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“The saddest word in the whole wide world is the world almost”

- Nikita Gill



The beach, bright and white and unsoiled and smooth, is the last thing she sees before the world goes dark.

His hair tickles her cheek and there's a smell in her nose that she'd remember forever if there was time. It's the ghost of blaster fire and rust, sweat and blood and mud and seaweed, but just underneath there's a touch of grease and worn leather and all those faint notes she doesn't have the nose to distinguish, but they are most definitely his. She could recognise him blindfolded on scent alone, she realises, even before - before he fell, before he was dead or she thought he was, before he saved her life and they traded a decade worth of maybes in that elevator without so much as a word. Even on the ship back from Eadu when she tried so hard to believe she hated him, hated all of them; even there she knew when he was standing behind her without turning around.

It has been so long since she's felt like she belonged into someone's arms that she almost can't remember - those were her father's arms, a whole lifetime ago - but just this once, everything feels utterly right to her.

She is going to die, right here on this bright white beach in the noise and silence of the end of the world, in the arms of this man she hardly knows. And she feels so.... peaceful.

His arms are tight around her, but she doesn't think he's afraid, either. His heartbeat is slow and steady against her chest, and she thinks they're thinking the same thing.

-

(If she had to choose a word for Cassian Andor, it's almost.)

-

-

-

The beach, bright and white and unsoiled and smooth, is the last thing she sees before the world goes dark.

His arms are not the last thing she feels.

Everything is black, and there's a lot more pain than she expected, but something - strong unyielding merciless - closes around her arm and pulls her this and that way and she feels her feet stumbling along of their own accord.

She's too confused and too annoyed to be afraid. It's all black and it hurts and she didn't think death would be so uncomfortable.

Then she's gone.

-

There's a flash of something - pain - and things grabbing at her, weighing her down. She tries to scream, and her throat hurts so much, but she doesn't make a sound.

There's just space around her, nothingness, silence and darkness, without a single star.

-

Then her lids flutter open, and she looks into the face of a droid. She feels very calm and floaty, but the bright light hurts her eyes.

"Welcome back, Jyn Erso," the droid says in a pleasant voice. "Don't worry. You are in Yavin IV medical facility. How are you feeling?"

"My head hurts," she whispers. "The light..."

"That will pass. The artificial retina is still adapting to your nervous system."

"The what?"

"You looked into very bright light. We had to replace your retinas to restore your eyesight."

Very bright light, she thinks, and then -

"What happened?" The monitor to her right starts beeping aggressively.

"Please calm down," says the droid, but she shakes her head, which makes the headache worse.

"What happened?"

"Another rebel spotted and rescued you just before the explosion. It damaged your eyes and ears, but -"

"What about the others? What happened to Cassian?"

"The squadron was lost in the explosion, you are one of-"

"Rogue One, what happened to the rest of Rogue One?" she repeats, very loudly. Her heart is beating very fast, and seems to be lodged in her throat, cutting off her lungs.

"Please calm down," the droid repeats, "your lungs may not have fully recovered -"

"Tell me what happened to them!" she yells, trying to push herself off the bed.

"Bodhi Rook was able to escape the explosion, he was the one who saved you. Captain Andor is still in critical condition, his spine was heavily damaged and his wound had begun to fester by the time he could receive medical attention."

"Is that all?" she croaks, her head starting to spin.

"You are the sole survivors as of now. Two X-wings are still unaccounted for, but those were probably pulverised in the explosion."

"How many?"

"Our losses amount to 1229," the droid replies calmly.

Jyn feels sick. She died. She was so sure she'd died, and right now, she wishes she had.

Her mind flashes to Chirrut and Baze, and Kay-Too and the others, but she can't bear that right now, and there's a more pressing matter.

"Where are they? Bodhi and Cassian. Take me to them."

"The Captain is to receive no visitors -"

"I have to see him!" she repeats stubbornly.

"I may be able to find Bodhi Rook for you," the droid says and whirrs off.

Jyn feels like she is falling.

Again, she tries to get up, but her limbs fail her and she collapses back onto the bed, so she hugs her knees tightly to her chest, shivering softly, and waits.

-

Bodhi looks pale and shaken, but fine save for a bandage around his left forearm. He nearly trips over the wires around the bed as he staggers forward to pull her into a hug.

"I-I thought you wouldn't make it," he says hoarsely and sits down on the edge of her bed. "You were sc-screaming every time I tried to touch you, and -"

"I had no idea what was going on, and I don't think I remember half of it." She meets his eyes, huge and dark in his pale face, and whispers: "What about Cassian?"

"He was-was talking, at first. I think his eardrums burst d-during the explosion, and he was hit, bleeding all over the place, but he was t-trying to talk you down. Then he said he couldn't feel his legs, and a few minutes later he was out like a light. He was hardly breathing when we got here, I thought he was dead for a moment..." Bodhi speaks very fast, like he's scared he might stop talking elsewise.

"Where is he, did you see him?" There are tears welling up in her eyes, but she fights them down. This is not the time.

Bodhi shakes his head. "I tried. They won't-won’t let me. They fixed up the blaster wound, they said he needs to heal that first and they'll try to fix his spine and his ears when he's better."

"Fix his spine," she repeats, horrified. "But he walked, after he fell."

"It was a hematoma," says the droid in its friendly, neutral tone that is driving her stir-crazy. "It was small at first, but it grew exponentially and did severe damage to the spinal chord."

"He-he'll make it, though, right?" Bodhi asks, eyeing the droid fearfully.

"It is still too early to say," the droid replies. "But he has been stable so far."

"When can we see him?"

"You may see him once he wakes," the droid says and Jyn wants to throw something at it.

Bodhi grips her hand and she presses it, suddenly overwhelmed with relief that he, at least, has made it - and that Cassian is alive, if only barely.

Not dead, but almost. She feels like that, too. 

"We'll just have to – have to wait, Jyn." He tries for a smile that turns out more than a little shaky and adds: "He's survived the last six days. If there's one word for him, it's survivor. If we made it, he will, too."

Jyn thinks there's little truth in that, but then Bodhi wasn't with them for the most part of what happened on Scarif.

-

(If she had to choose a word for Cassian Andor, it's almost.)

-

-

-

He wakes the next day, and they come to get her and Bodhi. She is very shaky all of a sudden, and Bodhi puts an arm around her to keep her steady.

Cassian looks strangely small and forlorn in the big white bed, and awake isn't quite the term she would use. His eyes are open, but he looks deeply confused and like he needs two more weeks of sleep before he'll look human again.

He's still deaf, so there's little use in talking, but when they come into his field of view his eyes light up a little and there's a weak smile fighting onto his lips for a moment. Then he turns to Jyn and asks, so softly she can hardly make out the words: "What about the others?"

She shakes her head, her eyes filling with tears again. She blinks them away and takes his hand. 

At some point, Bodhi gets up and disappears, if he's given a reason she hasn't heard, but Jyn stays. In the end, she curls herself up on Cassian's side and falls asleep soon after he does.

They repeat this for a week, at which point someone gets a slightly bigger bed. Two weeks after his surgery, they cut him open again, and when he comes back there are thick red cuts on his back turning into scars as the days go by, but on the upside, he can hear her again.

It's not like they talk a lot, though. There are no words, really, for what happened.

They did it. 

They did it, but at what price?

-

People around them assume they must have had an affair before, and she can't blame them. She's holding his hand, sleeping in his bed, and if she wasn't lauded a hero of the Rebellion, they would never let her do that. But they are, so instead they spin stories of the two of them.

She couldn't care less.

What she cares about, once he gets better, is what becomes of two people who were almost strangers and who held each other as death came for them, and then woke up to find they weren't dead.

She doesn't know what that means, except that she wants to kiss him more than ever, because he's the only source of solace she has had in a long time, and she needs one more than ever.

-

(If she had to choose a word for Cassian Andor, it's almost.)

-

-

-

She stays beside him when they come to slowly reintroduce him to the use of his legs, half because she feels like he needs her, half because she just doesn't know where else she would go.

And then he walks, and holds his razor in steady hands, and gives the doctors smiles that look empty to her only because she knows where to look, and they let him out.

They walk out of the medical facility and into the sunlight side by side. It's a beautiful day, and there it hits her full force: they're alive.

And no one else is.

A part of her wants to turn around and kiss him, but the other half tells her not to, so for a moment, she just stands in the sunlight and waits.

He runs a hand through her hair, his thumb brushing over her cheek, and his eyes are dark with want and softness and regret - like they were in that elevator, she thinks - and his smile is a sad, dying thing and her heart breaks a little more.

"We made it," he says, with no real conviction, and she nods.

"Thank you, Jyn," he mutters, his eyes dark and beautiful and deep enough to drown in, "for not leaving me."

It sounds so sad, and final, and it feels every bit like goodbye as their words on the beach.

"I won't," she says, her voice too quiet and too hoarse, and practically begging.

She wants to so much, but she can't kiss him, not now, not here. But she can rest her head on his shoulder and let him lean into her, and she does, and it is at the same time reassuring and terrifying to feel his heartbeat next to hers again, sore and tired and steady like her own. 

They stand there forever, neither wanting to let go, but they do, in the end.

Jyn longs for the beach.

-

(If she had to choose a word for Cassian Andor, it's almost.)

-

-

-

It's a strange game they're playing these days, one neither of them quite seems to know the rules of, and it's been going on for so long. Too long.

The first anniversary of the battle has come and gone, and they're stuck at this strange, painful impasse.

It's been days since she's last seen him, and when she finds him by chance in one of the corridors, he looks as tired as she's feeling.

"Jyn," he says courtly, eyes on her shoes.

I miss you. Where have you been? Are you okay? is what she should say, what she wants to say.

"My light is broken, I can't fix it," is what she says instead, and wants to slap herself. 

"I'll have a look at it. Show me," he mutters, avoiding her eyes, and follows her into her room. It's just a bed and a wardrobe with next to nothing in it, a wobbly nightstand with a single book and the aforementioned broken lamp. The room is grey and it's empty, but she's used to that - it's lonely, too, and it's not like she isn't used to that as well but it's eating her up.

He crouches down and eyes her little lamp, and for a few minutes, they trade meaningless small talk while she rummages in her toolbox for a screwdriver.

"Sorry, I don't mean to reduce you to a janitor," she mutters, but he just shrugs.

"It's more use than anyone else makes of me these days."

I don't want to be alone is what she should say, because one of these days the unspoken words will burn a hole into her tongue. 

"They think we have sex," is what she says instead. Kryffing smooth, Jyn. Great work.

He nods, eyes still on her broken lamp, like she's commented on the weather. 

"I don't tell them they're wrong." She has no idea what she's saying.

"No, why would we?" he says, his voice level, and switches the light on and off, looking satisfied with his work, and completely unaffected by her words.

It almost makes her angry. How can he just not care?

She thinks of nothing but Scarif at night, of the screams and the blood and his eyes bearing into hers and the sound of his body crashing into metal and the sand in her face and his arms around her; and then she thinks of nothing but him because he's the one thing that might soften the blow of her nightmares. And yet here he stands, tinkering with her lamp like he doesn't do the same and like he doesn't know that if they found a way to convert unspoken words into data the air between them would need half the rebel's data core to fit everything they don't say.

How dare he not look at her, when she has to leave the room every time she hears one of the rebels mention the gossip, when she's jealous when she hears about what everyone thinks she already has?

How dare he be so cold, and so calm, and so sensible, when everyone else is dead and nothing matters anymore?

She almost, almost hates him for that.

"Why aren't we?"

"Telling them, or having sex?" he asks, still no inflection in his voice, his hands in his pockets, and his eyes on the holoscreen in the corner.

Look at me, she wants to scream. He's so calm, and she's so angry, and how did they ever come to this?

"Both," she gets out, her voice harsh and flat.

Then, finally, for just a moment, he meets her eyes, and she thinks she was wrong. He's not calm, that's not it.

"We don't tell them because we want it to be true." His voice is a different sort of calm now; a voice he doesn't adopt very often, one she likes to think is only for her.  (If he'd ever say the words they don't even dare to think... not that he ever would, but if he did... that's the way he'd say them, and right now, even that thought hurts.)

There's no denying that, not that she'd try - the tingling in her fingertips and the spark of want in his broken eyes would betray her anyway.

Oh, how she envies the Jyn the rebels think she is.

"And I'm not kissing you because we've no right to feel alive," he adds, and for just a moment his voice that's trained to lie and obey his every wish is as faint and broken as the rest of him, and even though she really doesn't want to, she agrees.

They've no right to feel alive, because they've no right to be alive. They deserved death just as much as everyone else on Scarif, but they've made it out of there when no one else has, and that's not right.

And so she lets him go, for the thousandth time, and finds herself longing for that beach.

She doesn't have the strength to tell herself off for that anymore.

-

(If she had to choose a word for Cassian Andor, it's almost.) 

-

-

-

"Absolutely not. I don't dance."

"Now I really want to see it," Cassian says with a wolfish little smile, and she shakes her head.

She wonders if he’s drunk, because he’s looking at her face instead of her shoes.

She crosses her arms. "No. I don't dance."

"Everyone is," Bodhi says, smiling. "It's fun, come on-"

"I am not dancing with you, Bodhi Rook," she says very firmly, and Bodhi shrugs and disappears into the crowd again. But she's made her bet without Cassian.

"Then you are dancing with me," he says matter-of-factly, still with that smile on his lips, and despite her protestations grabs her by both hands and pulls her towards the music.

"Stop it. I don't-"

"You'd be the first to regret it," he cuts her off, looking very smug, an amused spark in his eyes.

"You're full of yourself."

"Maybe I am that good," he replies, and Jyn realises she missed the moment he stopped speaking about dancing. He puts an arm around her and she resigns to her fate, allowing him to expertly shove her over the dancefloor. She's a terrible dancer, and he's clearly more than wasted on someone as clumsy as her.

"You're an idiot," she mutters, and suddenly, something softens in his eyes.

"Goddamnit, Jyn, give me a break. I'm trying to make you laugh."

She loses the rhythm for a moment. It's not like she doesn't know, but the sound of his voice and the disarming honesty take her by surprise. They don't say these things.

But he did, and his eyes don't let her go, and it makes her so dizzy, and she's stepped on his foot twice in the last thirty seconds and he didn't even flinch.

And for the first time in months, being close to him isn't all longing and frustration and guilt and sadness bundled into one small heavy lump in her throat. It's warm and familiar and nice, and she manages a tentative smile and when she finally replies, her voice doesn't sound gruff and angry for once.

"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry, I'm not... easy to be around, I guess."

He throws her a hard look at that, one that tells her beyond any doubt he'll be there no matter how much they push each other away, and the reassurance of that, the defiant, steady affection in his eyes, is enough to let a few words escape her lips that she's reigned in for so long.

"I miss you."

He doesn't say I'm right here or anything silly like that. Instead, he smiles a little and says: "Maybe we can have tonight."

"They'd want that," Jyn whispers, and he grins. 

"If Kay-Too saw me dancing with you, he might slap me again, actually."

Her smile is a little wider this time. His hand is warm on her back, and she feels lighter than usual.

The band picks up the pace, and Jyn is hopelessly overwhelmed with coordinating her feet. She hasn't danced in at least ten years, she was never any good and she never knows the steps to anything. He does it with ease, somehow still pulling her along, and laughs - she's never heard him laugh, not like this, she would remember that. Jyn clings to him for dear life now, hopelessly dizzy and against her will enjoying herself tremendously.

"Help," she gasps, tripping over his feet and then her own, and hears herself laughing, too.

She'd forgotten the sound.

When they drop on a bench far from the music next to Bodhi, flush and out of breath, the pilot merely raises a brow at them.

"There, I did it. She can laugh," he says, his smirk not hiding the pride in his eyes very well, "I think I can die in peace now."

She swats him on the arm and Bodhi smiles. "More importantly, you made her dance."

"We might have to teach her that," he replies in a very grave tone. "She'll embarrass us horribly one day."

She rolls her eyes and Bodhi gets to his feet. "I'll go get us a drink." He sounds like he wants them to take a hint, and then very pointedly turns and leaves.

Suddenly, Jyn realises she's still holding his hand. She doesn't want to let go, not now, when she feels so warm and safe, so she doesn't.

Only when her brain notes the faint wrinkles forming around his eyes she becomes aware she's staring at him, and suddenly her heart is tripping and racing because she could kiss him, she wants to so much it hurts. It hurts how much time they suddenly have, how many options, because they're alive -

And there's the catch. There's the lead dropping down her stomach, the ghosts of the first friends she's made in a decade tapping on her shoulder, a flash of dull darkness in his eyes.

There it is.

She leans her head against his shoulder and he lets go of her fingers to put his arm around her.

Tonight is a start, she tells herself, and breathes in the familiar scent of his jacket while she can. Tonight is enough, for now.

They're not there yet, not quite, but soon.

-

(If she had to choose a word for Cassian Andor, it's almost.)

-

-

-

It gets a little easier, after that night. Well, they still avoid each other where they can, but he learns to look into her eyes again from time to time and Jyn only wants to punch him every third or fourth time they talk.

(She doesn’t think she really could punch him if it came to it, anyway, not when she sees him every night in a limp heap on that metal grate or pale and lost and immobile in a white bed surrounded by wires and monitors. She wishes she could forget those images, at least. She wonders what he sees, when he looks at her face, what makes him keep his eyes down.)

There are good days. Early mornings, where she sits down with him and passes him a mug of caf and they sit in silence, close enough for their elbows to touch if they shift. Crisp afternoons where one of them comes back from a small mission, and the other sits in the hangar and waits.

There is so much waiting.

There used to be so little time, no chance, no future. And now they wait.

-

It’s raining, when he comes back this time; it’s so much of a downpour they have trouble with the hovercrafts and the X-Wings coming in and out. 

The rain reminds her of Eadu, but she refuses to break down over it. She’s having a good day.

Cassian looks tired, his bag is on the ground, carelessly cast aside, and he hasn’t seen her yet. The opportunity is too good to miss. 

She takes his blaster and tucks it into the waistband of her trousers.

“Two minutes before he sees it’s missing,” Bodhi mutters into her ear. He stands behind her with his hands down his pockets, grinning widely. 

“He loves that thing, Bodhi. One minute.”

“He’s dead on his feet,” Bodhi argues, still grinning, glancing at his old watch. “Two.”

They’re at a minute and twenty-six seconds when Cassian frowns down on his bag. A minute and thirty-two when he looks up at her, sees Bodhi grinning and comes towards them. 

“Jyn. Give it back.”

“Give what back?” she asks innocently, and he rolls his eyes, just the hint of a smile around his lips.

“Damn it, Jyn, what’s your deal, are you going to take every weapon I own?”

She grins. “Well, if you make it so easy.”

“That’s it. That’s it, if you won’t give it to me,” he shakes his head at her, then without further warning lunges towards her. Bodhi takes a few steps out of their way with a mildly amused expression, Jyn jumps away from him and runs off, grinning widely.

She’s faster than him, she knows that.

(Of course, she has every intention to let him catch her.)

The people in the corridors frown at them as they race past them like a pair of children. She hasn’t felt so good in a long time.

“Fucking hell, stop, this is stupid,” Cassian bellows, a trace of laughter in his voice.

A rebel with a huge crate comes out of a door and Jyn skids to a stop before she collides with him, and Cassian almost runs into her. She squeezes past the rebel and makes for her room before he can grab her, but doesn’t get to close the door before he gets there.

“Give it up.”

“You’re getting slow,” she pants.

“Yeah, you’re stealing from an old man,” he gives back, shaking his head at her. “What are you up to?”

“Nothing,” she says with a grin. “You’re careless with your blaster, that’s all.”

There’s a dirty little grin on his face. “If that’s some kind of euphemism then I’m afraid you’ve lost me.”

She rolls her eyes. “Something tells me you had a very sad childhood, Cassian.”

She thinks he might punch anyone but her if they made a joke like that, but she is who she is and she’s so much like him, so he laughs at it instead.

“I don’t wanna have to search you for it, Jyn,” he then says, which is mostly a lie and that flatters her, both that he wants to and that he doesn’t. He’s a lot of things, and he’s done a lot of things, terrible things, but he’d not touch a woman who doesn’t want him to.

Which makes him something of a novelty among the men she’s known.

Now she just shrugs. “I’m thinking you might have to.”

“Well, if that’s so...” He looks at her, really looks, a faint smile still playing around his lips. They are standing very close all of a sudden even though she can’t remember either of them moving, and even though they’re not touching she thinks she can feel him.

(Chirrut would probably say that’s the Force – and Baze would probably laugh at him and shake his head and say all that meant is that she wants him to tear all her clothes off.)

There’s a delicious little shiver of anticipation sitting in her bones, and her heart flutters a little. She feels so very alive –

We’ve no right to feel alive.

She can still hear him, but she pushes the thought away this time. They never had much right to do anything, and that didn’t stop them before. And maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe they owe it to them. Maybe they have to live, because they didn’t get to.

Still, he hesitates.

“If you want it, you’ll have to come here and get it,” she says softly, and hopes he gets what she is trying to say. She was never good with words.

“That easy, huh?” he replies, a raw edge to his voice and an almost apologetic smile tugging at his lips. Then he takes that last little step and closes the space between them, his fingers tangle in her hair, trembling softly against her scalp, and finally his lips meet hers.

It’s tender, careful almost, this first kiss, like they’re just testing the ropes. Like they’re both not quite sure if they’re really doing this, it’s hard to distinguish when you’ve imagined it so often.

Then for just a moment, he breaks away and looks at her. She doesn’t know what he’s trying to find, and is almost scared of what he’ll see.

But he just smiles. “That took us a while,” he mutters, and she pulls him down to her by his jacket and crushes her lips against his, tugs him as close as they can possibly be. She’s never learned to be gentle, and right now, she doesn’t need to be, not with him, because neither one of them was built for that.

At some point, they end up on the bed, because balance is not a thing she can concern herself with just now.

His arms wrap around her, so tightly it nearly hurts, and even when they break apart, hearts racing and out of breath and her head spinning, he doesn’t let go.

“Stay,” she whispers, like she wanted two months earlier. He looks doubtful for a moment, then shifts away from her and kicks off his boots.

She must look stupidly relieved at that, because he chuckles when he catches sight of her face and presses a kiss to the tip of her nose. “Don’t look so damn grateful. I’ve been wanting to kiss you for a while, you know, it’s not to do you a favour.”

They leave it at kisses, for that evening. Talking and kisses, even though their hands are trembling with restless desire to go further, because they’re fragile, damaged creatures now and they have to be careful with a thing this powerful, or else it will shatter them both.

They leave it at kisses, and talking, and in the end they just fall asleep there, tangled in each other’s arms. It’s deep and dreamless and it’s rest they haven’t got in over a year.

(I love you.)

She catches herself thinking it, just before sleep takes her, and for the first time, it doesn’t feel like a forbidden, scary thought. It’s just the truth.

-

(It's almost funny, how smoothly everyone accepts the two of them. Probably because they thought it was happening long before it really was. But just like that, they come looking for him at her place at three in the morning, no questions asked, and if she walks across the base in his jacket nobody even raises a brow at it.

It feels nice, seeing that everyone else thinks they're whole enough to belong to someone else. 

She's not sure if they are, but his presence is a blessing she never thought she deserved and she won't ask for more.)

-

(If she had to choose a word for Cassian Andor, it's almost.)

-

-

-

When the preparations for the memorial of the destruction of the death star begin, the mood gets progressively worse among the three of them. Last year's celebration was pure torture, and this one promises to be no improvement.

In the end, three days before, in the middle of their measly dinner, Cassian gets to his feet, declares he'd borrow Bodhi's spaceship for a bit, pulls her up and towards the hangar without so much as another word.

She likes the idea, so she lets him.

(She's not one to talk, she knows that, but that doesn't stop her from commenting on the more than shaky take-off. He laughs about it, and says Bodhi got them all spoiled. Asks if she's seen Solo's piece of junk take off, and tells her he can't be much worse than that.)

For a few days, they're just lost in space together, not going anywhere, not running from anything, just afloat, half the time whiled away on a haphazard heap of blankets and sleeping bags, the rest sitting in the cockpit with their feet up and staring at the stars.

She doesn't think they've ever been alone with each other this long, and she relishes in that. He never really lets go of her, and that is as soothing as the blissful silence of space.

She needed this, they both did, because this celebration is supposedly "for them", but it's not a nice occasion. It doesn't mean closure, or even allow them to remember anyone fondly. It's just loud music and too many people acting like they were there, it's just a bunch of strangers saying names that hold no meaning to them, a horrible exhausting parade that tears at old wounds.

He hates the celebrations as much as she does, he's only better at faking smiles and keeping his head down. 

"We could just not get back in time. Say we met an Imperial patrol, had to take a detour," he says quietly the night before, idly playing with a strand of her hair.

"Well, it wouldn't be out of character." She sighs and shakes her head. "We can't abandon Bodhi in this mess."

He just shrugs. "He'll be alright. I think he kind of likes memorial day."

"That's a lie and you know it."

He lies back on his bundle of blankets and stares at the ceiling. "I'm offering you a back door, Jyn. That's all."

"I know. But still. We have to go back."

That's always how it ends, she thinks wistfully. They always go back, even though they've grown expendable - actually, their value decreased dramatically since Scarif. They're damaged goods now, and every task given to them is a gamble.

He seems to be pondering the same. "Why do we never talk of leaving?"

She turns around to face him and throws him a sad smile. 

Because you were with the rebellion ever since you were six. Because my father died for the cause. Because Bodhi risked everything to rectify his mistakes.

Because we have nowhere else to go.

"And do what? Buy a moisture farm on some desolate planet? You out in the desert herding a bunch of banthas, me trying to cook? With a derelict old droid and a bunch of screaming little kids, maybe, and uncle Bodhi visiting on the weekend?"

He grimaces. "No, I mean..." His voice trails off and he just gives a helpless shrug. She knows what he means, and maybe it'd be good, for some time. But in the end they'd always come back, because they're shaped for wartime. They have no idea how to live a peaceful life, and nobody will ever be able to teach them.

"It's all we've got," she whispers, and he pulls her closer to him and doesn't argue. It's sad, in a way, but it's an incontrovertible truth - they're stuck with the rebels, no matter how little difference they make with them. It's the only life they're capable of leading.

"I'd never get a droid," he says very quietly, and even though it's a shit joke, Jyn wants to laugh, but feels her eyes water instead.

They hold their own memorial for their dead, in total silence, not moving for hours, until it is time to get back. 

-

The memorial day is a sham, just as loud and colourful and ridiculous as she feared it would be, with marching bands and little kids smashing little deathstar piñatas and Mon Mothma solemnly reading out the names of the fallen.

They stand in the far back of the hall, side by side, Cassian to her right and Bodhi to her left, huddled closely together, and when Mothma reaches the part about the brave survivors who made it all possible, Cassian nearly breaks Jyn's fingers with his  grip on her hand and even Bodhi looks uncharacteristically angry, but none of them say a word. Enduring this is part of their absolution.

Still, in this moment she wonders if there really isn't any other option, no other life for them. But then she glances over at him and sees the flames of the torches dancing in his eyes, and knows she was right. 

She thinks of the scars on his back where they put the implants to fix his spine, of their fake eardrums, the scars scattered on both their skin from the years before they met. 

These scars run too deep.

There's a life at their fingertips, one they dreamed of when they were children, but they're too jaded and too angry now to seize it. 

-

(If she had to choose a word for Cassian Andor, it's almost.)

-

-

-

She can hear their voices through the open door, and something makes her stop, and listen. She likes to see them be around each other these days. They seem a little lighter, like they breathe a little more easily. It's not much, but it makes her heart swell a little.

"What do you think? Is it doable?"

"I've been there before," she hears Bodhi say wistfully. "They had this one great club."

"I don't think we'll have much opportunity to dance, Bodhi."

"I don't think we ever have much opportunity to dance, and you're not helping, Captain."

He insists on that, on the Captain, and Cassian acts annoyed but he loves it.

"You got me mixed up with someone, I'm a spy, not a damn DJ."

The paper of the maps rustle. "Will I even live to dance at your wedding?"

Cassian snorts, but his gruff voice has a lot more warmth in it than she expected when he answers: "If I was stupid enough to ask her that, you would get to dance on my grave. That's all I can offer."

Bodhi laughs, and Jyn leans against the wall to support her suddenly very wobbly knees. Like everything normal, the thought has a strong sharp tinge of guilt tainting the warmth in her chest and her cheeks.

They feel better these days, but a part of them died on that beach alright. Scarif took half the life they could've led, and left them with the wrong piece.

When she enters the cockpit both men give a start, and Cassian throws her a look that tells her he knows she heard them. 

As always, he thinks the same thing. There's sadness in his eyes, but a spark of hope, and maybe she's imagining things but that hope seems to grow, just a tiny tiny bit every day.

She wants to kiss him, and Bodhi probably wouldn't even mind, but that's not them. She puts a hand on his shoulder instead as she looks at the charts spread out on the cockpit.

She can feel him wondering if he would even have the guts to actually voice that question - when he's never even said the words - and she wonders if she would have the courage to say yes. It's such a short little word, in the end.

But they both know the answer.

-

(If she had to choose a word for Cassian Andor, it's almost.)

-

-

-

This time, they're posing as tourists in a busy city, it's hot and the air is full of sand and she tries not to remember. As they walk over a crowded marketplace, he takes her hand and she lets him, grateful to have a tether to the here and now.

They pass an imperial droid, and he flinches a little. She runs her thumb over his knuckles and pulls him forward - it has been a long time since Scarif at this point, but still, getting noticed by someone with access to the imperial database is not a good idea.

So when a small battalion of Stormtroopers marches straight towards them in a narrow street where tourists have no business, she freezes, her mind racing to find a convincing excuse. He's quicker, though; he laughs and pulls her into a shadowy doorway and kisses her, and the soldiers march past them without even stopping. 

"That was easy," he mutters, grinning, still pinning her to the cool stone of the wall.

She shakes her head and pulls him into a kiss that isn't for show. 

-

If they only wake up screaming in one out of seven nights, they call that a particularly good week. Some nights, they don't sleep at all, but that's not a nightmare, so it doesn't count.

People seem to start to trust them a little more again, give them more relevant tasks. They take those they can do together (so in case something goes wrong, there won't be any of them left behind).

They've had a couple of smaller victories, and bigger ones, too and sometimes, Jyn catches herself wondering about life after the war. (There's no guarantee they'll live to see that, and she's still not sure if she even wants to, but still, she wonders.)

"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," is what Cassian says, and that's an approach she can live with.

She comforts herself with the thought that she can live with a lot of things, as long as he'll be there with her.

(Once, they were going to die together, on a bright white beach at the end of a world. She hopes that, once they really go, it will be like that.)

Their life is still a mess, and bloody too most of the time, but they have learned to smile, and that counts for a lot. Bodhi says they're healing.

She thinks they're just learning to live with the ghosts.

But either way, they can joke again, and sit in the sun, and they're learning to sleep at night, too. The guilt is still there, but it's faint, an afterthought, constant but bearable.

-

If what they have hadn't been bought with other people's lives, she might have called it perfect.

-

(If she had to choose a word for Cassian Andor, it's almost.)

-