?

Log in

No account? Create an account
do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Star Wars Rogue One fic: Reconstruction (2/3)

December 27th, 2017 (09:12 pm)
drained

feeling: drained

PROLOGUE
PART ONE
PART TWO



It’s nearly seven months later when Cassian finally makes it back to Scarif. This is partly due to his own recovery. He’s endured injury in the line of duty before, but this time is different. The healers explained that it was the intensity of the blast and the level of infection. It is his estimation, however, that he’s just never let himself take the time he’s due.

Considering that everyone thinks he is dead, Cassian figures he has all the time in the galaxy.

That’s not it entirely, though. Being dead is messy business apparently, and it’s no easy task learning what to do with himself when he has no orders to follow. Jyn arranges for private accommodations, and he finds himself living with the rest of Rogue One.

To say the least, they are a pathetic lot. Chirrut is fine in battle, but he’s nearly helpless around the house. Baze, despite the fact that he’s been shot far more times than Cassian, takes to recovery with a gruff determination that is actually a bit terrifying. Bodhi seems restless in enclosed spaces, and Cassian finds the young pilot staring blankly at walls sometimes, as though he’s trying to piece together how he ended up here.

A worthwhile question, of course. One Cassian himself has not yet mastered. His only saving grace is that Jyn is an apt distraction. For a hardened criminal, she’s surprisingly domestic, and she takes to the role of Mother Hen with more alacrity than any of them could have expected.

This whole situation was an adjustment, and if Cassian shuffled his feet, it’s impossible to say whether it’s his injury or his living conditions. He does not quite know what to make of it, if he’s honest. He went into Scarif looking for a cause to die for. He came out with a family he never asked for.

Therefore, it takes a good three months before he’s ready to contact the Rebellion again, through covert channels. He knows that his so-called death is actually something of a kindness. It’s his retirement gift of sorts, the kind he’d never have gotten otherwise. More than that, however, it’s the only way he will ever be safe.

Still, it takes another three months before someone in the Rebellion will actually take his call.

He’s been told explicitly he can have no role in the Rebellion, which is the reason his old commanders seem to never acknowledge his communiques. It can’t be because he’s irrelevant. He’s Cassian Andor. If 20 years in the service of the Rebellion didn’t earn him some respect, his martyrdom on Scarif surely did.

At least, that’s the line he plays to finally get the information he’s asking for. It’s only fair, he reasons. Twenty years of intelligence he’s brought them. They can throw him one very, very small bone.

It’s another week to confirm the intelligence and another two to draw up a plan. He’s plotting his escape from Jyn’s domestic prison, when he’s confronted by the lot of them in their shared dining room.

“You can’t do this,” Jyn says.

“I have to,” Cassian replies.

“No,” Jyn says, pulling out some papers and laying them on the table. “You can’t do this alone.”

Cassian stares at her. He blinks and looks at Bodhi and Baze and Chirrut.

On the table, Jyn has laid out a planetary map, charting the system of Scarif.

Another week later, and here they are.

In orbit, Cassian gets a chill down his back while Bodhi gets them into position. Chirrut and Baze are sitting side by side, almost touching.

“You know,” Cassian says, glancing at Jyn. “None of you have to do this. K2--”

He falters; the words are harder than he expects.

Jyn smiles at him. “K2 was part of Rogue One, same as any of us,” she says. “He deserves to come home as much as any of us.”

Cassian doesn’t reply to that, but sets his lips into a line as he looks down at the planet below them. The stakes are much lower than the last time they were here, but Cassian’s as nervous as he’s ever been.

-o-

It’s easy to see, as they descend through the atmosphere, that there’s not much left on Scarif. Cassian understand why, naturally. He can still remember the force of the blast as it approached him, and the blinding light is the last thing he remembers.

That doesn’t mean this is easy.

That’s not an emotional deduction.

Scarif may no longer be a key storage facility and training ground for Imperial troops. One might think that this is good news. However, now that the planet has been decimated, the Empire has managed to effectively shut down all passage in the sector. There are few valid reasons to come out this way, and even if they could find a way to impersonate an Imperial crew, they’d have no believable business on a shut-down Imperial world that is monitored daily by a cruiser.

In seven months, one might also think that the Empire’s had time to really rebuild on Scarif, but there’s no intention of that. The devastated planet has been completely cordoned off. This is both to minimize any sense of victory among the Rebels while also controlling rumors of a planet-destroying weapon within the Empire itself. Propaganda, Cassian knows, is almost as powerful as hope.

“And you’re sure,” Cassian starts, hedging as they fly lower, “that our covers will hold?”

At the controls, Bodhi shrugs. “It wasn’t my plan,” he says. He glances back. “I’m just the pilot.”

This is, decidedly, not very reassuring.

“The Empire wants secrecy, but they also want a profit,” Chirrut intones from behind him. When Cassian glances back, the blind man grins at him. “There’s no disaster too big that you can’t leverage in some way.”

“They were sending scavenger teams in daily back on Jedha,” Baze says. He shrugs one shoulder. “And the siege wasn’t even over yet.”

“We have the clearance codes from a consistent scavenger crew,” Bodhi says, tapping a few buttons. The cruiser is flying casually past them in open space behind them. “Seems to be working so far.”

Cassian does not feel better about this.

He knows he should feel better about this. This is his team; he trusts his team.

Except they’re really only gone on one mission together, and Cassian’s spent the last half a year learning how to be a person again. Their foundation for trust is stretched a little thing.

Jyn inches closer to him, tipping her head reassuringly in his direction. “I called in favors for these codes, and I know they’re the best.”

“You do?” Cassian asks, jiggling his knee a little as they cross over some turbulence in the atmosphere. “You do?”

She smiles, easy and disarming. She never used to be like that, Jyn. It’s been surreal, watching her transform from a bitter asset he didn’t know if he could trust into a person who he trusted implicitly with everything. Whatever they had come to do on Scarif, Jyn had finished it and found herself at peace.

Cassian, on the other hand, was pretty sure he’d done neither.

“I do,” Jyn replies. “Or that cruiser would have blown us out of the sky by now.”

“Huh,” Cassian says with a half-hearted laugh. “That’s reassuring.”

It’s not, of course.

Except the way she says it, it is.

-o-

Before, Scarif had been a bright planet with ample beaches and lush greenery. The inlets along the coast had been thoroughly developed with landing strips, giving Scarif a stunning capacity to serve as a base of transport. Better still, the airfields had been meticulously maintained, finished with all necessary gear and equipment.

There’s nothing like that now.

“I’m not even sure there’s a place clear enough to land,” Bodhi says. “At least, nowhere close to our search zone.”

“How much of a landing area do you need?” Baze asks.

“This is a small ship, but I still need good clearance,” Bodhi explains, flying low over the mud-pit that used to be the ocean.

“What if you try to the north,” Chirrut suggest.

“Since you can see an opening there?” Baze asks cuttingly.

“Because we’re flying south and our pilot finds nothing,” Chirrut replies logically.

“We’ll just circle around,” Jyn says. “We’ll find something.”

There’s a silence after that, and Cassian listens while Bodhi wields the controls. It’s been seven months, but Cassian still remembers this place.

He closes his eyes.

Jyn nudges him.

Feeling shaky, he opens his eyes and looks at her.

“Everything okay?” she asks.

“Yeah,” he says. He lets his gaze linger out the window. “It’s just...strange, you know? Being back here.”

“I can’t say it’s my favorite place,” Baze mutters.

“I would like to say that I’ve been to worse places,” Chirrut muses. He looks wry. “I can’t, however.”

“If it helps, you can at least see it as a testament to our victory,” Bodhi says, navigating them over a large mound of debris. “We only came for intelligence, but we took a whole lot more with us when we left. That counts for something.”

Cassian’s played to the greater good all his life. He’s believed it, that the ends justify the means. He’s made willing sacrifices for results like this. Cassian knows what Bodhi is saying.

He holds himself steady as a chill passes down his spine. Part of him wants to turn back. Part of him wants to have Bodhi fly this ship out of the atmosphere and get them as far away from this place as possible. Yes, Cassian understands why he’s here. Yes, Cassian wants to finish this mission.

He’s just a little worried, is all. That this mission might finish him.

That’s sentimentality, though. Cassian’s never had room for that before. It’d be silly to start now.

Standing, he gets a better view over Bodhi’s shoulder. Scanning the horizon, he points off into the distance. “There,” he says. “What about that?”

Bodhi veers them around, speeding forward. “The ground’s a little uneven, but it looks stable on sensors,” he says. He glances up at Cassian with a shrug. “Probably as good a spot as any.”

What the hell, Cassian thinks as he perches back down in the copilot’s seat. He’s worked with worse odds before.

-o-

Seven months out of the game, and Cassian’s been as soft as he can be. He’s weak and out of shape, and his head still feels like it’s filled with bacta sometimes. But the minute they land, Cassian remembers everything.

He remembers the promises he gave the troops the last time he was here. He remembers K2’s sarcastic agreement. He remembers his personal pledge to do whatever it took. He remembers the burden he felt coming here, trying to justify 20 years of murder and lies.

It’d be nice to think, in the aftermath, that he’s changed.

Standing up, he faces the so-called troops again.

Nothing’s changed.

He clears his throat. “The timeline’s different this time around, and I, for one, will not miss the Imperial troops bearing down on us,” he says. “All the same, we must take care. We need to avoid contact with any Imperial personnel at all costs. If there is any sign of approaching ships, we need to load up and head out immediately.”

“Most salvage operations last at least 8 hours,” Jyn says. “I believe we have that much time before we spark concern.”

“I have the ship rigged to ping us if there’s any sign of trouble,” Bodhi adds.

“That’s a good amount of time, but we have a lot of ground to cover,” he says.

“We reviewed the maps,” Baze says.

“Some of us did, anyway,” Chirrut murmurs. At Baze’s stare of consternation, Chirrut shrugs. “I’m blind! What would I be studying!”

Cassian does not quite roll his eyes. He feels his heart thumping in his chest. This is a low stakes mission, he reminds himself.

He doesn’t believe himself.

He hopes they don’t realize that.

Wetting his lips, he forces himself to continue. “We stick to a straight grid search, based on the debris patterns we factored,” he says. “Bodhi, you’ll lead the team with Baze and Chirrut, focusing on the west side of the search grid. Jyn and I will handle everything to the east.”

“And we’re confident in these calculations?” Baze asks.

“We factored in the force of the blast, wind patterns, and actual intelligence photos of the planet’s surface to compare against old images in Rebellion archives,” Cassian explains. “It’s a wide range, sure, but easier than looking through the whole planet.”

“If anyone gets a sighting, I may be able to take the ship up for an aerial view,” Bodhi offers.

“And we might,” Cassian says. “We have to work hard, and we have to work fast. We’re not even ten men this time.”

He falters, not sure what to say.

Jyn smiles politely. “I’ll bet we can still feel like a thousand.”

It’s hard for him to admit that he can’t tell if she’s lying or not.

It’s harder still for him to admit that he hopes she’s not.

That’s not the time for this. This isn’t the place for that. “Good,” he says, because the mission doesn’t ask how you feel. It doesn’t ask what you want. It just is. “Then let’s go.”

-o-

Unlike Jyn, Cassian is not particularly inspirational. He’s not really a military leader, even if he is a capable field officer. He’s one who follows by example.

At least, that was what he was supposed to be.

Most of the troops he brought to Scarif died here.

And yet, here he is.

Some example.

It doesn’t provide any solace that the others are following his orders like it’s the same old, same old. He doesn’t take any pleasure in Bodhi’s ready acquiescence or Baze’s lack of argument. Even Chirrut, who smiles and tells him that the Force is with them, can’t assuage his guilt.

“They wanted to come, you know,” Jyn tells them as Cassian checks the screen for their first search grid, just to the east of their ship. She steps over a piece of mangled metal; she knows what he’s thinking, even if he wishes she did not. “We planned this together.”

“He was my droid,” Cassian says, and it comes out sharp as he sidesteps a pile of stone. “You’re all risking your lives--”

“For our teammate,” Jyn clarifies.

He glances at her, refusing to let his feet stop moving.

“We’ve all changed, Cassian,” she reminds him. “It’s okay to admit it.”

He takes a few more steps, then grunts. “We’re here,” he says. “If you set your scanner to check for a lower resonance frequency, we should be able to get a look under the layers, too.”

Jyn complies. She’s the heart of this thing, after all. For a rebel, she’s surprisingly agreeable sometimes. It’s like she knows what she wants. She knows her place.

Cassian just hasn’t figured out why it’s at his side.

That’s another question Cassian’s not going to ask. He can only look for one thing at a time. His sense of purpose, his need for absolution, his uncertainty about having a team, his frustration at being cut off from the Rebellion -- that all has to wait.

K2 first.

He has to find K2.

-o-

They clear the first grid quickly, and the next three after that are not so bad. By the time they’ve worked up to the top of the map grid, though, the day is starting to get hot. You might think with the pollution fogging the air, the rays from the sun might not be as intense.

You’d be wrong.

Cassian’s often wrong, when all is said and done. It’s just that he usually doesn’t have to stick around to admit it.

Stability is one thing.

Accountability is another.

“Here,” Jyn says, handing him a bottle of water. He takes it, and she wipes her brow. “I read reports on the atmospheric conditions. They said that the debris in the atmosphere, it actually makes this place hotter. The heat gets retained and cycles around again and again. Still, I didn’t think it’d feel like this.”

He takes a small drink. “It’s fine,” he says. He shrugs, squinting up to where the sun is supposed to be. “We just need to finish the mission, and then we never have to come back here again.”

He extends the water back to her, and she takes it. “All the same,” she says. “Might not hurt to take a small rest.”

Moving some of the debris, he grunts. “I don’t need rest. I’ve rested for months.”

“That’s not rest,” Jyn says, with a short, incredulous laugh. She sounds like she thinks he must be joking. “That’s recovery.”

Cassian, however, is not joking. “Same thing.”

“Not exactly,” Jyn says, no more than a half step behind him. “Cassian, you’ve been through a lot.”

She’s trying to be sympathetic now. She’s trying to be supportive of his feelings.

That’s all well and good but Cassian’s not supportive of his own feelings. Cassian’s not even sure he understands his own feelings. Seven months, back on Scarif, the heat is suffocating him, and he misses K2.

The rest will never make sense. It never has. That’s why Cassian needs a mission.

That’s why he needs K2.

“We’ve all been through a lot,” Cassian says, scanning another area more closely to look under the top layer. “Especially K2, who may be in pieces on the ground beneath our feet.”

He’s not exactly trying to pick a fight, which is one thing that Cassian’s actually good at. He’s good at being what people want him to be, and he’s even better at making them do what he wants while thinking it’s their idea.

Jyn, apparently, knows him better than that. Either that, or she’s as stubborn as she is contrary. Purposefully, she ignores the quip, bending over to move a large piece of debris. Underneath, she picks up a scrap of metal, looking at it closely before making a face and tossing it aside. Standing up, she dusts her hands off, rolling her neck. “Strange, though,” she says. “Being back.”

Cassian shrugs but doesn’t let himself look around. He doesn’t trust himself not to agree with her.

It’s probably ironic, the way Jyn opens up to him now. For as reticent as an asset as she started out to be, she’s always talking to him now. She tells him things he doesn’t think to know, answers questions he’s never asked.

“I have dreams about it, sometimes,” she admits, reaching down to snag another piece of metal. It clatters away, sliding off down the pile. “Nightmares, really.”

This much he actually knows. They share a house, the lot of them. The walls are thin.

He throws a piece of sheet rock aside.

“There are just parts of it, things I can’t get out of my mind,” she says, using her scanner for a closer look. She pauses long enough to sigh, giving a fleeting glance over the marred horizon line. “I doubt I’ll ever forget most of it.”

At this, he huffs, using a boot to kick more rubble free. “What is there to forget?” he asks, more caustically than he intends. “It was a success. We won, didn’t we?”

He’s being flippant, and part of him knows that. The idea of victory is hard for all of them to grasp, and the question hangs in the air between them before she looks back down.

Heaving up a slab, she grunts as she lets it fall. “What about you?” she presses, and Cassian can see the beads of sweat starting to collect at her hairline. “What do you remember?”

She’s talking casually, like this is normal chitchat.

There’s nothing normal, though.

Not about Cassian.

Not about this place.

He swallows, grinding his teeth together for a moment as he scales to a new pile. “Honestly? Not as much as you,” he admits. He gives a short, one-shouldered shrug. “I mean, the lead up, sure. I remember all of that. And I remember the pain when I got shot, and seeing you at the top.”

She’s watching him. He makes a point not to look back. “What about the climb?” she asks. “I didn’t think you’d ever make that climb in your condition.”

“The climb -- that I do not remember,” he admits wryly. He almost smile, checking his scanner. “I figure that is probably for the best. I don’t even remember how we got down off the platform to the beach. The next thing I knew, the light was coming.”

She straightens. “You don’t remember the rescue?”

“Why do you think I was so surprised?” he asked, starting to move a few more pieces. “I thought I was dead.”

It’s her turn to give a wry chuckle. “Well, you were pretty out of it.”

For several moments, they both work, scaling through the wreckage for any sign of K2. This is something of a relief to him, but it is very short lived.

“That climb, though,” she continues, as though no time had passed. “Why did you climb after me?”

He makes a face, wincing as he stubs his finger on an exposed piece of glass. “What?”

“You climbed after me after you got shot, but you didn’t go back for K2,” she presses. “Why?”

That’s a question, isn’t it? Cassian feels a tingle go down his spine, and his vision whites out for a moment.

“Cassian?”

This time, he can’t help but look at her. Her eyes are on him, and it’s not a comfortable thing for him. He’s spent most of his life going unnoticed. Her undivided attention is almost more than he can stand.

“He stopped communicating under duress,” Cassian tells her, the words falling off his numb lips. “The communication lines were still open, so I could only come to one probable conclusion.”

That’s a good answer; that’s the right answer. Cassian is so convinced of this that he immediately goes back to work.

Jyn, naturally, does not. That would be too easy. “Are you sure that’s it?”

That’s a question too far. He stops, huffing in indignation. All they’ve done; all they’ve been through; all they’ve lost. And that’s the question she asks? That’s the question?

“You were the mission, Jyn,” he says, letting the words resonate. Here, of all places, she should know this. “We put everything on the line for the mission, and I owed it to everyone to make sure you completed it.”

She looks a little surprised. “You didn’t trust me?”

He actually throws his hands up at that, and he feels his temper flaring. “I didn’t want anything to happen to you!”

“But what about K2?” she asks.

“You think I don’t think about that?” he shoots back, sharper than ever. “Because I do, every night. Every morning. Every day. I mean, I know what I had to do, and I know I’d do it again. It was the right thing, going after you. It was the right thing.”

The thing that made careers worthwhile. The thing that gave absolution to sinners. The thing that justified all the rest.

Her look now is frustratingly sympathetic. “But sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.”

He’s so ready to be angry -- he’s half worked himself up to an explosion -- that he almost does understand her answer at first. He hears the words, of course, but it takes his brain a full second to comprehend them.

Because that’s the thing, too.

The thing that has kept him from sleep. The thing that has stolen his joy. The thing that has prevented him from ever leaving this place behind.

“No,” he says, quieter now. His voice feels hoarse as it echoes in his throat. “It doesn’t.”

The admission doesn’t make him feel any better, and it does nothing for Jyn either. Her expression is so drawn that he doesn’t have the heart to remind her that he had wanted to work in silence.

He can’t say that, though. Not to her. Not now. Not here.

Looking up, he can still see where the tower is supposed to be. He still remembers the vast blue skies the day they first came.

For all Cassian forgets, there are things he remembers.

“Look,” he says, letting out a long breath. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time in the Rebellion it’s that choices are not usually all right or all wrong. Sometimes there are only losing options. And I don’t regret going after you.”

It’s as much as Cassian’s spoken to her in seven months.

It’s as much as he can bring himself to speak to her now.

It seems to be enough, for now. She smiles slightly. “The mission, right?”

“Yes,” he says stiffly as he goes back to work. “The mission.”

-o-

Seven months ago, when he’d first woken up, Cassian had been confused. Nothing had made sense. His body had been weak, and even the simplest of tasks wore him out. His appetite had left him, and he slept more than he was awake. They had tried to tell him things, about his injuries, about how they got off of Scarif and about the Rebellion’s choice to cut them loose. They’d even tried, each in their own ways, to talk to him about K2.

If those details had never been parsed out for him adequately, he told himself that it was okay. They’d succeeded, after all. The mission had been complete.

For someone like Cassian, that had always been enough. No matter the cost.

Seven months later, Cassian’s not sure it would ever be enough now.

Which is why it’s silly, probably, to think that this mission will solve anything. He’s probably being foolish, making the assumption that any part of K2 will be salvageable after a blast like that. Does he honestly believe, even if something did survive, that they’ll be able to find it? The debris stretches around the planet like a vast sea, and the heavy skies offer no insight into what lies beneath. This is a risk they probably shouldn’t take; a hope they probably shouldn’t let themselves believe.

It’s the mission, though.

The only sure thing Cassian has ever known.

-o-

It’s a matter of security that Cassian maintains hourly check-ins with the other team. No matter what precautions they may be taking, they are still in enemy-held territory. They need to be careful.

If it’s reassuring to hear the sound of their voices, that’s completely coincidental.

“We’re clearing a significant amount of ground,” Bodhi explains to him over the line. He sounds younger than before, somehow. Happier, too. “Baze is surprisingly good at moving things--”

This is not so much a surprise.

“And Chirrut,” Bodhi enthuses. “He’s got this sense of where to look and what we’ll fine--”

More things on the list that no longer surprise him. It’s hard to believe they’ve only been on one mission together, the way it feels to work with them.

One mission.

Cassian shakes his head to clear it. “But nothing of substance?”

“No, unfortunately,” Bodhi says, and he sounds genuinely crestfallen. “But we’ll press on, yes?”

Cassian rubs at the scruff on his chin, looking out over the scene. It’s impossible to see the sun with the pollution in the atmosphere, but it feels like midday. “I wish we could have another team or two to operate,” he says wistfully.

“Sure, but all we need is ten men, right?” Bodhi asks. “Or five. We can still make it feel like a thousand.”

That’s the second time they’ve used that on him, and Cassian can’t explain why it turns his stomach so hard. “I didn’t realize you would all take me so literally when I told you that,” he says, and he can still remember it, the feeling of his heart in his throat. It was the last time he saw most of those men alive. “I’m not exactly known for being a man of my word.”

“But we trust you, even if it wasn’t all the truth,” Bodhi tells him. “I mean, yes, Jyn was the heart. She was the reason why we started the mission, but you -- you were the reason we finished it. You were the head. Rogue One -- it’s yours.”

It’s not just words; it’s everything else. It’s the fact that he never asked for Rogue One, never asked for any of this. Now that it’s his, he’s not sure what to do with it.

He shakes his head. “Rogue One belongs to all of us,” he says. “No leaders; no followers.”

This seems like the right answer, at least it’s the only answer Cassian knows how to give. He can’t explain that he’s not ready for this responsibility, that he’s not sure he deserves it even if they want him to take it. After all, Rogue One’s first mission was a shining success -- and Cassian is terrified about that. Because Cassian’s half the man that he was, and his best friend is lying in a pile of rubble, and three wayfarers think he’s in charge and there’s a woman who can see right through him but refuses to call him on anything.

He’s not fit to lead these people, but damn it all for being so hard. He’s not sure how to be their equal either, and he knows he’s worn out his welcome following orders.

The worst part is, they don’t know it all.

“Copy that,” Bodhi chirps. “We’ll let you know if we find anything.”

It’s a promise, Cassian knows. There’s no reason for it to feel like a threat.

Then again, in a galaxy like this, there’s no reason for a lot of things.

-o-

If K2 were here, this job would be done by now.

That’s ironic, Cassian tells himself while he searches. Yes, K2 could move debris faster and more efficiently than any of them combined, but if K2 were with them, they would haven’t to be here at all.

Irony is a son of a bitch, that’s what it is. Because K2 was the only one who started any of this with him. K2 was the one who knew Cassian better than anyone else. But now, K2 is gone, and Cassian is living with relative strangers.

K2 would never let him live that down, no way, no how.

“What am I that you search for me in a garbage heap? Really, Cassian. You’ve left me with bad cover stories before, but this time I must protest.”

“Sorry, old friend,” Cassian mutters under his breath. “I won’t let it happen again.”

“I should think not. Though you do make an erroneous assumption that I’d let you.”

See, droids can lie when they have to.

They can also be more human than anything with flesh and blood.

Sure, Cassian could have programmed K2 to do anything for him.

He never had to, though.

Cassian’s got no idea what love actually looks like, but he thinks that’s a pretty close start.

-o-

“Come on,” Jyn says when they clear the next quadrant. She sits down, rustling through her pack. “We need to rest.”

Cassian walks past her. “Not now.”

She catches him, her hand on his wrist. The grip is firmer than he expects, and he turns to face her. “You need to rest,” she says again, effectively staring him down.

She’s good, but she’s not that good. Because if it’s a contest between them to see who’s more of a stubborn bastard, he’ll give her a damn good run for her money. “I’m fine.”

The art of understatement has a big part in the world of espionage. The trick is to say enough to shut people up without saying anything to give yourself away. Cassian’s good at that kind of thing.

Jyn isn’t bad herself, though. “You’re not fine,” she says. “You’re about to fall over. Ten minutes won’t hurt anyone.”

“Ten minutes?” he scoffs. “It’s been seven months.”

“It’s been more than that for all of us,” she reminds him. “You can’t measure what we’ve been through in minutes or hours.”

He steps back, pulling his hand free as he works his jaw. “You didn’t want to rest before,” he points out. “When this was your mission.”

“We were on a deadline then.”

“And we’re not now?” Cassian asks. “I know he’s just a droid to you, but it’s been seven months. He’s been rusting here, his parts decomposing for seven months.

She sits back, her jaw on edge. “I know how long it’s been?”

His face screws up in indignation. “Do you?”

And he’s angry at her, angry at everything. He’s angry at this planet, he’s angry at the Empire. He’s angry at the Rebellion. He’s angry at K2 for going down fighting when he should have cut and run.

Cassian’s just so angry.

“Of course I do,” Jyn says, and she’s less angry than she is hurt. “I’m the one who’s be doing all the work for these past seven months, letting you recover. I’m the one who made sure we were all okay, that we had a place to live, that we had supplies to live on. And I’m the one who planned this mission, who found you the intelligence and called in the favors. I’ve watched you, all of you, heal. I’ve watched you grow, day by day by day. You don’t think I know how long it’s been?”

She’s right, of course. She has to be right.

Which is the one thing -- the very thing -- Cassian cannot handle now. Maybe never.

He stiffens, as if she’s hit him. “No one asked you to stay.”

Because that’s what you do, in Cassian’s world. When someone shows you care about them, you have to stab them in the heart. Not all blades are made from metal, though.

The effect is the same.

Something bright flashes in Jyn’s eyes, and she visibly recoils from him. “Then maybe I shouldn’t.”

It’s not totally clear if he’s hurt her or offended her, but it really is not an important distinction. At least, not now. Not to Cassian.

Not when he’s just as hurt and offended. “Fine,” he says, almost spitting the words. He’s an angry man, and he always has been. He just has far fewer outlets to hide it now. “Then why are you even still here?”

He gets stupid when he’s like this, and he gets reckless. It’s a strange thing, when you have everything and nothing to lose.

Cassian doesn’t even understand that; he doesn’t understand anything. He doesn’t know why he’s here and K2 isn’t. He doesn’t grasp how the Rebellion he was willing to die for gives him nothing but an anonymous obituary.

He doesn’t understand her, even. What’s her mission? What’s her motivation?

Why is she still here?

She sets her jaw, raising her chin just so. “Well,” she says shortly. Her lips tremble when she pushes them together. “Maybe I’m not.”

That’s it, then. He’s too stuck in his place to stop her, not that he could if he wanted to. He’s never been able to make Jyn do anything, so when she walks away, he pretends like it really was his idea all along.

There’s a lesson to success in that. You can claim any victory if you just pretend like the worst possible outcome was really the one you wanted from the start.

She climbs over the rubble, disappearing over an embankment before he sees her head bobbing away into the afternoon haze.

This is for the best anyway, he tells himself as he watches her walk away.

He really does need to be alone.

(For the love of the Force, he’s always been alone.)

-o-

If she’s gone, he keeps thinking, this should be easiers. There’s no one to slow him down; no one to distract him. He can focus on the task at hand. He can get the mission done.

After all, he rationalizes as he strains through another pile, he’s always been a great solo agent. That’s how the Rebellion had always classified him.

He grunts, letting rubble slide out of his way.

They’d been idiots, though. The Rebellion leaders, his commanding officers, they hadn’t counted on K2 like he had. Because Cassian, he’d never actually been alone.

He pauses, wiping sweat from his forehead.

That had been the Rebellion’s loss anyway, he tells himself.

He looks out over the wreckage with no sign of any change.

Now it’s his.

Gritting his teeth, he ignores the exhaustion deep in his bones, and gets back to work.

-o-

This time, it’s Chirrut who answers.

He may have sent Jyn away (it was her choice, damn it), but he’s still in commander mode. Besides, he’s desperate to hear if the others have had any more luck than he has in the search.

The galaxy can be burning, but at least Cassian’s following orders.

He hates that that’s not true anymore. There are no orders. It’s impossible to tell, when he thinks about it, what he’s actually doing anymore.

“To make a long story short,” Chirrut is saying, seemingly oblivious to Cassian’s internal crisis. “I don’t think there’s any definitive progress, but I can’t give you the most accurate updates since they won’t let me help.”

He sounds quite proud of this conclusion.

Cassian closes his eyes and waits for the retort he doesn’t have to give.

“You can’t help,” Baze grunts from the background. His voice crackles over the line. “You can’t even see.”

“But the internal eyes to the Force are more powerful than anything your tired eyes could discern,” Chirrut says, like he’s been rehearsing this.

He probably has.

“Except for the rubble you keep tripping on,” Baze says. “Honestly, Cassian. We’ve already had to bandage him twice. I was worried that if he helped anymore, we’d be back at the shuttle for a med kit.”

“The Force is vast!” Chirrut exclaims. “What do you expect?”

Cassian can’t listen to this, he can’t. He’s been listening to it for seven months, and Force or no Force, he’s pretty sure he’ll have the nervous breakdown he so clearly deserves right here, right now if this doesn’t stop.

Now.

“So,” he interrupts with the last vestiges of his self control. “Nothing to report, then?”

That had been his question, after all.

Ten minutes and a throbbing headache later, here they are.

“I’m sorry,” Chirrut says, and he sounds sincere now. “Despite appearances, we are trying very hard. We’re clearing sectors ahead of schedule.”

“I’m sure you are,” Cassian mumbles absently. That’s the good thing about working with K2. There had been no need for inspirational speeches. Cassian can pull one or two off -- in his lifetime. After meeting Jyn, he’s pretty sure he’s expended them both. “Nevermind.”

Nevermind, now there’s an intelligent conclusion. Seven months, twenty years and all he has is nevermind.

He presses his finger between his eyes, trying to assuage the pressure.

“Cassian,” Chirrut’s voice cuts over the line. “I know why this matters to you.”

The words are so clear, so directed, so without guile that Cassian opens his eyes in confusion. “What?”

“I know why this matters,” Chirrut says again. “You don’t leave your partner behind. K2. You don’t want to leave him behind.”

It’s the truth, quite naturally, so there’s no real reason for it to hit Cassian like a ton of bricks. Maybe it’s because they’re here. Maybe it’s because Cassian can see the damage. Maybe because it’s more than scars on his skin and a career he no longer has.

Maybe it’s just because for all that they won on Scarif, Cassian lost everything at the same time. This place has stripped him of everything, and standing on its barren surface is the harshest reminder he could ask for.

For that brief insight from Chirrut, there is no lasting reprieve.

“That’s too sentimental,” Baze mutters. “People don’t really live like that.”

“Oh, they don’t?” Chirrut asks.

“Not really,” Baze returns.

“Then you,” Chirrut says. “Why didn’t you leave?”

“And trust you on your own?” Baze asks with a huff of incredulity. “You have never been good with humor.”

“And that is my point exactly,” Chirrut says, and Cassian can actually hear him beaming. “We’ll find him, Cassian. It is the will of the Force to seek resolution, to seek balance.”

There it is. The point Cassian wants to fight but no longer has the energy to try. “Well, then,” he says, letting out a long breath. “If the Force says so, then who am I to argue?”

He kills the line after that, letting the communicator hang limply in his hand. He looks out and wishes he were making progress in this. He has the data to tell him he is, but standing here, it doesn’t seem like it. At all.

He sighs again, putting the communicator away.

It’s been the longest seven months of his life.

And counting.

-o-

With nothing else to do, Cassian gets back to work. He’d like to say that’s because he’s innately practical, but the truth is, he’s pretty sure if he doesn’t keep moving, he’s going to collapse right here and let this planet finish what it started with him.

That’d be easier, he reflects. He’s scrapped so long and hard to survive that it’s seemingly impossible to give up, but he’s given up a lot of things he didn’t think he could do without lately.

He pauses, lifting his head to wipe the trails of sweat running toward his eyes.

The Force, Chirrut talks about. The Force wants balance.

That’s funny, actually. All the bad things people do in the name of good causes. All the good things people do in the name of bad causes. There is no Dark and Light; there are no heroes and villains. It’s just a mess.

And besides, what has the Force ever done for him?

He sighs, looking back at the pile he is currently excavating.

Here he is, though. A dead man standing on his own grave.

Grunting, he gets back to work.

Stranger things have happened.