Jyn thrashes awake, blood in her mouth and Cassian’s name on her lips.
She twists to find him, the pain of it searing a white-hot line down her spine, and then something cold and metal is closing around her arm, locking her in place.
“You are alright,” a voice says; she can barely hear it over the roar in her ears, the sound of her own breath coming faster and faster.
“Cassian,” she manages to gasp, even though it feels like her lungs are closing in, that her head is about to be crushed with the weight of entire star systems colliding.
“You are alright,” the droid repeats—she can hear well enough to tell it is a droid, although she can’t yet see well enough to make out any concrete shapes in the swirl of grey. “You are on a cargo ship operated by the rebel alliance. We are en route to Yavin IV.”
She barely hears. She wants to scream for him, but her throat is raw and she can’t suck in air fast enough to expel any sound at all. The last she remembers his arms were around her, his head lolling against her shoulder as she dragged him step by aching step away from the control tower. She remembers the feel of his breath on her neck as the horizon turned white.
“I do not know the condition of your friend,” the droid continues. “He is in the next room. A medical officer is treating him now.”
It takes a few sputtering tries before she can form the words, but eventually she manages: “Take me to him.”
And with some convincing—Jyn writhes against the bed so violently, she sees stars explode behind her eyelids—the droid agrees.
Cassian lies motionless on a small cot, bruises blooming like weeds across his ashen skin. Jyn stumbles to his side, barely taking in what the medical officer is saying—broken tibia, cracked ribs, a concussion—but she finds his hand beneath the white sheet and wraps hers around it.
“Are there others?” she chokes out, barely a whisper.
“One of our pilots picked you up,” the medical officer says. “Only you.”
Jyn closes her eyes, grips Cassian’s hand tighter. She can only nod.
They do not want her to stay, but she will not leave him— ever, she thinks in the chaotic swirl of her too-tired mind, never, ever, ever. And so someone pulls up a chair and stabs her arm with a vial of pain relief and she sleeps, fitfully, Cassian’s fingers interwoven with her own.
Two days pass before he wakes in a med room on Yavin IV, groggy and broken and moaning something unintelligible under his breath.
Jyn is frozen, staring at him wide-eyed from across the room like he’s a painting come to life. It’s not until he starts to shout her name—breathless, desperate—that she lurches forward, pressing her palm against his forehead to settle him.
“I’m here,” she says.
He stills beneath her, breath ragged.
“I’m here,” she repeats, closing her hand around his.
He doesn’t open his eyes, but she feels his fingers tighten feebly around hers, and she almost sobs from the relief of it.
Then the door bursts open and the room is swarmed with doctors with their questions and their charts and their barrage of needles. Jyn stands amidst the fray, her grip tight on Cassian’s hand, eyes trained with a sniper’s focus on the patchy rise and fall of his throat as he breathes.
They try to coax her back to her own room—he’s alright now, they say; he’s out of the woods, they say—but she locks her knees and bares her teeth and they relent. They pull a second cot flush with his, even though it barely fits in the room, and she spends the next two days curled up at his side as he fades in and out of consciousness.
On the fourth day, she blinks awake from a dream of sand against her skin and smoke on the horizon to find Cassian looking back at her like she’s something out of a dream.
“Are you hurt?” he whispers, reaching for her like he’s about to brush a strand of hair from her face. But he grimaces at the motion and she stops him, settling her palm against his cheek instead.
“No,” she says, stroking the line of his cheekbone with her thumb. “I’m okay. We’re okay.”
He closes his eyes briefly, leaning into her touch. When he opens them again, they’re wet with the tears Jyn hasn’t yet been able to shed herself.
She’s struck with how desperately she wants to be closer to him, to squeeze between his arms and bury her face in the scruff on his neck and breathe him in. If he weren’t in so much pain, she thinks she would. Instead she brushes her thumb across his lips, the barest flicker of a touch, and his lips part beneath her, the softest whisper of a kiss.
He lifts his hand and she immediately grips it, squeezing tight.
“What now?” he asks, and Jyn almost laughs at the absurdity of the question. That he—someone with a bed to call his own and a sense of purpose beyond simply living to see tomorrow—would look to her for the next step. Somehow, without knowing quite how it happened, he has become the center of her entire galaxy. Her heart aches with the weight of it, knowing just how inextricably she is bound to him.
“I don’t know,” she says, truthfully.
Cassian closes his eyes, and Jyn is mesmerized by the soft curve of his eyelashes against his cheeks.
“Stay,” he murmurs, as if she can possibly leave. As if he’s not completely stuck with her now.
“Stay with me,” he says again, his finger tracing swirls against her wrist. “Stay with me.”
“I’m with you.”
With eyes still closed, he smiles.
But as they rest, curved towards each other in their dim little room, the war rages on without them. And all of a sudden Yavin IV is to be evacuated in preparation for the arrival of the Death Star.
The alliance wants to send Cassian in the first wave—just Cassian—and he snarls at the officer who delivers the news, his grip tight on Jyn’s wrist.
“We go together,” he says, and Jyn doesn’t miss how the officer glances at her, confused and perhaps a little frightened.
“Together,” Cassian insists, struggling to sit up, something feral in his eyes.
The officer leaves and comes back with a colonel, who informs Cassian that this is an order, that they’re only sending a very small number of ships initially, that his condition is fragile as it is, that his ride is leaving in twenty minutes and he damn well better be on it.
“We’ve a spot for Erso on the next wave,” the colonel finishes, and Jyn thinks Cassian might launch himself across the room at him.
She snakes her wrist out of his and he turns to her, sharp.
“I’ll be fine,” she says. “You need to go.”
His eyes widen, his face falls, and it’s like looking at the eyes of a boy, all worry and raw hurt. How foolish of her, to want so badly to be near him. To be so worried he will disappear. To fear the inevitable.
This will only get her into trouble.
“You need to go,” she repeats, with confidence she doesn’t really feel. “There’s no time to argue. Go with the medical team, and I’ll be right behind you.”
“I’m not going to leave you,” says Cassian.
“I need you to,” she tells him. “I need you to do this for me.” She says it even as her heart screams please don’t, please don’t leave me here alone.
He grimaces, fisting the sheets, and with a sinking feeling, she knows she’s won. And since she knows this win means that she’s giving him up—that if things go bad, as they tend to do in wartime, she might never see him again—she pulls herself to her knees, takes his cheeks between her hands, and arcs down to press her lips to his.
It’s brief, somehow both too rough and too gentle at the same time, and he gasps under her, the sound echoing warm in her stomach. When she pulls back, he leans forward, as if chasing her.
“Jyn—” he starts, but she can barely look at him. She refuses to cry in front of him.
“There’s no time,” she says instead. And there isn’t; officers are already flooding into the room. “You need to go.”
“Stay safe,” he tells her, as they transfer him to a stretcher. “Jyn, please. Stay safe.”
“I will,” she says. “I’ll be right behind you in the second wave.”
But there is no second wave.
The Death Star pops up on the horizon like some cancerous infestation, and the rebels can no longer risk sending any ships into hyperspace. Jyn waits alone in her room while the alliance discusses how best to exploit her father’s carefully constructed weakness. No one asks her to help, and honestly, Jyn is glad: to no longer be a human messenger, to no longer have the weight of the entire galaxy on her shoulders.
The pilots have a chance, but the odds are still stacked against them, and there is a seemingly endless stretch of time when Jyn sits alone in her room and thinks they might not make it. The Death Star glides closer and closer, and Jyn hears more and more pilots fall over the little radio in clutched in her grip, their screams muffled by static. Pretty soon, she thinks, she might join them.
She thinks about Baze, Bodhi, and Chirrut—her brave, fledgling family—who sacrificed their lives on Scarif just to get them this far. She would be proud to join them.
She thinks of Cassian, safe somewhere on some far corner of the galaxy, and smiles. If absolutely nothing else, at least she’s saved him.
But against all odds, the rebels pull it off. Yavin IV is spared, the Death Star destroyed, and the alliance lives to fight another day.
They hold an awards ceremony before completing the evacuation, which Jyn doesn’t attend; her loyalty is not to the rebellion so much as it is to her crew, and her crew is not here.
Still, Princess Leia comes to find her in her quarters afterwards and places a large, gilded medal in her hands.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done for us,” Leia says, with the warmth and gravitas of a woman far beyond her years. Jyn likes her instantly.
“And Cassian?” Jyn asks, before she can stop herself. “Cassian Andor. It’s just, he deserves this as much as me. Probably more.”
Leia smiles. “I’ll see that he receives one as well.” She pauses, eyeing Jyn with quiet calculation. “Will you be staying with the rebellion?”
Jyn holds her gaze, level. She doesn’t say anything.
“You’re welcome to, of course,” Leia continues, simply. “You’re a rebel soldier in all but title.”
“We’ll see,” Jyn says.
A day later and finally, finally, they’re ready to say goodbye to Yavin IV once and for all. Jyn watches the planet shrink within a sea of stars as they pull away, and she wonders if this is the first time she’s ever been looking forward to journeying someplace new.
When they land on Hoth, she disembarks and stands rooted in place on the busy tarmac, unsure of where to go. And then she sees him, stumbling about frantically on crutches by one of the nearby ships.
He turns, spots her, and his whole face floods with relief. He strides towards her so fast he drops the crutches, but she’s already running and so she’s able to catch him before he falls, throwing her arms around his waist.
“Your ribs—” she starts, because she can hear the hitch in his breath on impact, but he shakes his head, tugging her closer, grip fierce on the back of her head.
“You’re here,” he says, as if in awe. “You’re here, you’re here.”
She moves to pull back, to look at him, but he doesn’t let her.
“We had just landed here when we heard the Death Star appeared at Yavin,” he says against her hair. “I was listening on our comms. I shouldn’t have left you back there.”
“I asked you to.”
“You shouldn’t have asked me to,” he says. “Don’t ask me to do that again.”
She shakes her head against his chest—he’s so tall, her eyes don’t even clear his shoulder—and she lets herself, just this once, be completely enveloped in him.
“It’s okay,” she says, although her chest is tight and it doesn’t feel okay—not really. “I’m here now.”
He’s arranged for her to have her own private quarters right next to his, and he seems almost embarrassed when he leads her to them.
“Lieutenants usually sleep in the bunks,” he says, standing outside her door, shifting on his crutches. “But as none of us would be here without you, I thought the least we could do was give you your own space.”
“I’m not a lieutenant,” Jyn says, peering through the open door at the sparse little room. It will be more than enough; it’s not like she has any possessions that need storage.
“Right,” says Cassian, quiet. When she turns to him, he’s looking down at the floor.
“Thank you,” she remembers to say. He nods.
They linger in the doorway, and Jyn silently curses herself for the way her heart ratchets up when she thinks about turning in and closing the door behind her, Cassian still on the other side. Aside from those few days in their adjoined hospital beds, she has slept alone every single night for the past fifteen years. She is not a child; she does not need to be coddled.
“Goodnight,” she says.
Cassian looks up at her, hard eyes and hollow cheeks. She sees a muscle tick in his jaw. He leans forward just a little, his eyes flicking down to her mouth, and then he pulls back.
“Okay,” he says, sounding very tired. “Goodnight.”
It takes a long time for her to fall asleep in this new space she’s probably supposed to think of as home. It doesn’t feel like home, and she can’t quite figure out why. Jyn tries not to think about the feel of Cassian’s lips beneath hers as she lies awake, curled into the corner of a bed that seems too big.
Cassian tells the rebel leaders about the heroic efforts of the Rogue One crew: about the temple guardians who joined the cause without a second thought, about the Imperial pilot who defected knowing full well the risk he was taking to give them all a chance.
The rebellion honors them, pledging to build a monument to the crew somewhere in the labyrinth of the Hoth base. Jyn bristles—they deserve more than that, more than some plaque on a wall that no one will read—until Princess Leia stands, chin held high.
“We will retire the name ‘Rogue One,’” she announces, like it's already been decided, “so that there will never be another. Everyone will know and remember the significance of the first.”
And then Jyn’s struggling to hold back tears. Beneath the table, Cassian’s hand finds hers, and she clutches it like a lifeline.
Jyn’s always known Cassian as a tactile man—keeping close, his hand often reaching out to cup her elbow or rest on the small of her back, even when they’d only just met—but in the following days, he seems to weld himself to her side.
She has to slow down in the corridors to keep him from re-injuring himself by rushing to keep within six inches of her. In the cafeteria, he sits so close that his arm is flush with hers. She almost wants to roll her eyes at him, but not as much as she wants to keep him right here, right where he is, where she can see and hear and feel him alive beside her.
He brings her to meetings she has no business attending, introduces her with pride as the “person responsible for Rogue One,” which makes her shrink with discomfort. Jyn sits in the corner of these meetings, silent, and watches as Cassian discusses new plans for the rebellion; he’s on autopilot, all pinched expression and lifeless eyes. She wonders how long it’s been since he’s really loved being here.
They eat meals together, spend all day together, often in long stretches of silence. Jyn wonders if this is how things used to be with K2: just the two of them, their own mini-unit within the sprawling rebellion.
She wonders what Cassian would do if she weren’t here, now that K2 is gone. She wonders what she would do if she weren’t here.
The whole galaxy is open to her, now. She could easily hop on a ship and get dropped off at the star system of her choosing. She could sell her medal of honor for enough cash to settle down somewhere, quiet and out of sight.
Instead, she picks fights with Cassian over just about everything: the food, the cold, whether he’s using his crutches the right way. He fights her back at every turn, and she relishes that grumpy frown, the way he leans in close to glare down at her.
“You’re impossible,” he tells her once as she’s yanking another scarf around his neck; the power to the base has temporarily cut out, it’s bitterly cold, and Cassian's teeth keep chattering. But he says it with a mixture of annoyance and pride, looking at her like he truly can’t figure out how she works or how she’s here.
“Shut up,” she snaps, tugging the scarf so tight he wheezes.
After a week, a doctor tells Cassian that it’ll be about a month before the cast comes off, before he’ll be cleared for off-planet missions. Cassian looks immediately to Jyn, as though he’s asking Jyn a question she can’t decipher the meaning behind.
“The alliance wants to send me to Mygeeto,” he admits later, sitting on the edge of his bed. She sits on a chair opposite him, close enough that their knees knock together.
“Recruiting.” He’s staring down at his hands, clasped over his lap. “I have a contact. They think they’ll have a better shot if the offer comes from me.”
“Oh.” She’s at a loss for what to say. “Okay.”
“I’m to take a group of around six soldiers with me,” he says, hesitant.
She swallows a lump in her throat.
“I’m not a soldier,” she says. Because she’s not. She’s a barnacle on the side of this rebellion, still clinging onto something she was never meant to be a part of. He’ll realize it soon enough. And Cassian has always been clear about where his final loyalties lie.
He looks up at her, and something quick and sharp flashes across his face before his features harden.
They order him to Mygeeto ten days later, before he’s even off crutches. Even though Jyn’s stomach turns to ice when she hears the news, she is not surprised. She has always known that Cassian would leave her eventually.
After all, everyone else has.
She packs for him while he watches, silent, from his bed. She can feel the heat of his eyes on her back. He’s angry, and she doesn’t know why.
“You’re all set,” she says, tying the pack closed. “I think this should be enough for a week or so.”
“It’s only supposed to take three days."
She shrugs. “Things like this always take longer than they should.”
His frown deepens. She sets his pack down and walks over to him, laying one hand along the sharp line of his jaw. She leans down, swallowing a lump in her throat, and before she's even registered it she’s bending to kiss him again. (She can’t possibly say goodbye without kissing him again.)
But then he grabs her wrist, tight, and lurches forward, standing abrupt and unbalanced so that Jyn has to grasp his waist to steady him.
“No,” he snarls. “Don’t. You don’t get to do that again.”
She stutters, and he grips her chin, tilts it towards him, his eyes black and dangerous.
“I know what that means,” he says. “It means you’re leaving. You don’t get to kiss me because you’re leaving.”
“I’m not the one who’s leaving!” she shouts, jerking her chin free. “You’re leaving!”
“Like you’re really going to be here when I get back,” Cassian nearly spits. “There’s nothing keeping you here. You’re not alliance. You’ve made that quite clear.”
"You’re keeping me here!” Jyn is trembling with fury, launching herself up on her toes to be closer to his height.
“I’m not!” he yells, his eyes darting about her face wildly. “I can’t make you join the rebellion, and I can’t make you want to stay here. I can’t keep you anywhere, Jyn. We both know that.”
She opens her mouth to scream back at him, but she can’t find the words within the mix of anger and cold, stark fear in her chest.
Cassian’s hand shoots out and pulls her face closer, pressing his forehead hard against hers.
“Do not kiss me because you think it’s the last chance,” he pleads, closing his eyes. “Do not let this be the last chance.”
She can’t bring herself to say anything. She can only tighten her arms around him, clenching her fists into his shirt. He’s not even gone yet, and she already misses him.
They stay that way for a long while, until Jyn pulls back, wipes her nose, and practically throws Cassian’s crutches at him. She storms out of his room without looking back.
He leaves the next morning, and Jyn doesn’t go to see him off.
“I have a mission for you,” says Mon Mothma, standing in the doorway of Jyn’s room. It’s mere hours after Cassian’s ship has left, and Jyn has not moved from her bed all day.
“A mission,” she repeats, flat.
Mon Mothma nods. “We need to extract a small group of prisoners from the Imperial labor camp on Wobani. As I recall, you have familiarity with that particular camp.”
Jyn almost laughs. “You could say that.”
“We can do this without you if we need to,” Mon Mothma says, mild. “We have a small team assembled, ready to go. But your expertise would be invaluable. It would be a tremendous help to us all.”
Mon Mothma waits patiently, and Jyn’s surprised to find she’s not as reluctant as she’d thought she’d be. She knows what a hellscape that camp is; it’s certainly a worthy cause to free some innocent souls of that torment. And honestly, it might be nice to have something to do to occupy her mind.
“When would you want me to leave?” she asks.
“Ideally, you would have left three days ago,” Mon Mothma says.
“Well then, why didn’t you ask three days ago?”
“Captain Andor,” she says, and Jyn’s chest tightens at the name, “has made it clear he does not approve of us asking you any favors.”
Jyn blinks. “He what?”
“You have not officially joined our ranks,” Mon Mothma explains. “And given how valuable you have proven yourself to be, he’s worried—perhaps rightly so—that we will coerce you.”
“So,” Jyn says, “you waited until he left before asking me?”
Mon Mothma smiles. “You could say that.”
Jyn smiles, too. She may not be a soldier, but this isn’t a job for a soldier: this is a job for a thief. This is something she can do.
She swings her legs over the edge of the bed, pushing herself up.
“Okay. I’ll do it.”
Mon Mothma nods. “Come to the control room in ten minutes. You’ll be briefed there.”
Mon Mothma pauses on her way out, looking back over his shoulder. “I anticipate Captain Andor will not be pleased that we have sent you on a mission without him.”
“Order him to deal with it,” Jyn says. “He likes orders. And tell him he can yell at me about it all he wants when we both get back.”
She was right when she told Cassian these things always take longer than planned. She and her team run into complications on Wobani and wind up hiding out for three full weeks, scoping out the camp and waiting for the right moment to strike.
It’s cramped on the ship and freezing on the planet—and Cassian is so, so far away—but she comes to kind of like (or at the very least tolerate) her little team. They’re not family, but she’s not looking for that anymore.
She enjoys the adrenaline of the mission, the sense of purpose. Later, after they finally get their shot and manage to smuggle two prisoners out the trash chute, she smiles as she watches the newly-freed men embrace. They have their entire lives ahead of them, now.
For some reason, it is just now occurring to her that maybe she does, too.
When they make it back and disembark on Yavin IV, Cassian’s nowhere to be seen. Jyn immediately tenses, which is stupid; she knows he’s safe and on planet. She kept making her teammates check whenever they radioed in to base.
She heads back to her room to find him sitting on her bed, hunched over his knees, the cast she’s grown so used to no longer on his leg.
“You’re healed,” Jyn says, surprised, even though she knows it’s a shitty way to introduce herself after so long.
Cassian’s eyes snap to her. She can pinpoint the moment he registers it’s really her, when his eyes crinkle at the edges and his mouth falls open.
Jyn stands in the doorway, unsure of what to do. He’s angry—she can see it in the tense line of his shoulders—but she’s honestly so glad to see him again, she barely cares.
“You’re alright?” he asks, voice carefully controlled.
Cassian pats the bed beside him, his mouth a hard line.
They sit for a long time, staring at the floor.
“I’m sorry,” Jyn says, finally.
Jyn huffs. “You know what.”
“I actually don’t,” Cassian says.
“For leaving. For leaving without telling you.”
She glances over her shoulder at him. Cassian is smiling, flat and wry, his gaze still on the floor.
“You don’t have to apologize for that,” he says. “You’re allowed to leave. You don’t have to tell me anything. You don’t owe me anything.”
She swallows. “What if I want to?”
Cassian releases a shaky breath.
“I want to tell you things,” she continues, her voice treacherously uneven. “I want to have to tell you things, because it’s understood that we’re…” She gulps in a breath; her head is spinning. “That we’re…”
Cassian is still silent, brow furrowed, teeth closed around his bottom lip.
Then without warning, he stands, walking across the small space to shut the door that Jyn had left open. He comes back and kneels in front of her, his leg pressed tight against hers. He takes her hand, something desperate and aching in his eyes.
“I was worried,” he says, softly. “That if I pushed you, you’d leave. That if you left, you’d never come back.”
She frowns at him. “Pushed me to do what?”
He shrugs, the corner of his mouth quirking up into this small, sad smile. “To live here, be a part of this. To stay with me, when you have no reason to.”
Her heart lurches.
“I do have a reason to,” she says. “You.”
He looks at her in disbelief, as if he can’t comprehend that she would factor him into her decisions when of course, of course he is the most important choice of all. She’s been doing this so wrong.
“The rebellion part I’ll figure out,” she says, winding her fingers through his, mustering all the confidence she can. “How I should be involved. But you, I’m sure of. I’m not going to leave you.”
“You’re not?” He traces the curve of her cheek with the tips of his fingers.
“Not if I can help it,” she says. “Not if you don’t leave me.”
“Never,” Cassian whispers, looking at her in something like awe.
“Easier said than done, in my experience.”
It’s meant as a joke, but Cassian’s palm settles warm against her cheek, stilling her.
“Never, Jyn,” he repeats, and for the first time, she lets herself believe it.
He presses forward against her knees, but there’s nowhere for him to go. So Jyn opens her legs and he moves between them so that he is flush with her stomach, eyes level with hers. Then he pauses, breath heavy, eyes wide and searching.
“If I kiss you now,” Jyn says, not missing the way his breath catches at the words, “will you trust that it’s not my way of saying goodbye?”
Cassian doesn’t answer; he kisses her instead.
It’s a rough and messy thing, and they grip each other like they’re fighting over who can pull the other closest. She winds her arms around his neck and claws at his shoulders and feels the warmth spool in her gut as his fingers tangle in her hair.
He pulls away first and buries his face in her neck, curling a fist into the back of her shirt.
“I’m so glad you’re home, Jyn,” he whispers into her skin, and she smiles so wide it hurts.