coming, Senator. The fact that the Emperor has now officially dissolved the Senate should tell you that much.” Dodonna spreads his hands. “Punishing Captain Andor and Sergeant Erso for their actions—which were taken to save the Alliance as much as to defend those of us who stand and have always stood against tyranny—speaks not only to a slavish addiction to the intricacies of bureaucracy, it tells the galaxy that we do not respect our own people or recognize the enormity of their achievements, and that smacks far too close to the Empire itself for my taste.”

Grafis scoffs. “You have a point, General, but the fact remains that we cannot let acts of open mutiny pass with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. It encourages the kind of behavior that one absolutely cannot tolerate in a military organization, and like it or not, Senator—” Senator Pamla shuts her mouth “—that is what we now, in effect, must be. I do not wish to deny the sheer magnitude of what Captain Andor and his people managed, in the face of such incredible odds, but we have to face the fact that now there’s going to be a man in every squadron in the Alliance who thinks that by running off with some harebrained scheme they’ll be able to do the impossible. You can’t capture lightning in a bottle.”

“But we have,” Raddus says. It seems to burst out of him. Cassian wonders how long he’s been holding his tongue. “Rogue One is lightning in a bottle. They achieved something that no one else has been able to achieve. You can call it the Force, General Grafis, or you can call it mad luck, but either way, it happened, and you aren’t going to find something like this again.”

Grafis sniffs, and picks at his fingernails. “I’m not surprised to hear that from you, Admiral Raddus, considering your own actions during the Battle of Scarif.”

“Excuse me,” says Mothma, in an icy voice. “General Grafis, leave the sideswiping to less charged discussions, if you please.”

“This is absurd,” says Raddus. “We should be giving them medals, not putting them on trial.”

“That’s not the question here, Admiral, thank you.” Mothma threads her sleeve through her fingers. “Counselor Marella, your clients have made a decision in regards to their pleas?”

Next to him, Jyn shifts, and scuffs her fingertips over the back of his hand.

“They have, yes.” Aden doesn’t look back at them. “Whenever you’re ready.”

“This isn’t right,” says Bodhi, bursting out all at once, and he stands up. Jyn seizes Cassian’s wrist, and digs in with her nails. “This isn’t right, not—none of this is right, all of you know it, why can’t you just—”

“Lieutenant Rook, sit down—”

“Bodhi—” Jyn’s lips have gone pale. “Bodhi, don’t—”

“I don’t need to be rescued, I don’t—I’m not—” Bodhi wobbles on his feet. “They didn’t do it alone, none of it, I—I helped, I was a part of it, they shouldn’t go down for this without—without me, we all did it, all three of us—”

Cassian bites his tongue. “Damn it, Bodhi—”      

“We all did it,” Bodhi says, strong and steady. His hands aren’t shaking. “We all did it. We all did. And—and if you’re going to punish them with—with whatever it is you’re going to punish them with, then—then you punish me too. Because I helped.” He wets his lips. “And—and I’m the one who stole the ship. That was me, not them. I—I stole the ship. My idea.”

The whole crowd is whispering, now. Shara Bey’s blinking like she’s just been whacked with a stick. Luke Skywalker ducks his head. Princess Organa’s smiling, the kind of bare-toothed dangerous smile a predator gets. Behind Han Solo, the Wookiee—who’s been striking quiet—grumbles low in the back of its throat.

“Lieutenant Rook,” says Mothma after a moment. “Your loyalty is commendable, but—”

“We’re all alive today because they stole the plans from Scarif,” says Princess Organa. Her voice rings out clear. “Admiral Raddus is right. That should be honored, Councilors, not punished.”

“Princess Leia.” Grafis strokes his beard. “Your position in Alliance High Command is very new—though obviously your father has trained you, as has Senator Mothma, and you are, indeed, incredibly bright and talented considering your age—”

Luke jerks his head up, and scowls.

“—but I would strongly suggest that you recall that you are here today as a witness, not as a judge.”

“We all know what they did,” says Princess Organa. “All of us, everyone in the Fleet. We’re all alive because of what they did. That should be obvious enough to anyone. I don’t even know if I would be here to stand before you if not for the actions of Lieutenant Rook and the rest of Rogue One.”

Bodhi shuts his mouth very fast, and ducks his head. He mutters.

“Thank you,” says Mothma, and smooths out her sleeve. “Your opinions have both been noted. Lieutenant Rook, sit down before you manage to get yourself charged.”

“But I—”

Jyn’s nails dig deeper into Cassian’s arm. “Bodhi—” 

“Don’t, Jyn, don’t—don’t tell me I shouldn’t, don’t—”

“Lieutenant,” says Raddus, rumblingly. “Sit down.

Bodhi sits. He looks a little shocked about it, but he plops back down into the chair like a puppet with its strings cut. In the crowd, Chirrut ducks his head like he’s hiding a smile.

Thank you,” says Mothma again. “Before anything else implodes: Captain, what do you plead?”

He has to swallow a few times. His tongue seems determined to stick to the roof of his mouth. “Guilty,” says Cassian. It’s like an anvil in his throat. “I’m pleading guilty.”

“Right,” says Mothma, briskly. “Sergeant Erso, what do you plead?”

“Guilty,” says Jyn, and her voice isn’t sticky, it doesn’t turn hoarse at the end. She says it without fanfare, simply, almost negligently, and when it’s out she brushes her hair back behind her ear. Cassian nudges his elbow into hers, and she knocks him back.

“In that case—” Mothma sweeps to her feet. “Councilors, if you would come with me, I think it’s better that we discuss the appropriate punishment in private.”

Grafis’s nose turns pink. “We had already decided—”

“General, if you would.” Mothma raises her voice. “This session is taking a recess. Those affiliated with the hearing, please remain in the waiting rooms you’re shown to. Those unaffiliated, please return to your duties. Private Edmi, Private Grenno, if you would.”

Edmi jumps, badly. She flushes. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Right,” says Mothma, and then she’s vanished. Cassian can’t help but think there’s a kind of bristling satisfaction to the way she’s walking, a weight lifted from her shoulders. He feels dizzy with the ricochet. What, exactly, just happened?

“Captain,” says Edmi, and Cassian snaps to. Chirrut and Baze have already vanished out the door, beating the crowds without him seeing them move. Jyn’s looking at him with wide eyes, and this time it’s not fear. It’s something close to hope. We might just come through this okay.

If they do, it might be one of the only things in his life to ever go right.

“Right,” he says, vaguely. “Right.”

Jyn finds his hand again, and holds on until they have to pull away.

Chapter Text

“They’re taking too long,” Bodhi says.

On the floor—he’d settled there forty minutes ago, according to Bodhi’s chrono, and he hasn’t budged since—Chirrut hums. It’s the first noise he’s made in hours.

“Don’t panic,” says Baze. He has his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes shut.

“I’m not panicking!” Bodhi whacks the end of his cane against the floor. “They’re in there deciding what’s going to happen to Jyn and Cassian, I’m—I’m worried, I’m not—I’m not panicking.”

“You’re panicking a little,” says Baze.

Bodhi leans back against the wall of the corridor, and rubs one hand over his face. His cargo pilot uniform smells like sea salt and old blood, even after being washed. Like the sands and ocean on Scarif. It might be his imagination. It might also just be Admiral Raddus’s voice in his head, still. Sit down. The voice echoing through the comms on the landing pad, the sudden relief. This is Admiral Raddus aboard the Profundity! Rogue One, we hear you!

We hear you.

We have the plans. It bursts like a sandstorm, a sudden funnel of dust on dry earth, roiling in the back of his head. We’ve done it. We’ve won. The Death Star is gone. Ben is dead. Galen is dead. Jedha is gone. Alderaan is destroyed. Jyn and Cassian are on trial. Scarif. Sand. A grenade. Burning. Hurry. Could be too late. My family. Breathe.

“It takes time,” says Chirrut. Bodhi jumps. When he curls his hand into a fist, he can feel the curve of ship controls against his palm. “It’s a battle of words, not blasters. That means that it goes much more slowly.”

Bodhi frets with the hem of his gloves, with the top of his cane. He wants to pace—the energy’s crackling through him, eating away at his bones, rust on metal—but he can’t, not without undoing some of the repairs in his leg. They’ve finally given him enough bone stabilizer to justify cutting the cast off, but he’s still scheduled for three more hypospray injections, and rounds of physical therapy, and moving too fast could set him back days.

Standing up for too long could set him back days, too, but he can't sit down right now. NOt right now.

This is Admiral Raddus aboard the Profundity! Rogue One—

“It’s been almost three hours,” says Bodhi. There are too many voices in his head that aren’t his. “It’s—it’s been too long. Three hours is too long. Right?”

“They’re probably talking about you,” K-2 says, snottily. “I told you it was a bad idea to mention your complicity. You’ve complicated the whole thing.”

“Thank you, K,” says Bodhi. “That’s—I appreciate it. Very much. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” says K, and crosses his arms over his chassis.

“It’ll happen in its own time, Bodhi,” says Chirrut. He curls his hands around his bent knees. Down at the other end of the hall, one of the pilots for Gold Squadron steps out of the lift, looks at them, and turns her back on them to march towards the administrative offices. “It could have gone much worse.”

It could have gone much worse, yes. The spiders under his skin are scrabbling through muscle and marrow. It could have gone much worse, much, much worse, discharged dishonorably on the spot and kicked out of the fleet worse, imprisoned worse, so many different kinds of worse. The fact that the council is talking this long could mean good things as much as it could bad. The longer they argue, the more likely it is that Jyn and Cassian will get a gentler sentence. He’s just—the word skitters away from him. Bitten by an insect. Sore spots but not pain. He needs to scratch.

This is Admiral Raddus—

Stop it. He shakes his head at nothing. Stop it, stop. Hearing a voice shouldn’t bother him so much. He hears voices all the time, some from memory, some from imagination. Some of them are real. This one shouldn’t gnaw at him so much. Bodhi puts the heel of his palm to his forehead, takes a breath. I’m the pilot. We’re alive. Scarif’s over. The Death Star’s over. It’s over. It’s ending all over again.

Rogue One, we hear you!

“You should sit down,” says Chirrut. “It’s not good for your leg to keep weight on it this long.”

“If they discharge them,” Bodhi says, abruptly, “I’m—resigning. From the Alliance, I’m—I’m resigning. I can do that, right? K?”

K-2’s eyes shutter. “How should I know?”

“You’re a Rebel droid.”

“That doesn’t make me an expert in Alliance procedure,” says K-2. “It’s not as though anyone uploaded some kind of rulebook into my central processors.”

It sounds like something Cassian would do, if Bodhi’s being completely honest. If only to have a copy on hand. Still, there’s no point waffling about it. “I’m resigning,” he says again. “If they discharge them. I’m doing it. I’m leaving. It’s not—it’s not fair. It’s not fair that this is happening, it’s not—”

“Hey,” says Baze. Bodhi stills. He barely remembers the time right after Bor Gullet. Sometimes, though, Baze’s voice, or his presence, or the sound of his footsteps on the floor—he wanted to kill me at the start. It strikes Bodhi like a lightning bolt that he still knows basically nothing about Chirrut and Baze outside of what he used to know about Guardians, and that’s all broken to shards now. He knows that they’re Rogues, and that they were Guardians of the NiJedha Temple, that Chirrut’s an eerie kind of fighter and Baze is the sort of grumpy that only comes about through a great deal of pain, but outside of that, he knows nothing about them at all. Well—aside from the fact that either one of them could kill him without snapping a fingernail. That doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore, though. Especially after everything. You’re losing track. You’re spiraling. Breathe. Breathe.

“Hey,” says Baze again. He lays a hand on Bodhi’s shoulder. “You’re coming in too hot.”

“I don’t know where I’m coming in from, I’ve—I’ve been here the whole time, the whole—whole time, standing here, waiting, and nobody’s told me anything, even though I was—I’m—the pilot, I was there, I helped, and nobody listens, nobody ever—ever listens, nobody—”

“Breathe,” says Baze. 

It’s an order, not a request. Bodhi breathes deep and sharp through his nose, and shuts his eyes. In and out. One, two, three. In and out. Nine, ten, eleven. Recycled oxygen in, carbon dioxide out. He grips his cane tighter.

Rogue One, the Mon Calamari admiral shouts in his head. It’s blazing through with static. Rogue One, we hear you.

“Raddus,” says Chirrut, suddenly. “On Scarif.”

Baze grips Bodhi’s shoulder, squeezing. The pinch is dull, distant. Like he’s only feeling it through heavy layers of memory. He says, “Steady.”

Steadiness is impossible. Bodhi drags in air. The pinch in his shoulder is real, even if it’s faded. The pinch in his leg is real. The itch in his hands is real. I’m the pilot. I defected. I’m the pilot. I defected. This is for you, Galen. It’s gone now, Galen. The Death Star, it’s gone. Your girl, she’s alive. She’s my friend, like you were, but not like you were, because she’s broken in a different way, and she’s fiercer than you were, and she’s not—she’s not the same as you, she wouldn’t have asked me to go take the plans to Saw, she’d have done it herself, if she’d known, that’s the difference between her and you, Galen, and I was going to try and help you and I couldn’t and you died and now I tried to help her and I’m not sure if I made it worse and I don’t know—

“Bodhi,” says Chirrut. It echoes, oddly. “Bodhi.”

“I’m the pilot,” Bodhi says, scrambling inside himself. His heartbeat sounds loud in his ears. “I’m the pilot.” The weight on his shoulder from Baze’s hand is pinning him to the floor. Rogue One, we hear you. “I’m the pilot.”

There’s a touch on his gloved hand. Bodhi jumps, but Baze is still clutching his shoulder, holding him still. “Slowly,” says Chirrut, and takes his hand again, pressing his fingers hard into Bodhi’s burned, aching palm. Bodhi tries very hard to tie himself back together.

“Do you know the Force of others, Bodhi?” says Chirrut.

His brain won’t connect. The synapses aren’t working right. Bodhi blinks. “I don’t—don’t—understand, I don’t—” 

“The Jedi believed that it defined all of creation,” says Chirrut. “The Force is what you wish it to be. It is us and we are it. And Jedha was, itself, the Force.”

“Chirrut,” says Baze, low and deep, but Bodhi’s snagged onto the words. He can’t let go.

“Jedha was—was a moon, Jedha was a moon.”

“Who says a moon can’t be the Force, or that the Force can’t be a moon? The Force is everything. It exists in everything. Jedha is the Force, and the Force is still with us, and so Jedha is still here, somewhere.” Chirrut’s lips curl up. “All we have lost we can find once again in the Force.”

His heart is racing. “I don’t—I don’t—understand, Chirrut, I don’t—”

K-2, for once, is silent.

“Breathe,” says Chirrut, and as he shifts he bumps his head to Bodhi’s, and Bodhi latches on to that, too. “Breathe. Come back to the here and now. Breathe. You’re in the Montressor. You’re with the Rebellion. You are alive.”

“I’m the pilot,” says Bodhi.

“Good,” says Chirrut. “Breathe.”

Slowly, his heartbeat dims to silence. When he opens his eyes again, Baze’s hand has slipped away. Chirrut’s tipped his head, like he’s listening to something none of them can hear.

“Sorry,” says Bodhi. His throat aches. “Sorry, I’m—I’m sorry.”

“Fucking hell,” says Baze, and knocks his head to the wall. “Don’t apologize.”

“I’m sorry,” Bodhi says again, and then flinches.

“Ignore him,” says Chirrut. “He’s trying to be nice and he doesn’t remember how to do it right.”

Baze rolls his eyes, and makes a rude gesture.

“I’m blind,” says Chirrut. “Not stupid. I know you’re doing that.”

“I—” Bodhi swallows. “I don’t—I don’t know. I don’t know.”

“It’s as Jyn said,” says Chirrut. “We’re all like you, in a way. We all have messy minds.”

“Messy brains,” Bodhi says without thinking. “Messy—messy brains.” Then it clicks. “You weren’t—you were in bacta. When she said that, you were in bacta.”

Chirrut smiles, a slice of the moon across his face. 

“Show-off,” says Baze. 

"Your friend is on his way," says Chirrut.

K-2 shakes himself a little, and says, apropos of nothing, “Human beings are vexatious and irritating and sometimes I wish all of you were dead.”

Down at the other end of the corridor, someone drops their batch of datapa