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salvation, spelled m-o-t-h-e-r

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He’d never thought cables could be so heavy, for all that they were carrying things that were invisible and that could not be weighed: electricity, information, messages from one side of a, an Imperial transport to another. Data in scrolling characters. Those things didn’t carry any actual weight but they did carry the galaxy in their bits, moving from one place to another, a vital resource, a critical commodity, and if he didn’t have the right data in the right amounts, flying would be close to impossible -- and he yanked the weight of the oversized spool up higher onto his back and onto his shoulders. The sand beneath his feet swallowed up his clumsy desperate steps. There was blood, pooling in the sand, and the distinct stinks of blasted and singed material, and there were men and troopers lying motionless around him.

Bodhi did not want to see the bodies, did not want to smell the aftermath of lasers and explosives, did not want to be on this beach.

So he ran, or tried to run, and the cable played itself out in his wake and groaned as it was spun out of the spool. The other end was none too firmly jammed into the outlet for the dataspike, near the base of the comms tower that he was scrambling away from.

He was trying to get back to the shuttle and he could see, on the edges of the clearing, the shaking of leaf and bush. Fallen trees. That never meant anything good, not even in his admittedly extremely limited experience. There were things moving into the clearing and considering the location of the clearing, those things that were moving -- toward him -- were hostiles.

Until just a few days ago, those beings that were converging on this place, on this shuttle, had been the beings on Bodhi’s side of the war.

That was only a few days ago. He’d been on the run, he’d been taken prisoner, he’d been tortured, he’d been inexplicably saved, he’d become some kind of strange cross between a drafted being and a volunteer -- and now he was here, trying to establish a connection, trying to use this shuttle and that comms tower, and the clearing was going to be overrun in very short order.

Silence on the comms, from Jyn and from Cassian and from K-2SO, gone into the archives, and not a word out of them since. Had they even made it? Bodhi had to make that painful decision to believe with every breath, with every passing moment. He had to know in his heart that they were still there. That they were still in the middle of doing that which they had come here to do. Theft, just a theft, just the theft of the plans for the Death Star.

Silence on the comms, from the Rebel commandos who had followed Cassian, which meant that they had all followed Jyn. Running off on an unauthorized mission, deserting the Rebel Alliance, for the sake of saving it.

At least he could still hear Baze and Chirrut -- hear them only in a matter of speaking, since those two were also fighting for their lives, and if Bodhi could still pray, he would. He would have said the litanies. They should have still been familiar. He should have still known them. Hadn’t they woken him up, as a boy? Hadn’t they formed the protective blanket of his childhood nights? But the memory of the Holy City -- and it was really only a memory, now, a memory and dust and ashes -- had been taken from him, had been ripped from him. He couldn’t even stutter out any stray phrases.

Troopers, troopers closing in. There was no time to pray or lie or bluff. There wasn’t even any time to make a wish. There was just enough left in him to complete the circuit, to create the connection that the others would need -- oh, no, they were going to need to turn one of the master switches on.

Armor, the muzzles of blasters and rifles, coming his way.

He crawled into one of the corners between the blocky consoles, and hissed into the commlink. “Baze. Or is it Chirrut? I can’t remember which one of you has the connection.”

“Baze does, but I can hear you,” was the unsteady reply on the other end.

“Kriff, are you all right?”

“I seem to be wounded. But you would not be calling me for no reason. What is it that you need me to do?”

Bodhi swallowed the fear and the terror and said, “Get Baze to help you. You need to find the master switch in your sector and throw it. Please.” He swallowed, convulsive. “I, ah, am I supposed to describe it to you?”

“No need,” and despite the hard breaths around those words he could almost think that Chirrut might be amused. “The Force will guide me to where I need to be. You say that I need to throw the master switch?”

“So we can get a signal out to the Rebels.”

“Planetary shield,” and that was Baze, laconic as usual. At Chirrut’s side as usual. “It’s still there.”

“They’re trying to bring it down, and we need to be ready,” and Bodhi thought that he might be pleading.

“It has to be done,” said Chirrut.

A grunt, and a series of sounds that Bodhi couldn’t understand. Were they speaking in some other language? In a code that allowed them to express their private thoughts? But then Baze was speaking Basic again: “Follow me. And Pilot.”

Bodhi blinked. “Yes?”

“Be safe.”

“Force go with you.” Bodhi blinked. How had he remembered that? How had that come to him?

Sweat ran thickly into his collar. Where were the troopers? Had they surrounded him by now? Why were they waiting to attack? He rolled out of cover. Laid shaking hands onto the terminal with the other dataspike. He was going to die, and that was a thing that he was all but certain of, now, with that deadly tread closing in on him -- but at least he would protect the connection between his team, between Rogue One, and the rest of the Rebels. He would do it. He’d use his own body as the necessary shield, if it came to that.

He turned toward the gaping cargo doors just in time to see a small object come hurtling in -- and he thought he screamed, he thought he didn’t have enough time to warn the others -- the object came to an innocuous halt, blinking a harsh red, right next to his hand.

“Throw it back out.”

Where was that voice coming from? Inside his head? Inside this shuttle? Did he have time to do as he was told? What was he even throwing out?

“Throw it back out,” said the voice again.

And as he wound up and let fly he recognized the marking on the small object and -- kriff kriff kriff. Grenade. It was a grenade. Bodhi did not scream: not when the paltry arc that he’d given it sent it bouncing several times on the sucking sands. Not when it exploded and drowned the whole world in ringing silence. Not when it caused the entire shuttle to rock from side to side.

And he, shivering and sweating, was alive.

Alive enough that he could cast around wildly for the voice that had spoken to him -- the voice that had saved his life -- and he cried out in shock, because, because.

She was here.

She was calm, and smiling, and she was undoubtedly in the shuttle with him because he could see the lines in her face and the textures in her clothes -- her cloak and her robes and the wide sash that she wore around her midsection, darker than the rest of her in a way that, oddly, reminded him of Chirrut.

And yet he could see straight through her. She was an image in blue light, not unlike a holo, except for one tiny detail: there was no projector anywhere around him, no hidden device that could be broadcasting her image. None of the sort. She was just there. She was here with him.

There was something familiar about her smile, about the way her hair fell around her face, about the determined spark in her blue-light eyes. Something so familiar and so sad, and where had he seen that look on her face before? And then she was gone, and he was left alone, and alive, and -- the comm lines were coming alive again with unexpected panicked chatter.

He was alive.

And he had just seen a ghost -- a blue-light ghost.

Something in his tattered and fraying mind stirred: the towering statues of NiJedha. Stone that had been painstakingly chiseled into monuments to the Jedi -- and for some reason, the statue in his mind kept dissolving, not into the rubble and dust that would have been left behind in an explosion, but into warm blue light.

What was the connection between the blue light and the ghost? There had to be some kind of connection, unless his mind had finally broken and twisted itself into madness under the stress of his days, the grinding fatigue --

That same voice speaking from everywhere and nowhere answered, “The Force.” And that voice was kind and gentle and maybe just a little amused, and he couldn’t take it amiss, because this was impossible but it was very clearly happening to him right now: was the Force with him even when he had never been able to perceive it?

Crackling from very close by, and static blurring out the edges of the word that Bodhi could hear: “Pilot.”

He picked himself up from the floor of the shuttle, and spoke even as he was scuttling toward the cockpit. “Baze!”

“We need help. We need to get out.”

And that was exactly what he needed to hear and think and do right now. “Copy,” he said, and he watched, as if from a great distance, as his hands flew over the shuttle controls. “Tell me if I’m landing hot, though.”

“No one here. Just Chirrut and me.”

“But perhaps not for long,” and Chirrut sounded winded, sounded pained, and Bodhi sucked a desperate breath through his teeth and prayed, wordless and uncertain, as the shuttle shuddered and consented to rise, slow and unsteady.

In some small part of his mind that stood apart, that allowed him to fall into the easy rhythms of being a pilot, he thought that he might have been praying to her.

///

It had been all too easy to fall into the blank sullen silence of the fight -- of this fight, of any fight -- and he wished very much that he didn’t have to be in this place, in this time, in this blinding sunlight with smoke already staining the wind and the sky.

Rote movements. He pointed the repeating blaster this way and that, and each time he caught sight of those bleakly glowering helmets he paused and took a breath and fired, fired, fired. The vulnerable points were the knees and the throat, because a shot to the knees crippled and a shot to the throat killed, and then he could drill one more bolt between the eye-holes just to make sure.

He shifted into a more comfortable firing position and kept the rest of his body behind the unreliable cover of a mess of crates, and the troopers that were bearing down on him and the few others wore black armor, carried bigger and heavier weapons.

His knees hurt, and not even in an unfamiliar way.

His knees hurt in a way that made him think of morning meditations, of the quiet mantras and litanies spoken even in the whirling heat and pulse of combat forms.

Well, he had long since outgrown those forms. Now the work that he did, the work of keeping himself and Chirrut alive, he did not just with his body. There were more and better weapons all throughout the galaxy, and if many of them happened to hold the enemy at more than an arm’s-length, then that was their advantage, and he was more than willing to take it.

And certainly he and Chirrut had outlasted the AT-ACTs, thanks to all of those weapons that he’d used and discarded behind him, but that was already pushing it. He couldn’t rely on the Force to keep protecting them. What were they, after all, but the final remnants, the last two of that last handful? The last Guardians of the Whills, the last of the beings who had watched over the Holy City -- but when that Holy City no longer existed, when even the kyber crystals that had been the seed of that city had been incinerated and shattered, what could they even be guarding?

The silence in his mind only grew and grew with every shot that he fired -- and with every shot that was fired at him. More and more of those now as the black-armored troopers began to sight in on his position.

Only the long long years of familiarity told Baze that Chirrut was carefully moving towards his position.

There was nothing slow or aging about Chirrut, and that was something that Baze wondered about, knowing exactly how much time had passed since that first morning -- with the stars in the NiJedha sky reluctantly winking out, one by one, leaving behind deep purple and the distant fiery red-gold that meant the sun would soon rise. Since he found himself on the receiving end of a lopsided smile, and the regard of a boy with fierce lines in his face and a pale blankness already creeping in around the edges of his eyes.

That was the year that Chirrut lost his sight completely, having grown up staring up into blue skies and into black nights, and then the world’s colors were lost to him.

Baze had offered himself as a crutch, even on that first morning, that first meeting -- not without his own misgivings, because he didn’t know why he had had such a need to prop up the boy who was staring so intently at him.

But he had not left Chirrut’s side for many, many years, and together they had explored the depths of pique, the depths of affection, the depths of regard, and they had found for themselves the right places in which to shelter together, in which to anchor each other: the first tentative brushes of hand against hand. Shoulder to shoulder everywhere they stood and ran and worked and learned and hid. Huddling for warmth in the bitter desert nights.

The only being who could understand his need to run away from the Temple was the same being who had remained his beacon in those same precincts, whether they were separated by mere steps or the entire breadth of the galaxy, and that person was even now still homing in on him: and he shifted so that Chirrut’s entire hand, and all five fingertips, were solidly resting against his armor and his singed clothes.

“You have a bad feeling about these next few moments, do you not,” Chirrut was saying, so mild and so serene. A voice like bedrock and shelter, except that Chirrut’s other hand was going white-knuckled around his staff.

“I’ve been having bad feelings since we fought those troopers on the streets. Wasn’t that long ago,” he heard himself say, wondering that he could speak so casually when it was getting harder and harder to pin down the advancing troopers in their corpse blacks.

“No, it wasn’t,” was the response. “And what I am about to say may compound those feelings instead of alleviating them.”

“Everything can only get worse, on a battlefield like this.” He knew that he only had to look out of his eye at the sky, and know that the planetary shields still held: and that meant no help could come for the tatterdemalion Rebel squadrons -- a paltry handful of valiant starfighters, ducking and weaving in magnificent folly against the Empire’s forces that were headquartered here. “Entire armies have broken themselves against the Empire, and we are no army.”

“We don’t need an army; we need only ourselves,” Chirrut said, and then he was stepping forward, whirling into combat with the closest of the advancing troopers.

Only the ease of the years and of their long familiarity allowed Baze to keep shooting, keep protecting Chirrut -- who suddenly choked off a cry and went down to one knee, and for a moment that lasted for an entire lifetime Baze was left staring at the macabre inevitability of a gun coming down like a club, headed straight for the back of Chirrut’s unprotected head --

Only for Chirrut to scream, and leap to his feet, the staff spinning wildly in his hands before he speared the trooper on it, the crystal at its tip stained with too-vivid color --

He had to take advantage -- he had to grasp the opportunity that Chirrut had handed him -- and Baze whipped around, no longer aiming: he sprayed the oncoming enemies, and it was only when they were all down that he realized that he had killed them all. The bolts of his repeating blaster, smoking and gaping, where he had shattered every gruesome-faced helmet.

His world narrowing, homing in on the blood-edged tear in Chirrut’s robes, the way that the crimson stain on Chirrut’s skin grew by drops and dribbles.

“I’m all right, I’m all right,” Chirrut was saying even as he picked himself up from the sand.

Baze spared a moment to look around -- at all the dead bodies on the sand, and the trooper that Chirrut had killed with his spear -- and bent to look at the long slash scoring Chirrut’s left leg. “Left the medkit with the pilot.”

“I will survive to see him again, thanks to you,” Chirrut said, gently. “And we now seem to have, ah, won, over this part of the battle at least.”

“Small mercies.” Baze tore off his sleeve and turned it inside-out, and wrapped it around Chirrut’s wound as best as he could -- and then he went still, because the commlink was chirping up at him, was saying his name, and his hands were blooded and stained and he couldn’t reach the infernal thing. “It’s the pilot.”

“He has a name, does he not?”

He let Chirrut take the little box that was squawking concern, that was asking for help: “Get Baze to help you. You need to find the master switch in your sector and throw it. Please. I, ah, am I supposed to describe it to you?”

Baze allowed himself a snort after the conversation was done, and then he looked around for the master switch, and -- he swore, softly. That switch was heavily guarded, and it was the nearest to their position. “That won’t be easy to get to.”

“It’s not impossible. Nothing is.”

It was not Chirrut who spoke.

Blaster first, he whirled in a wary circle -- and then stopped in his tracks.

A woman in blue light, standing serenely on the sand.

She was a shimmering translucent image, and he had never seen one of those before.

Baze found it hard to recognize Chirrut’s voice, choked up on emotion as it was, as though the words were being dragged over sharp-edged wind-blasted rock: “I see you. And that sash -- I recognize it!”

And he, too, heard those same broken planes in his own voice as he said, “That is a pledge of allegiance -- to us.”

“You have carried on believing when others could not, and you appear to us like this,” Chirrut went on. “How?”

“I believed,” was the woman’s reply, gentle in this place of battlefield ruin and bodies. “I prayed to the Force as my life was taken from me. I passed on my beliefs to my child. And the Force has seen fit to make me into its instrument.”

“Have you come to save us,” Baze heard himself asking. “Because you need to save him. He believes. And there is something that we must still do.”

“I have come to speed you on your path,” the woman said. Her robes shifting as she pointed to the master switch. “Follow me. Both of you must come. I see the bonds between you. You will do this together or else you will fail, separated by death.”

“I don’t want to be parted from him,” and Baze was only thinking those words, but they were falling from Chirrut’s lips.

“You will not, if you come with me. Together.”

“How else would we go,” Baze said, and he would have lifted Chirrut onto his back and carried him to their destination -- but he didn’t even try. Chirrut had always walked by his side no matter their foes, no matter the darkness of blindness or disbelief.

Baze wanted to walk with him, so they did -- tottering, to be sure, over the treacherous shifting sands, but they walked in the Force ghost’s wake and they soon found themselves with their hands clasped tightly together, moving to throw the master switch.

“Here I must leave you, only for a short while,” the woman whispered. “The Force remains. It is with you,” and she pointed to Chirrut, palm up.

That was as it should be, Baze thought.

“The Force is also with you,” the woman added, and her hand moved to point to -- him.

“I do not believe,” he began.

“Not in the teachings that you were weaned on. Not in the teachings that you grew up with. You believe in the Force, by dint of your years of wandering. By dint of your years in battle. You believe. That is all the Force asks of you.”

Baze looked down at his hand, which was joined with Chirrut’s, and nodded at last. “It is in him that I believe.”

“And I in him.” Chirrut said it as a declaration of fact, promptly and plainly.

“Then live, if you believe,” the woman said, gently. “The two of you. Live, and hold to the Force, for loath as I might be to say it -- your task is not yet done. Until we meet again, guardians.” A pause, and she was almost gone, and he thought he imagined the last words: “Please watch over my daughter.”

“Daughter,” Chirrut said, as the sounds of the fight washed in around them once more.

An explosion, too close by.

Baze threw himself to the sand and to the nearest ramshackle pile of crates, and made sure to crouch over Chirrut’s body. “Little sister,” he muttered, and checked the power pack on his repeating blaster. “No one else but her.”

The shadow of realization darkened Chirrut’s face for a moment. Gravely: “Yes.”

Baze keyed the commlink once again. Spoke to the pilot to help him home in on their location.

And he watched as Chirrut’s gaze landed, unerring as always, on a tower surmounted with a great dish, soaring not at all serenely over this turmoil of a battle-torn beach.

///

The beat of his heart was agony, and every breath that forced itself from his lips was agony, and he needed to open his eyes though he wanted to scream with the effort.

Because against all odds -- he was alive. He was somehow still alive.

He didn’t need to look -- up. The reverberations of that fall, and of that terrible landing, were still shaking sharp-edged through his body.

Every action can be a mistake, and every mistake carries consequences, and that was the inevitable thought that Cassian carried around in his head, and it was like chains around his heart.

He’d made a mistake, and the fall was its consequence: he’d made the wrong shot. He’d failed to shoot that white uniform, those Imperial ranks, that death’s-head expression.

He’d fallen away from Jyn.

And he could still hear, echoing in his ears, the laser-edged wreck of K-2’s voice, bidding him goodbye.

K-2. Dead, and although it had been stormtroopers wielding the blasters it had been Cassian who had led the droid to its demise. He had reprogrammed K-2, trying to stay alive and trying to stay sane through three years in a prison camp. Found and begged and stolen and killed for the parts that would give the droid some semblance of humanity, the chips and the circuits to literally make it change its mind. Cassian’s doing, and so the fault of that death lay squarely upon Cassian’s shoulders.

That was one grief. There was another.

Lying down like this, cast down like this, he had no way of turning over. No way of watching Jyn’s back now. It didn’t matter that she had gone from him, one way or another: either she was at the top of the tower, or she was dead. And he hadn’t had the chance to protect her, one last time.

With the unshed tears and the roar of his pain still grating upon his broken body, it was hard to think rationally, but it was all that he had left, cast off like this. So he forced himself to think.

Thinking of Jyn made him want to dig the heel of his hand in over his heart -- because whenever he looked at her he felt a sweet kind of pain, sharp-edged and so strangely welcome, like a sharp blade sliding so smoothly into his body. Slicing and slashing him open to lay him bare. The fierce sharp wildness in her eyes, the low growls in her throat, in transit from Wobani to Yavin 4. The harsh judgment in her clenched fists as they fled from the rain-soaked smoking ruin of Eadu -- and the guilt that bowed her shoulders when he lashed out at her in return.

The way she carried herself as she stood, seemingly alone and completely ready to make her last stand, among the senators and the generals and the soldiers of the Rebel Alliance. Vengeance and determination, burning in every inch of her, as she stormed out to the hangar to find Bodhi and Chirrut and Baze -- and that slow-dawning hope that sat so strangely in her face, that seemed to burn more hotly as they made their approach to Scarif.

Somewhere in all of that he had found himself pointing towards her. His footsteps always oriented in the same direction that she was headed. How had that happened, or where, or when? His questions were the only things that could keep him company here, having fallen, having given himself over to folly -- the folly of looking into Jyn’s eyes, of catching a glimpse of her.

“It was her destiny to be followed by pain and anger and suffering, and yet I love her.”

He could hear the words so clearly, and he could almost have said them himself, if he had had even the slightest chance of knowing more about her. If he had had even the slightest chance of understanding how he felt about her.

But the words had not come out of his mouth at all.

That same voice, speaking gently to him: “The pain will pass, eventually. But this moment that is almost gone will not come again. If you want to find her, to protect her as I cannot now, you must get up.”

“Broken bones.” He was past the point of questioning the possibility that there was someone here at all, talking to him, trying to encourage him. “I don’t even know if I can still move.”

“The only way to know is to find out.”

He lay on his stomach, and he needed to lever himself up to his hands and knees if he hoped to get to his feet -- and just trying to gauge the state of his elbows and his shoulders and his feet burned him from head to toe with savage pain.

He did it anyway: leaning heavily on the railings that surrounded him, that he had fallen into. He almost choked on the blood and the bile rising in his throat, and thought better of it. Screams lodged behind his teeth as he forced himself upright.

And when he turned around to find who had been speaking to him, he nearly fell down again.

He’d heard tales of them, of course, in his many trips across the known systems. Blue-light beings and their advice, or their wisdom, or their madness. Imprint or impression -- the image of a being who had somehow managed to escape death itself. The image of a being who had somehow managed to hold on to themselves with the aid of the Force.

He had never heard of a female human being who had been granted such a grace.

Yet here she was, and the lines in her translucent blue-lined face were full of such kindness and such sympathy.

There was something all too familiar about the strength that seemed to blaze up in her, some kind of unfathomable power that she radiated out to him like heat and like impetus. Something indefinably immense, bigger than the being who held it, big enough that he could actually believe that the Force was turning around him, was taking shape around him. Something that made him think of -- lethal grace that didn’t need a blaster of some kind to battle evil, but also unpracticed tenderness and the will to lift up a weeping child.

And the female human who was watching over him smiled.

That was how he recognized her: though he called her by the wrong name. “Jyn.” He tasted rust on the word.

She dipped her head, once. “Yes. Stardust. My daughter.”

He flashed back to the bare-bones dossier, groping for the name. “You are -- Lyra. Lyra who became the wife of Galen Erso. Mother of his child -- Jyn’s mother.”

“One and the same.”

“Is she alive? Is she all right?”

Sorrow tinged the lines in her face. “I cannot know. I cannot find her, now. She is blocked off from me.”

“I don’t understand,” he rasped out. “She -- shouldn’t she have some sort of affinity with the Force, if she was carrying that stone around with her? That kyber crystal? Because I. I heard her whisper to it, once.” He averted his eyes from that kind and knowing gaze. “I heard her whispering to it, and it seemed to glow as she spoke. It was -- that was the Force, wasn’t it? She has a connection?”

“She does. And that connection is reinforced by the crystal that she carries.”

“So appear to her. I -- I cannot.”

“Were I to appear anywhere near her, the Force that carries this image of me would be remade. I would disappear into energy, the same energy that she might be able to access, the part of the Force that she’s able to find and use. I do not think that I want to disappear just yet -- and if she knew of my existence, she would not wish me to disappear, either.” The Force ghost of Lyra Erso bowed her head sadly. “I can only appear from afar. I do not want to be drawn into that crystal, or to be channeled through it. I am sorry, but there is only you, now, who can see her to the final steps of her task.”

“Me,” Cassian said. The word was almost soundless. “Me. You want me to look after her.”

“If that is what you want to do,” she said. “I only ask that you help her accomplish that task that she has set herself to.”

“I can’t -- ”

He wanted to stand up straighter under her steady gaze, but for the pain that shrieked in every part of him.

“I believe that you might still be able to do something,” she said. “I believe that you are still greatly needed.”

“Jyn -- she needs someone to stand with her, and I. I am not that being.”

“You don’t need to sell yourself short. I think -- if a mother, and a mother who is dead, might be permitted to have such ideas -- I think that she is looking for you. Not for anyone else. You. She is looking for you, and you seem to need her.”

He didn’t think to protest.

But he did make the mistake of looking up -- back up the way that he had fallen -- and he gritted his teeth around the pain, and around the tears that were already welling up in his eyes, and he tottered forward. One step, and then another. To the railings that would be his makeshift ladder.

He looked back, once, at the image of the woman.

Who smiled at him, lopsided, the way Jyn had when she had invoked the Force, for the sake of the mission that Rogue One had taken upon itself.

So he didn’t count the times he almost fell. He didn’t count the blood on his hands and the blood that he could taste thickly on his tongue.

He thought of the hope that flickered in her eyes, and in those of her mother’s: hope that was precariously balanced, that was carefully hoarded, that clung with teeth and claws, and that was enough to drive him forward. Hope that was greater than fear or pain or shame or regret, and he had only caught a glimpse of it, peering out of a grimy face, around the shadows of old bruises and scars.

He had forgotten that he still had his blaster -- but he was grateful for it, grateful for the stunning bolts that he could put into Orson Krennic. Better to immobilize him, because the very thought of Krennic firing off a wild shot that could still send Jyn plummeting off the tower was a thought that ran like ice in Cassian’s veins, freezing him with fear.

He was about to speak to Jyn of what he’d seen and heard and learned -- and some part of him closed around the words. Kept the words secret. This was not the time for a revelation.

This was the time for a transmission.

Droid-voice, starfighter-scream, and the shocking incongruous beauty of the beaches that stretched nearly to the horizon, when he leaned gratefully on Jyn. He could feel the tremble of her, see the alarming sallowness in her face, the fresh cuts in her skin.

He said her name, quietly: “Jyn.”

Her smile was edged with tears, with what looked like death.

He clung to her. “Down?”

“Nowhere else to go,” was her reply, except -- a sudden hot rush of wind, and the unmistakable whine of sublight engines, and the shape of a blocky Imperial shuttle.

A too-familiar blocky Imperial shuttle.

Voices, shouting: “Jyn! Captain Andor!”

“Tell me I’m seeing things,” Jyn said. “Or hearing things. I -- that cannot be the others.”

“It looks like Baze and Chirrut to me,” he heard himself say in reply. “And if they are in that shuttle, it means that Bodhi must be with them.”

“How are they alive?”

“Maybe we can ask them that when we get to them.”

A short bark of incredulous laughter -- but that was still Jyn, urging him so gently, telling him to put one foot in front of the other down the rickety scorched gantry into nothing. “Jump,” he heard her say. “Jump and I will be right behind you.”

“We’ll catch you,” Chirrut was calling, encouraging.

“I will.” That was Baze.

Cassian let himself fall backward into the hovering shuttle, unable to turn away from her.

From Jyn, and from the shimmering blue image at the very top of the tower.