“I’m on my way there,” he says sourly, his fingers gripping the phone a little too tightly. “Even though I still don’t see the point.”
“Capitán, it’s a standard American procedure –“
For what is approximately the millionth time, Cassian desperately wishes his file had omitted his military service, because for some reason his American superior is hell-bent on addressing him by rank, and Cassian hates it.
“I’m not American.”
“You work for Americans, Andor. You could speed the whole thing up, you know, I’m sure you’d be cleared if you tried talking to that woman for a change.”
Cassian sighs. “Understood, sir.”
It’s Draven’s turn to sigh. “I don’t think so. I’ve had more conversation with your therapist than you have, because that woman keeps calling me to tell me you’re not co-operative.”
“Maybe she likes you,” Cassian mutters under his breath.
“This isn’t funny, Andor. You’re no use to us until you are cleared, so get fucking cleared, you hear me?”
“I hear you, sir.”
“I hope so. Your partner is driving Antilles insane.”
Cassian grins, and thinks of his colleague throwing him a look without getting up from his desk and saying matter-of-factly: “I’m not working with them. They’re morons, Cassian.”
(He will admit to feeling a little satisfied Kay is giving them hell.)
“Come back or he’ll kill someone, and I’ll have three detectives off the desk, and we’ll really get our asses handed to us. I sincerely hope not to hear from Doctor Mothma tonight.”
Cassian pinches the bridge of his nose and pushes through the door of the psychiatric practice. “Yes, sir.”
“Good. I’m not happy about having you on paid vacation, either, so get your shit together, would you, capitán?”
Paid vacation. First of all, it’s not a damn vacation if he’s required to get freaking psycho-analysed twice a week; secondly he’s pretty sure he’s still on Mexican payroll (or else being paid lousily), and thirdly – he doesn’t feel like he’s on vacation. He feels anxious and somehow like a bed-ridden child. Not working is not for him, it just makes it all too clear that he has nothing but his work, except for the occasional beer with his partner. Which is basically still work.
“Yes, sir,” Cassian repeats stoically and hangs up.
It’s ten thirty in the morning, and unsurprisingly, the waiting room is empty. It’s always empty, which, to his mind, defeats the point of having a waiting room. It’s not like people come without an appointment.
(Then again, Cassian is twenty minutes early himself, and rather grateful for a chair.)
He leans his head against the wall, staring at the disgustingly peaceful, calming landscape photographs, and wonders what the hell he will do to get his clearance. Because Doctor Mothma keeps wanting him to talk about the afternoon he shot two drug dealers and, more importantly, failed to cover a fellow cop. What she wants to hear is that he’s shaken to the core, that he wakes up at night in cold sweat because a month ago three people died on him, that he’s spiralling - a nicely documented, contained spiral, of course, one that all the textbook treatments may be easily applied to. Order. This woman is all about order, and doing things as by the book as humanly possible.
Of course, she tells him, predictably: “Just tell me the truth.”
(The problem is, she can’t treat the truth. Because the truth is, he’s fine.
These are – by far - not the first people he’s shot in his life, and it’s not the first comrade he’s seen die right next to him. He was a soldier in the Mexican Army, which is in his files.
He received sniper training and was put to good use for three years before returning to the police. That is not in his files, for a reason. And then, there's the undercover assignment, a mere footnote in the documents, but God, he can't count the dead bodies he's seen in those twenty-three months.
He’s very well aware that there is an abundance of psychological issues that should be on his report, and he’s not sure he has managed to hide all of them from her. On the other side of the border, nobody cared that there’s a line and Cassian Andor has long since crossed it; nobody cared because he did his job and he did it well. But here, people like him are not condoned – not officially, anyway. That’s why he doesn’t talk. No psychiatrist in the world could listen to the full account of what he’s seen and done in his short life and not guess at how broken he really is.)
So what the hell can he tell her?
His musings are interrupted when someone comes through the door, and gives an annoyed sigh.
“Oh great, there’s a queue now?”
He glances up at the short woman standing in the doorway, coffee in hand and a distinctly displeased expression on her face.
“I have an appointment at eleven,” he says defensively, not quite sure why he’s even bothering to answer.
“Yeah, well, mine should’ve started at ten, but here we are,” she mutters, apparently slightly placated by the fact she’s still due first, and flops down on the chair that’s the farthest from Cassian’s.
“Whoever’s in there seems to have a lot to talk about,” Cassian says, at which she demonstratively gets out her phone and ignores him completely.
Cassian glances at his watch. It’s not like he needs to be anywhere – hell, again, he’s out of work, so there’s nothing for him to do, but it’s still not a thrilling prospect to have to sit in here for at least another hour.
Eventually, he glances up to study the woman sitting opposite – out of boredom, really.
One thing he notices is that she is really not very tall – but doesn’t try to compensate with heels. In fact, what strikes him is that she’s wearing almost ridiculously sensible shoes, worn and dusty black leather boots – possibly steel-capped.
“There’s magazines for people who brought nothing to read,” she says icily without raising her eyes off her phone.
Cassian raises a brow, leans back in his chair and keeps staring, this time purely out of spite.
She huffs in annoyance and glares back. He’s rather surprised to find she doesn’t give up first. It makes him wonder why she’s here.
(He really ought to have asked this question first.)
“What?” Her eyes are cold, and they’re a bright colour, some kind of grey. Maybe blue, but he’s not sure at the distance.
“Nothing, ma’am, just waiting.”
She’s young enough to be pissed he called her ma’am – in fact, he’s not sure how old she is. About twenty-five, probably – definitely younger than him.
She is pissed. “Can you stare somewhere else, then? It’s driving me nuts.”
“Sure. Apologies,” he says, careful to keep his face blank, fully aware of the fact he doesn’t sound very sorry at all.
She scoffs and starts fiddling with her phone again.
“Where’d you get the coffee?”
“What?” She sounds both confused and irritable, somehow.
(Again, he wonders why she’s here. If she’s that uncomfortable making conversation in this practice, that means she’s keeping her therapy a secret.)
“I’ll be waiting a while,” he says with a shrug. “I might as well get a coffee too.”
She seems to weigh the loss of dignity in having to answer him against having him gone for a while, then sighs and says, without looking up:
“Get out of the practice, turn right. Half a mile down the street, there’s a deli and a Martial Arts studio above. Give a fucking tip, they’re nice people.”
Cassian nods, slowly. Charming. “Thank you.”
She gives a non-committal mumble, keeps her eyes on her screen. A few strands of brown hair fall out of the knot at the nape of her neck, hiding her face.
She’s pretty, he concludes. (He can almost hear Kay’s derisive little scoff at that – yes, Cassian, that’s a very helpful observation indeed.)
He puts on his jacket and leaves, fighting down a smile.
The deli looks derelict from the outside; on the inside it’s cramped and warm but tidy. The young man behind the bar is so fidgety Cassian has half a mind of jumping to his feet and carrying his coffee over himself before he spills it all over himself, but the waiter makes it to the table with only a few drops on the saucer, somehow.
“Sorry about that,” he mutters, avoiding his eyes. Cassian glances up at him – pale face, long limbs folded tightly to his body. Dark eyes, very dark.
He’s been around soldiers long enough to recognise the signs. This is a textbook case of trauma.
(This is what he should look like, if he wasn’t the sick, cold killer he apparently is.)
“Don’t worry about it,” he says softly, and tries for a smile.
“Bodhi!” comes a booming voice from the backroom and the poor boy gives a violent start before turning back to Cassian and saying: "Um, if you want anything... from the bakery, there’ll be fresh muffins in a few minutes.”
He’s really not hungry.
“Why not, I’ll have one.”
The waiter – Bodhi – manages a shaky little smile and returns to his safe space behind the counter, and Cassian stirs in his cup.
After a while, a middle-aged Asian in lose yoga gear walks in through the door leading to the kitchen – there is something off about his movements, but Cassian can’t quite put his finger on it – sits down at the counter, orders a tea and starts recounting a very odd story to Bodhi, who seems a lot more comfortable talking to him than to strangers.
Cassian leans back into his chair, pries small crumbs off his muffin and stares into empty space, the chatter a welcome background noise.
(How the hell he is supposed to explain his steady pulse at the thought of the dead dealers, he still has no idea.)
His thoughts wander, back to the alley where it happened; back to his shared desk at the station.
Back further, to the summers he misses so much in this place; back to the precision rifle in his hands, back to seeing the world through crosshairs, shrinking to a tiny spot in the centre of his vision, to a more terrifying and more manageable amount of reality.
He takes a sip of his coffee.
Distracts himself with the thought of the woman in the waiting room, and what her story might be.
He wonders if she’s guessing at his – not unlikely, they did meet in the waiting room of a therapist – and he wonders if she got anything right.