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Down on the Plains of Lah'mu

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She sits, waits, just like her Papa told her to. She wonders, still, why she has to run away from Uncle Krennic. But Papa insisted, and so she listened to him. Her necklace is tight in her fist, and she keeps it close to her mouth, kissing it and feeling the cool rock scratch against her nails. She must wait. Everything will be okay.

Papa will be okay. Mama will be okay.

She repeats the words like a prayer, as the sun slowly sets through the slit of her hiding hole, and darkness envelopes her completely. But she sits, and waits, and waits. Her Papa told her of Saw, but where is he, when everything is so black? Her tummy growls, tears streaking down her as hysteria starts to set in. Her Papa should be back by now, Mama cooking dinner for the evening. But there is no one, only darkness.

She sobs, even though Papa told her not to. It is too loud, but she can’t seem to hold them behind her mouth any longer. The broken sounds escape her throat, dry and parched and she can taste blood on her tongue. She sobs and screams, but no one comes to save her, and soon her eyes are sore and her body tired, exhaustion setting in.

And yet no one comes, and slowly, the orange of sunrise seeps its way through the tiny little hole above her head. Papa certainly didn’t mean to wait this long, did he? Jyn isn’t so sure, but by now everything should be okay, right? She whimpers.

And slowly, she creeps through the hole, the lid closing with a thud of finality behind her. Her steps are hesitant, watchful, as she creeps her way towards home. The soil is muddy beneath her feet, clinging to her legs. It must have rained the night before, the air damp and heavy on her tongue. It is a small relief.

Everything is silent, her home undisturbed, the crops green and fertile.

“Mama?” she whispers, her voice still too loud.

“Papa?” she tries, a little louder. There is no answer, and she is certain that Saw is not around. He wasn’t there when he was supposed to be, and she pouts.

Slowly, slowly, she traces the prints in the mud that were not there when she hid away, and slowly she follows them to the end of her childhood, her throat closing up.

---

He still feels the blood on his hands. The target was as easy as he imagined, and that meant he only had a gaping wound in his arm. At least there was no leg injury, but that didn’t mean he was off free, since his arm couldn’t shoot when it was lying limp at his side.

At least he was paid up front. No trace, no returns or exchanges. The target was dead, and all of that meant he could finally escape, leave the merc business behind him, and maybe kick his feet up. Taking out an Imperial Commander without a trace and no connections, with the payment to match, he could be sipping a few cold ales before the sun was down.

If only his arm was working.

Paying respects to an old friend,” Cassian whispers to himself, “Friends don’t kill each other, last I checked.”

If anything, he is done with Imperials forever. Blabber too much and kill each other when convenient. There is, thankfully, rain to cover his tracks as he leaves behind him the buried body of the Imperial, with him two small graves. The air is heavy and humid, the nearest and only town miles away. His ship is no better.

He sighs, long and weary, allowing the rain to splatter against his tongue, trekking through heavy mud and sand. Perhaps he will make it by daylight at this pace; his arm aching and blood spilling hotly down his arm.

But he is Cassian Andor, and he is nothing if not unlucky.

The blaster cocks against his neck, and his breath escapes through his teeth and nose, whistling. Perhaps the Imperials are not so stupid, to send one of their top commanders with no coordinates, no tracker, and only a handful of guards.

“Who are you?” the voice surprises him, somehow, half angry and half scared.

He dares look down towards his captor, only to find a pair of wide green eyes, terrified in their own right. He should know.

Well?” She’s not holding the blaster correctly, held oddly between her thumb and forefinger, but he has to admit, it doesn’t scare him any less, and she definitely has the guts for such a tiny thing.

“My name is Cassian Andor, and I seek asylum,” he can see the small farmhouse behind her short head. It is as best a place as any to rest for the night.

“Asylum?” there is distrust in her voice, rightly so.

“Just for the evening.”

“Why would you need asylum? There is no one here, let alone anyone to harm you,” Ah, smart one, “Besides me, of course,” she pushes the pistol further into his neck, to prove her point.

“Ah, well, no one besides you now.”

“Not here to buy herbs, then.” Sassy, too.

“Not exactly,” he hisses, arm sore and stinging, nerves twisted.

She looks at his arm, uncertain, then looks into his eyes again, questioning. He grinds his jaw.

“Please. Just for the evening. And then I can explain.”

“Or you can explain now,” she pouts her lips, but it is angry, “What have you done, and why are you here?”

“It does not matter.”

“I live out here to be alone. That doesn’t exactly work when I have men caked in mud and blood showing up out of nowhere, asking for safety.”

He sighs, blood rushing from his body and head starting to spin slowly, nausea crawling up his throat, “I am a mercenary,” she waits, and the cool metal against his neck chafes, “And if you allow me inside, I will tell you all you need to know. I will not harm you. As you can see, I am in no position to fight.”

She eyes him, up and down, and before slowly removing the blaster from his neck, motioning with a tilt of her head for him to follow her, or, for her to follow him, the blaster now at his back.

“I’m sure you could still fight me,” she says, “But I’ll take your word for it.”

He lets out a little, gracious laugh.

And of course, with luck like her father, Cassian passes out as soon as he touches the warmth of her bed. She sighs, sees the blood spilling from his arm onto her sheets, and begins to peel away the slowly drying clothes from his body. The wound is worst than she thought, wishing to call his bluff, and she winces when she sees how deep it cuts through his skin and muscle.

She looks to his face, the paleness of his features as his life slowly drains, the curve of his jaw and the way his nose twitches, just slightly, even when unconscious. She feels her heart thump in her chest.

She clenches her hands into the fabric of her pants, before beginning her work.

---

Cassian wakes with a start, an old nightmare of the Empire and parents that do not exist haunting his vision. No matter how long, he still is not used to it. He is disoriented, for a moment, before remembering the blood and the rain and the girl with the blaster.

His arm is numb. He wriggles his fingers experimentally, and sighs in relief when he realizes he can still move them, even if barely. It is mostly numb, he finds, but he did not lose his arm – thank the heavens, or perhaps, he should thank that girl who no doubt stitched his arm back to his shoulder.

He tentatively touches the wound, and hisses. The stitches are crude, amateur, but they have saved him a limb, and really, his mind is still too cloudy to really understand the last twenty-four hours.

He takes a breath, recalls killing an Imperial. The green of the large, scared eyes of the farmgirl.

Speaking of which, he looks around the small, cozy house, finds a tea kettle whistling, but no one to take it off the fire. He stands, and his arm falls limply to his side, lets out a curse under his breath.

This was definitely not part of the plan, and even to himself he has to admit that he is certain he won’t be able to pilot with only one good arm, let alone protect himself on his way to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, away from the upcoming war. Well, at least the farthest reaches of the galaxy that don’t include dangerous farmgirls with blasters they don’t quite know how to hold.

He moves the flimsy curtain away from the entrance to the house. The rain has stopped, the air humid and dew forming on the tips of the woman’s garden plants, the sun rising slowly in a haze. She is nowhere in sight, and perhaps he should leave before she threatens him with dangerous weapons again, but instead he takes a step forward. It must be from the haziness in his mind, the loss of blood leaving him foolish. The mud has left her tracks clear in the ground, and he follows them, carefully, his boots sinking into it like quicksand.

It is not long before he finds her. Surrounding her are troops made of metal, their exoskeletons warped and melted away from his gun. This place, here, a tiny alcove hidden between the rocks jutting from the ground of Lah’mu, looks so different in the morning light, its rays sifting through the holes of the cave’s roof.

It looks almost peaceful, and she does not turn to him, yet answers his unspoken question all the same.

“There are only so many places you could have come from, when I found you. I just… kept walking,” she says, her voice numb and tired. He looks from the grave, to her slumped shoulders, to the crude hole he threw the Imperial in.

She turns to him, and the excuses forming on his tongue still. Her eyes are piercing, and he finds himself suddenly at a loss.

“Who did you kill, here?”

He licks his dry lips, “An Imperial Commander.”

Who?”

He really should not say, but… “Orson Krennic.” He is surprised with the ease that the name rolls off his tongue. She is dangerous, this girl.

She bites her lip, turns back to the shallow grave. The dirt is uneven, the graves beside disrupted by his work.

Everything clicks together, suddenly. He feels his jaw clench, his mouth go dry, an ache in the pit of his stomach at the notion, “I am so sorry. If I had known-“ his words cut off, stuck in his throat.

He is not sure what to say. It is hard, when he does not know his parents, does not particularly mourn their absence. He can see in her, though, that the story is quite different. And even with all of the dead bodies left in his wake, he never got used to the mourning of others. And here, he has disrupted the peace of two parents.

She does not answer him, right away. She remembers Orson from when she was a child. He and her father were good friends, sharing laughs and late nights of discussion. He used to give her toys.

And then he killed Galen, the last she ever saw of her father turning towards his old friend, and the cool, hard lines of Orson’s once kind face. He must have come for a final farewell, after all these years. She is surprised he did not hunt her down, or perhaps she is not. She was, after all, never Galen. Just small Jyn.

“You did what was best,” she says, “Or best for the money, I suppose.”

Despite the whirling of her stomach, she takes a deep breath. The morning air is cool and fresh, and she feels a lightness that she has not felt in a long time. Separated in life, reunited in death. Despite the tears clouding her eyes, she feels it is fitting, for the two old men.

“I have to say, I’m not a fan of the Empire.” And the money was good – enough so that he wouldn’t have to kill anyone else to put food in his stomach. He didn’t say that, though.

“Orson was a good man,” she whispers, almost to herself.

Cassian stares, wide eyed, “You knew him?”

“A friend of my father,” her voice is too gentle.

“Ah.” Makes sense, he supposes.

“I am sor-“

“Are you sorry after every man you kill, or just when it happens to be in your favor?” Her voice is bitter, the tears now falling freely down her cheeks. She chides herself, but it is still hard, after all these years, to look upon the graves of her parents, to see the earth they so loved disturbed so easily.

“These are strange circumstances, I admit.”

She wipes at her tears, a wound scabbed over and scarred, and quietly to herself, she admits it is better to know that she is safe here, in this distant land, away from the reaches of the Empire, that her father’s friend may rest in peace from their dark clutches.

It is a complicated hurt, but as she looks at their graves, her tears dry, slowly, Cassian stock still behind her.

Composed, she turns to him, “Well? I’ve patched you up, you can now walk, what are you still doing here? Leave, mercenary, before the earth swallows you up.”

He shuffles one of his boots through the mud, “Well, that was my plan, yes, but as you can see,” he lifts his arm with his opposite hand, shows her how it flops uselessly to the side, “I am sure you can see my dilemma. I cannot exactly pilot a ship without one of my arms working – and, even if you can’t, I am sure you can imagine the difficulty.”

She pouts, again, and it throws him off guard with how soft the gesture appears, “And how is that my problem?”

He places his hand over his heart, “You have already been so kind to me, and I dare ask this under hard circumstances, but may I stay here a while longer, if only to recover?” Her eyes widen, and he continues, “I promise, I will work if it is what you need, help of any sort.”

“Are you serious? You’ve killed an Imperial Commander, no doubt there will be hundreds of Stormtroopers hunting you down by now,” she scowls, but he can’t help and find the gesture charming, “I would rather not get involved, if possible.” There is no argument in her words.

He shrugs, but it is awkward, considering that his arm is still not following his command, “That would be rather difficult, considering everyone thinks that the Commander is on his way to Scarif,” she stares at him a moment, “It would not do for the Empire to know he was taking a detour.”

She begins turning towards her farm, legs heavy against the earth, “And just yesterday you were asking for asylum.”

“Eh,” he sighs, “There may be others searching for me, but not the forces of the Empire, and easy enough for even you to dispatch.”

She turns. Her eyes flash dangerously, “Is that a challenge?”

“An observation. They will tire long before they come across this patch of mud.”

She begins walking towards her farm again, her back turned to him, shoulders tensed. He hisses, reaches for her shoulder and stills her with his hand on her arm, “Wait, please. I am serious. I will do whatever you need of me. Just give me more time – to hide, to heal, whatever. I just need a little more time.”

Jyn eyes him carefully, a flare of something indescribable pulsing through her veins.

Please,” he does not usually find himself begging, especially to someone so small he could probably pick her up, “I will be helpful, I promise. No longer than a month and my arm should be better, and I will be out of your hair. You will never see me again, that I can promise you.” Her face twists at that, but he sees her eyes flickering from his arm to his face, contemplating.

She holds out her hand to him, no blaster, “Jyn Erso.”