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

December 27th, 2017 (09:13 pm)
discontent

feeling: discontent

PROLOGUE
PART ONE
PART TWO



-o-

He’s a little surprised, all things being equal, that Jyn returns a short while later. It’s not like he thought she’d disappear entirely -- there’s not really any place to go, and even if she’s pissed, it’s not like Jyn’s going to steal the ship and take off without them.

Still, the things he said to her, the way he said it -- her leaving seems appropriate. In fact, it feels like it’s been coming for quite some time now. Seven months coming, to be frank.

She’s the one, after all, who kept them all together. She’s the one who kept them all going. She’s the one who made their house a home, who made sure they ate regular, healthy meals. She’s the one who’s done all the work, big and small.

And all Cassian can do is ask her why.

Why take the time to nurse him back to health? Why buy a house with enough space for all of them? Why go to such pains to secure new identities for all of them? Why stock the kitchen with Chirrut’s favorite fruit? Why invest in Bodhi’s favorite holo-program? Why make sure there’s a shooting range in the back for Baze? Why put books by Cassian’s author by his bed every night, just because?

Cassian’s too smart not to know why, but there’s a difference between having actionable intelligence and knowing what to do with it.

Right now, Cassian’s too dumbfounded to start.

He looks at her.

She looks back.

She looks pretty, somehow. Smudged and dirty, her figure is dark against the hazy horizon.

“You came back,” he says, somewhat stupidly.

“Of course I did.”

“I wouldn’t have blamed you if you didn’t,” he says, and the realization falls over him like an ice-cold bath. “In fact, I don’t know why you’ve stayed this long.”

“Then you really are stupider than I thought,” she says with a snort. “There’s a reason I stayed, Cassian. And it had nothing to do with a mission at all.”

Something twinges in his chest, and he feels weak in the knees. “Jyn,” he says, voice almost breaking on her name. “I don’t know anything outside the mission.”

She crosses toward him and nods her head. “I know,” she says with a sad smile. “That’s why we’re here. To finish the mission.”

His heart skips a beat this time. “But then what?”

Because that’s the question, isn’t it? Where is this headed? What comes next? For seven months, he’s tolerated everything else so he could find K2 and close this mission. The fact that there’s nothing after that…

Cassian doesn’t know.

It’s all he can do to keep from shuddering. He hopes she doesn’t see.

She does. “I don’t know,” she admits, but her smile is gentle. “But we’ll figure it out when we get there.”

That’s nothing, really. That’s nothing at all. Just a promise.

Words.

Thinner than the air they’re breathing now.

She bends over, going back to work.

It’s remarkable, when he thinks about it. The way she can turn the promise of nothing into the hope of something.

That’s the kind of thing men lay down their lives for.

He wonders, for a moment as he follows her back down, if it’s enough for a man to pick his life up again, too.

-o-

Jyn’s return boosts his spirits, but it can’t last. The day wears on, hot and long, and by the time the light starts to dim, Cassian’s is thoroughly exhausted deep in his bones with nothing to show for his effort.

Nothing.

No sign of K2.

Nothing.

That’s what it comes to, sometimes. Cassian knows this, better than most people. He’s always been pragmatic in the field, and he’s always accepted the reality of cutting his losses as needed. He’s considered nearly everyone and everything to be expendable, to some degree, and he knows -- he knows -- that not every mission will succeed.

Failure, in broader terms, is an acceptable part of the larger battle.

You have to win some and lose some.

That’s just how it works.

But damn it all, this one is supposed to succeed.

This one has to succeed.

If he fails, then what will become of K2? If he fails, what will happen to this makeshift team? If he fails, what will he have to show for seven months of prep work? If he fails, then how is he supposed to move on?

For the love of all that is good in this galaxy, if he fails, what is he supposed to do?

Retire? Is he to accept the Rebellion’s decision and retire in the countryside on some half-forgotten planet? Is he supposed to sit back and tune out the news, letting someone else fight his war?

Should he eat, drink and be merry while K2 lies in pieces?

Should he make nice with Jyn, settle down, while someone else destroys the Empire?

Is he supposed to put away his gun and take up a hoe? Should he become a farmer and fall and love, as people are wont to do in this galaxy? Is he supposed to go on walks with Chirrut to see the morning sun, and drink ale with Baze when the stars come up? Should he take Bodhi under his wing, be the older brother the young man needs to make a way for himself in this life?

And Jyn. Should he follow Jyn’s lead and pretend like this is what he wants? Is he supposed to fall in love now? Is he supposed to surrender his heart like he’s surrendered everything else?

Should he pretend, when all is said and done, that this is a life he deserves?

Because it’s not like it hasn’t crossed his mind. Even before Jyn was around, he thought fondly of settling down. He’d see a woman on the street, he’d see couples walking hand and hand, and he’d wonder. He’d want.

And Jyn, she’s easy to want. Strong and smart. Brave and bold. But thoughtful, too. Measured. She’s stayed for a lot of reasons. He suspects -- he knows -- what one of them could be.

But if this is the dream come true. If this is the happily ever after. Then how does he start it? How does he build it when he’s walked away empty handed? He let them take the rest; he didn’t object to any of this, but this -- he needs.

This new life, whatever it may be, needs a foundation.

And all he has is nothing.

Just a lot of debris and no one to blame but himself.

Frustrated, he hurls the closest piece of rubble, taking some satisfaction as it clatters and clangs to the ground. “There’s nothing here,” he growls, hands on his hips.

Jyn has stopped, looking up from her vantage point. “Well, I’m not quite done with this corner yet--”

“You shouldn’t bother,” Cassian huffs. “It’s not this sector. It’s this planet. There’s nothing here.”

Jyn has moved closer to him, offering a one-shouldered shrug. “Well, the next sector--”

“No, Jyn,” he snaps, a quick shake of his head. “We’ve spent our whole day, and for what? What have we found? What have we gained?”

“The plan was designed to cover as much ground as possible--” she explains, like it makes a difference now.

Like it ever did.

“Nothing,” he says, eye to eye with her now. “That’s the answer. We’ve found nothing. We’ve gained nothing. We’ve looked and we’ve planned and we’ve worked and we’ve done all we could, and for what? For what? This?”

He throws his arms wide.

“This?” he asks again, letting the dust prove his point. “There’s no hope in this!

He lashes out at that, kicking the closest piece of debris. He kicks again, sending a whole heap falling, and as it skitters away from him, he picks up a pipe and attacks another pile just behind him. He’s always wanted to build something bigger than himself, but if he can’t do that, destruction doesn’t look so bad for once.

At least it’s progress.

He lashes out until the ground is cleared around him, and his energy is spent. He makes a move, but the futility of it catches up with him, and his knees give way. He’s on the ground, the pipe slipping from his limp fingers as everything breaks on a sob.

The first one is loud and jarring, and it feels it being ripped out of him with a force that leaves him spent.

The second one comes with a harsher intensity, and by the third, he has no more resistance. It’s not a pretty sight, he’s sure, to see a grown man crying in a wasteland. He’d be embarrassed if he had the strength, and if Jyn hadn’t already seen him for the failure that he is.

Maybe that’s why he refuses to let her get close. She knows too many of his secrets. She knows the kind of man he is.

Her pity just makes it worse.

He shakes his head as the tears taper off. His nose feels stuffed up and his eyes are burning. “There’s no hope in this,” he repeats, hoarsely now as his anger deflates to misery.

She comes closer to him, kneeling behind him. Her fingers are light on his shoulder, but they squeeze firmly.

Craning his head, he looks up at her. He can feel the tears still streaked on his face as her eyes meet his.

“There’s some, Cassian,” she says it like a promise now. “There’s some.”

-o-

It’s Cassian who tells them they can make the risk to stay the night, but that doesn’t mean as much as it might seem. After all, it’s Bodhi who sends a message to the Imperial fleet, convincingly explaining their need to postpone departure. And it’s Baze and Chirrut who set up a scouting pattern, just to make sure the landing area is secure in case they need to make an emergency lift off.

As he settles does to rest for the night alongside Jyn, he half suspects this has been part of her plan all along.

“You don’t have to do this, you know,” he tells her when they’re both quiet enough to be asleep. “None of you do.”

“Sure we do,” Jyn replies, not rustling under her blanket. “K2 was part of Rogue One.”

“You hardly knew him,” Cassian argues.

Her voice is clear in the darkness. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Doesn’t it?” he asks. They’ve retreated to the ship for safety reasons, and he can just make out Bodhi’s outline where he’s asleep at the conn.

“They’re following you,” she says. “They have been, since Scarif. Since before.”

“No,” Cassian says, shaking his head. “We followed you. You’re the one who rallied us all. I’m not a leader.”

“Huh,” Jyn says. “Tell that to the men who follow you.”

He props himself up, incredulous. “But I only came to Scarif following you.”

In the darkness, he can see the whites of her eyes as she blinks up at him. “That makes things complicated now, doesn’t it?”

She’s being willfully obtuse in a way that’s supposed to be charming. But Cassian is in no mood to be charmed. “It’s an operational disaster. We can’t do this, though,” he protests. “How can we be a unit if we don’t know who the leader is?”

“Ah,” she says, sounding indifferent now. She raises her eyebrows like she’s already figured this answer out. “But who says we have to be a unit?”

He lets out a snort of incredulity that’s loud enough to make Bodhi snuffle in his sleep. When he’s managed to collect his composure, he doesn’t turn away from her now. “Then what are we?” he asks, tone tinged with accusation. “If we’re not a unit, then what is Rogue One?”

“Hard to say for sure,” she muses, looking back up toward the ceiling of their appropriated shuttle. She sighs, letting her eyes close. “But my credits are on a family.”

He wants to snort; he wants to tell her how ridiculous she’s being. But his look of sheer amazement is not returned. She won’t even look at him now. In fact, as he watches, he’s pretty sure she actually falls asleep.

It’s another five minutes, ten minutes, two hours, before Cassian realizes she believes what she says.

He wonders, as he drifts off to sleep himself, how long it will be before he realizes she’s right.

-o-

If reality is cruel, sleep is hardly a refuge. For months, Cassian slept under the influence of painkillers and medication. Once he’d been cleared of infection and his pain levels had been manageable, he’d been eager to live without the hassle of medications twice a day.

At least, until the dreams started.

Cassian’s never been much of a dreamer, and he’s not necessarily proud of the fact that all the crimes he’s committed never haunted his sleep. In that light, it’s rather ironic that it’s the mission he used to set everything right that haunts him the most.

He dreams of Stormtroopers on the beach, blasting his men -- the ones he rallied to the cause. He dreams of their burned bodies, dismember limbs, still in ash beneath the very shuttle they’re sleeping in.

Sometimes he dreams of AT-ATs, splashing through the water. He sees images of walkers, turning their turrets toward him, taking aim, taking aim and taking aim.

Other times, he’s wearing an officer’s garb and climbing a shaft that never ends. He’s looking through files that aren’t quite alphabetized. He’s pulling out the data disc, just to watch it fall and fall and fall.

There are even dreams of Krennic, laughing as he fires. He’s the only one who talks to Cassian, shaking his head and tisking his tongue. “We’re not so different, Cassian,” he says, even if he never knew Cassian’s name. Sometimes Cassian’s not sure he knows his own name. That doesn’t matter, though. A name is nothing, not compared to a man. “We’ve made sacrifices, you understand. We both make sacrifices.”

Tonight, though, he dreams of K2.

He remembers the day he met the droid, when the damn thing had nearly blasted him in the head. It had been pure luck, managing to disable him, and his makeshift efforts to reprogram the droid had been a tactical improvisation at first, just to get the mission finished.

When his tinkering was done, K2 wasn’t exactly the compliant source of information he’d hoped. In fact, listening to the droid bicker at him the whole flight back, he’d been tempted to drop him off at a junk seller to collect a few credits.

“It was a logical decision to keep me,” K2 tells him. He shakes his head disapprovingly. “Even if you made it for all the wrong emotional reasons.”

There’s nothing to say to that, and all of Cassian’s apologies are stuck in his throat.

K2 actually sighs, a mechanical whine, deep in his circuits. “No matter,” he says. “You made the logical choice in the end.”

Cassian feels the words, piercing his heart.

K2 tilts his head. “Didn’t you?”

There’s no answer to give because K2’s already gone. K2’s been gone for seven months, and Cassian’s chasing the dust. He’s got all the right emotional reasons now, but all the wrong logical decisions. And if K2 were here, he could Cassian to a fraction of a percent, what the likelihood was of total and abject failure.

K2’s not here, though.

The only family Cassian had.

Correction: the only family he used to have.

-o-

He wakes up alone.

For a moment, this seems entirely right.

But then, he remembers.

He’s not alone, not technically. Looking from side to side, he realizes that Jyn’s sleeping gear has been packed and stowed. He sits up, jolting somewhat, but Bodhi’s not in the cockpit anymore.

The gears are turning in his head, and usually Cassian’s pretty quick on the draw, but he’s coming up blank this time. For all that he’s never wanted them, he fully expects them to be here. At first, it’s a swell of worry -- what if something’s gone wrong -- and then it’s a knowing dread.

Like this is how it’s supposed to be.

He swallows hard, scrambling to his feet. He half trips on his sleep gear, leaving it balled in a bunch as he stumbles to his feet. “Bodhi?” he calls out, ducking his head into the cockpit. He spins, finding nothing. “Jyn?”

His own voice echoes back at him, and he mutters a curse. It’s instinct to grab his gun, checking its charge as he marches toward the exit. The ramp goes down with a whoosh, and he squints as he steps out into the hazy morning light.

It’s later than he thought, and the heat has already ratcheted up significantly from the night. It occurs to him only briefly that he’s still dressed in his t-shirt and pants, his boots loosely tied as he clomps down the catwalk.

“Baze!” he calls out, giving it like an order. “Chirrut!”

On the ground, the air seems to close around him, and he feels sweat almost beading along his hairline. Even so, a chill goes down his spine.

“Baze!” he barks again, pulling his gun and holding it at the ready. He keeps his back to the ship, out of instinct. “Chirrut!”

There’s no sign of them; there’s no sign of anyone.

For a horrible, terrible moment, Cassian wonders if this is reality. He wonders if the last seven months have been a dream and this is where he is. That maybe he never left Scarif, that he’s just part of the dust of the atmosphere and all the rest has been a dwindling fantasy before…

There’s a beep and a sharp crackle.

It startles him so bad that he nearly has a heart attack.

Which is to say, naturally, that he’s not part of the dust of the atmosphere.

He face flushes red as the beep sounds again, and he remembers himself. Reaching down, he plucks his communication device from his belt. “Hello?”

“Cassian!” Jyn says.

Of course it’s Jyn.

He’s relieved, and he feels totally embarrassed, all at the same time.

“Jyn,” he says, trying to make the word come out normal. He feels the sweat now, dripping down his temples. He closes his eyes against the tears. “Where are you?”

“Out in sector 46,” she says. “I got a bit of an early start.”

He opens his eyes, his emotions spiking again. “Without me?”

“We decided it was best if you sleep,” Jyn explains rationally.

As if that’s rational.

As if anything is rational.

The galaxy is turned on its damn head, but at least Jyn feels like she has a point.

He presses his palm against his forehead. “We?”

“We talked about it after you fell asleep,” she continues.

“Without -- without me?” he asks, voice starting to falter again. He tries to pace, but his legs barely work.

“You were working yourself ragged,” she says.

He almost explodes at that, and the emotion is so intense that he almost chokes on the words. “Well -- of course -- this is my mission--”

“Yes,” she says. “About that--”

“No,” he interrupts, shaking his head vehemently. “I know what I said -- what I said last night -- but -- you’re not -- you’re not the one in charge.”

She sighs. “Cassian--”

“No!” he exclaims, ready to fight now.

“But Cassian--”

“But nothing!” he says, and he can’t stop himself if the tears are running now. He laughs hoarsely. “This is my mission. This is what I need to do. I’m the one who left K2, me, and you don’t get to take that from me--”

“But Cassian--”

“You’ve taken everything else,” he continues, unable to stop himself. He feels his breathing hitch as his chest tightens. Things start to spin. “And I don’t know what you think I’m supposed to do -- if I can’t -- I mean, K2 -- and I--”

“Cassian!”

“What?” he says, almost screaming it now. It’s ripped from inside him, and it leaves him breathless. There’s no answer she can give that makes this better. There’s no answer she could have that makes this right.

For a second, he thinks she knows that.

But, as usual, Jyn Erso likes to prove him wrong. “Cassian,” she says, more measured than ever. “I found something.”

Something, he thinks. He lets the word tumble around in his brain. He knows what it means, of course. But he can’t for the life of him figure out what it means. “Something?”

“A plate from his rear circuitry grid,” Jyn says, exciting pitching in her voice. “It’s damaged, of course, but we ran it through diagnostics, and it’s a match, Cassian. It’s a match.”

He can hear her smile; he can practically hear her beaming. His mind is still reeling. Seven months, and it just hasn’t stopped. “Wait,” he says, wetting his lips. He has to brace himself against the ship. “You found…”

“K2,” she interjects, almost gleeful. “We found K2.”

-o-

It’s silly to run, given his lack of physical training in the last seven months. He can still feel the pull in his lungs from the burn trauma. The doctors have told him that it’s all in his mind, but they don’t know. They could never know.

More than that, it’s not exactly safe. He trips and stumbles his way through the debris, and he even scraps himself on metal hard enough to draw blood. The day is already oppressive, and he can feel the soot coating the inside of his chest.

He hasn’t eaten breakfast; he’s not even sure he’s had anything to drink.

All the same, it doesn’t matter.

Because it’s been seven months.

And Cassian’s not waiting a second longer.

-o-

By the time he makes his way to the location, the excavation is already underway. He’s ready to get to business, when he comes across the blanket that’s been laid over the debris-strewn. The parts are mangled, but they’re carefully laid out and the sparse skeleton threatens to bring Cassian to his knees.

“K2,” he breathes, feeling himself start to tremble. The body has one leg and part of a second foot. His core is pieced together with bits and rubble, but the head poised above the shoulders is missing the jaw and the left eye along with most of the internal circuits -- bu it’s plain enough. “K2.”

Jyn comes up alongside him. “Pretty good, huh?” she asks. Her eyes are warm as she looks at Cassian. “We’ve been making good progress.”

Cassian forces himself to swallow, looking up at the others still working. “So there’s...more?”

“We’re finding more stuff all the time,” she says. “It’s a little spread out -- we may have to excavate another grid -- but I think we’ll find what we need.”

He nods, trying to think of something to say. He tries to think of something, anything -- but comes up with nothing.

“Come on,” she says, nodding her head toward the work site. “We could probably use another hand.”

He looks at Jyn. He looks at the worksite.

He looks at K2.

“Okay,” he says, climbing up after her. “Okay.”

-o-

They’re good, this team. Baze and Chirrut are in perfect tandem. For all they may fight, when the pressure mounts, they behave as though they are a single person. Bodhi is still ever eager. Whatever the Empire took from them seven months ago, Bodhi has not relinquished. He is always able, always willing to serve, always ready.

And Jyn works with a determination that defies her small stature. He’s learned never to underestimate -- or overestimate them, for that matter -- but Jyn cannot be so easily classified. She’s surprising and yet reassuringly predictable, and it occurs to Cassian that he’s never felt so comfortable working beside someone ever.

Fast and efficient, they make quick work of the debris field. The excavation is thorough and effective.

Seven months ago, they were an ill-formed united on a suicide mission.

Now, Cassian wonders if they may be something more.

-o-

All the same, it’s hard work.

The physical strain is one thing. The fact that he hasn’t eaten is exacerbated by the heat, and he can almost feel the energy being leached from his body faster than his adrenaline can resupply it. Even with protective gear, the debris has dangers, and they’re all scraped and bloody as they go along.

Then, there’s the emotional strain. This is not something that Cassian is keen to admit, but considering how hard he’s pushed to get them here, he’s pretty sure he doesn’t have to. It’s been seven months since he was last on Scarif, and it may be K2 they’re laying out in pieces, but Cassian feels just as disconnected.

Scarif, after all, took a lot from him. This is not about his injuries; this is not even about K2. It’s about his purpose. It’s about who he is. He knew who he was when he took the mission to Scarif. Coming back, he’s got no idea whatsoever.

And that makes it hard. Because he’s scared they’ll fail this mission.

He’s even more terrified they’ll succeed.

What will Cassian do then? What will become of the team? Who will Cassian be when there’s nothing left to hold him back?

It’s a question he’s avoided for seven months, one he’s circumvented while K2 was still the priority.

It’s one staring him in the face right now.

Along with K2’s other eye and the rest of his skull.

Cassian blinks, dumbfounded. All this searching, and here it is.

Here it is.

“Hey!” he calls out, reaching down to lift it up. “I think I’ve got something!”

That’s a lie, though. The most audacious he’s ever told.

The Force help him now.

He knows he has everything.

-o-

His fingers were trembling as he turned over the skull. Blinking rapidly, it’s work to clear his field of vision. As it is, it takes his mind longer than it should to realize what he’s seeing.

It’s K2 all right -- Cassian would recognize him anywhere. Sure, K2’s a standard Imperial droid, but they’ve been through battle together. Cassian knows the gouge over his eye from a firefight two systems away. He knows the criss-crossing fine lines from their adventures in a factory in Geonosis -- K2 had been angry about that. And that piece of metal that is plated onto the temple is from a crash landing on a remote moon. They’d been stuck there for weeks, just the two of them. Cassian had done the fix-up work himself, with mixed results. K2 had lamented Cassian’s craftsmanship -- or lack therefore -- but he’d never bothered to get it reworked by a proper mechanic.

“You have your scars,” K2 had told him languidly. “Now I have mine.”

It’s a little more than that now.

The skull has been blasted in half, and while the front facade has already been laid out with the other parts, this skull is the critical stuff. The circuitry is charred around the edges, but when he digs down deeper, he’s pleased to see it’s surprisingly intact. Being buried, it’s even less dirty that Cassian might expect, which means there’s been little chance for decay in the past seven months.

“It looks good,” Jyn comments over his shoulder. She sounds genuinely surprised. “How’s the access panel?”

Cassian turns it over, running his fingers along the still seal compartment. “Not bad,” he says. “There’s still a lot of damage, of course.”

“But not as much as you might think,” Baze says.

“I told you,” Chirrut muses with an I-told-you-so tone. “The Force works in mysterious ways.”

“When did you ever say that?” Baze asks.

Cassian isn’t listening, though. He’s tracking the major data components, trying to see which processes are still intact, and identifying the ones that will need to be replaced.

“Here,” Bodhi says, holding a bag out. “It’s the external power source.”

Cassian looks at it, blank.

“It’s a limited supply, but if should supply enough energy to, well,” Bodhi says, shrugging one shoulder. “You know.”

He looks back at K2. It’s a strange thing to hold a life in your hands. Cassian’s done it more times than he can count, and it never felt like this. All the blood on his hands, and it’s the cold, hard surface of a droid that gives him pause.

It’s even stranger, Cassian decides, what makes you human. It’s not a beating heart. Not when Cassian hardly counts.

He does know, though. He knows this is the moment to find out if the mission is a success or a failure.

He’s waited seven months.

For all that he’s hated that, he thinks he hates the next part more.

What if it fails? What if K2 is gone?

What if it doesn’t? What if K2’s fine and there’s nothing left to make right?

Seven months.

And one last second to find out.

He takes the pack, slinging it down. “Okay,” he says, unzipping it. He places K2’s head carefully down in front of him. “Let’s see what we’ve got.”

-o-

It’s small, intricate work, which is exactly the sort of thing Cassian’s always been good at. While he’s not thoroughly trained in electronics, he knows what he’s doing. More than that, he’s just the kind of man who knows how to pay attention to detail. His way of defeating the Empire is to move the wires around, to cross the circuits just enough to cause an overload. The small things that make a big difference.

Working with K2 in the sweltering afternoon is another thing entirely. Cassian swipes at his brow restless. He’s out of practice.

The others don’t want to hover -- Cassian is sure of that -- but they do anyway. He’s too focused to bother with it, though.

“It’s a lot of damage,” Bodhi says, almost cautiously.

Jyn is nodding. “We shouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t work right away. We may need to do more dramatic assembly before we know what we’re looking at.”

“I don’t know,” Baze says. “We’ve seen these droids work with less. The Empire was always sending those down in the end, and they could kill a man even when they’d been blown to pieces.”

“Besides,” Chirrut says. “They may say that machines don’t have a soul, but I’m not sure the Force would agree.”

Cassian can’t listen to them, not now. He’s too busy prying apart the bolts and loosening the screws he’s placed himself. A few more tweak, a little more work, and it’s better than he ever dared to hope.

“Okay,” Cassian says, sitting back on his heels. He reaches for the battery. “I think we can give it a shot now.”

“Cassian,” Jyn cautions. “Maybe I should--”

Cassian shakes his head. He’s not trying to be brusque. He’s just doing what he has to do.

This.

This is what he has to do.

“No,” he says. “I’ve waited seven months for this.”

He turns the battery on, waiting at it hums to life. He can feel the others, holding their breaths collectively. Cassian is too transfixed on K2 to pay them much heed, though.

K2 whirs, and his one eye flickers. Cassian picks up the skull, lifting it until it’s at his eye level. There’s a sputtering, and a puff of smoke comes out the exposed part of the skull while the eye nearly flickers out. With a huff of frustration, Cassian gives it a shake, listening as the circuits buzz loudly.

“Come on,” Cassian says, almost demands really. “Come on.”

An order; a request. It was all the same between them. Cassian gave a lot of orders, and many of them K2 defied. But the ones he followed….

Were the ones that mattered.

The light flickers again but then stabilizes. There’s a long moment while the electricity surges and then settles, holding them all in stillness as K2’s one eye stares back at Cassian blankly.

He takes a breath, licks his lips. “K2?”

This time, the Force help him, Cassian dares to hope.

K2 hums, and Cassian can hear the processes working. “Cassian?” comes a strained, garbled voice. The voice processor has been damaged, and the entire mouth plate is still detached. “Cassian, is that you?”

The others whoop, clapping each other on the back but Cassian finds himself too dumbfounded to reply.

“Cassian,” K2 says, sounding vexed now. “I feel...odd.”

That’s all it takes. That’s all Cassian needs. That’s all.

He dips his head toward K2’s, letting their foreheads touch, and he starts to laugh.

-o-

It’s been a long time since Cassian’s laughed. Honestly, he racks his brain trying to remember. Seven months probably.

Seven months at least.

Tears, on the other hand, have not been so unavoidable.

The pain, at first, was nearly impossible to manage. He’d neglected his pain meds out of a stubborn need to punish himself, and the healing process left him raw and weak. When movement didn’t pull at his wounds, it exhausted him to his core, leaving him spent at the most basic tasks. Those tears -- of pain and frustrations -- were the ones he could not avoid and they were ones he no longer had the pride to hide.

The others, though, cried in the quiet emptiness of his room at night, were a more private kind of grief. He’d cried at the unfairness of it all, and he cried for the Rebellion he’d never see come to fruition. He’d cried because he was tired and lonely. He’d cried because K2 was gone, and Cassian had neither the means or strength to rescue him.

With all that, he probably shouldn’t be surprise that the tears come now. In retrospect, the way his laughter breaks unceremoniously on a sob should actually have been written down as a likely contingency in his overall mission plan.

The first cry, anyway. The second one is just as wrenching. The third is almost encompassing, and it shakes him from head to toe. Then, they come faster, one ugly sob after the next until he’s struggling to catch his breath. He wants to stop, but he hasn’t the willpower this time.

All he can do is sit there and let the tears come.

He knows, after all, that these cries are different.

This isn’t pain or frustration. It’s not loneliness or loss. Those tears before, they were cried in secret. These are open, honest and raw. This is as much relief as it is mourning. Because he’s found K2, which means the only thing left to do is to bury the past once and for all.

And for that, more than anything, his tears fall.

He has to cry -- finally -- for the man he was seven months ago. He has to cry for the anonymous eulogy that made him out to be a hero. He has to cry for the cause he triumphed for, the cause he killed for, the cause that killed him. These tears are necessary for the life he’s not sure if he’s wasted or not.

Tears for the second chance he’s not sure he wants or deserves.

He has to cry because Cassian is a broken, wreck of a man, and there are no guises left to hide behind. There are no missions left to obfuscate the obvious. There is no cause to obscure his emptiness.

The tears come, harder and harder still, because for the first time since Jyn rallied him to this cause seven months ago, he’s ready to lay his arms down.

And carry his friends home.

He cries because this time he gets to decide the priorities. Not a commander; not an operative removed from the field. There’s no chain of command to hide behind. Just him, and only him.

He’s sure as hell going to do it right.

-o-

The others give him the space he needs.

This is not just about the practical tasks of recovering as much of K2 as possible and storing the parts carefully for the flight home; this is also about Cassian’s overwhelmingly emotional reaction to his droid.

In another lifetime, this might have been embarrassing to Cassian. These people, Rogue One, have seen him through too much to bother with such trivialities. They’ve seen him through worse over the last seven months.

Besides, it makes sound operational sense. The others can handle the clean up and launch.

It’s Cassian’s job to handle K2.

Back at the ship, he hooks up K2 to a more stable power source, running his circuits through the auxiliary lines in the cargo area. This gives K2 more power to work with, allowing more of his processors to come online. This will allow Cassian to run basic diagnostics while they begin to reassemble the body, and he hopes to have a few more systems operational by the time they lift off.

He can’t kid himself, though. It’ll take weeks for K2 to be more or less functional. It’ll be months before his body is repaired enough to get around. He doesn’t want to even think about how long it will be before he’s field worthy again.

Maybe it’s a good thing, then, that there’s no more missions for them to complete.

That’s Cassian’s only silver lining in this, but he thinks the fledgling sense of optimism is not a bad place to start.

Beneath his touch, however, K2 clearly does not share his hope.

“These inputs don’t make any sense,” K2 says, voice warbling just a touch. “I have little sensory data to work with, and my internal time functions appear to be malfunctioning. How many months did you say had passed?”

“Seven,” Cassian tells him with a kind smile. He tweaks one of the wires, wincing as a few sparks fly.

K2 sputters, a gear clicking audibly behind his eyes. He’s reassembled a good portion of the jaw now, so he at least looks familiar.

“And your circuits have been offline all this time,” Cassian says. “You need to give yourself time.”

Funny, really. How much he sounds like Jyn. She’s something, that one. The way she says things makes you want to believe her, even when you don’t want to.

“We’ll get you there, though,” Cassian assures him. “That’s a promise.”

K2 makes a garbled noise. His eyes flicker once, and he hums loudly. “Cassian,” he says, an understated sense of urgency about him. He’s been told that droids don’t panic -- they don’t have emotion, after all -- but something in K2’s voice sounds desperate all the same. “There seems to be something terribly wrong with my…”

He pauses, as if considering.

“...everything,” is K2’s miserable conclusion.

Cassian nods in sympathy. “Yes,” he says. “Just a bit, my friend. We’re working on it.”

“Ah,” K2 says, and he actually sounds reassured. “So another mission as normal, then?”

At that, Cassian has to grin as he continues his work. “Something like that.”

-o-

Part of him wants to feel bad, sitting there doing nothing while the others work. He knows Bodhi will handle the communication with the patrols in orbit. He trusts that Baze and Chirrut will secure the vessel and make sure there is no trace of who they really are for the Empire to find. And he trusts Jyn, the Force help him, to deal with all the rest. This can be their mission now, as far as Cassian’s concerned.

Instead, he sits with K2, fiddling idly with the units and starting the meticulous process of reconnecting and cleaning his circuits.

“We’re getting ready to disembark,” K2 observes. Cassian realizes that he’s got K2 with his head facing out. “Shouldn’t you be doing your job?”

Cassian chuckles. “How do you know I’m not?”

“You’re fussing with my circuits,” K2 says mirthlessly. “Hardly your area of expertise.”

“I always fix you,” Cassian protests, turning K2 around so they’re face to face again. He still hasn’t reconnected the head to the body, but he’s got K2 running through the ship’s systems now to help with diagnostics.

“A practice that I detest,” K2 says. “You are hardly a qualified mechanic. You’re better off...skulking in alleyways.”

“My days of skulking are done, I’m afraid,” Cassian says ruefully.

“Unless you’ve picked up the study of engineering, I’m not sure that’s very helpful for me,” K2 muses.

“Well, I’ll tell you what,” he says. “When we get back, I’ll get a real engineer -- one who specializes in droids -- to come take a look at you. Would you like that?”

K2 pauses, and Cassian can hear his gears working through the probability of skepticism. “That would be quite nice, thank you,” K2 says finally. “But that begs the question. Where are we going?”

“Ah,” Cassian says, glancing at the others. Chirrut is stowing equipment while Baze starts to bring up the hatch. Jyn is checking systems with Bodhi in the cockpit. “To tell the truth, I’m not totally sure.”

K2 actually scoffs. He’s capable of this thanks to tweaking some years ago, and Cassian likes that that flaw in his subroutines hasn’t be fixed yet. “And what will we be doing exactly?”

This time, Cassian laughs a little harder. “Not a clue.”

“Wonderful,” K2 says dryly. “Then, please enlighten me, what do you know?”

“Well,” Cassian comments thoughtfully. Baze has the hatch closed now, and he’s finishing the rest of the gear with Chirrut. Bodhi is running through a takeoff checklist. There’s something here, something he found on Scarif. Something that, this time, will come with him -- wherever he goes. “I know we’ll be going together. All of us.”

K2’s response is nothing short of incredulity. “And you think that’s enough?”

“Yes, my old friend,” Cassian says, turning the head back over again to see the circuits once more as the engines whir to life. “I think maybe it is.”

-o-

As they take off, Cassian props K2 up so he can see. They sit side by side, positioned across from Chirrut and Baze on the other end of the cargo hold. He can hear Bodhi and Jyn, giving directions to each other, and Cassian can only close his eyes, letting his head drop back with a smile.

It’s been seven months.

All the recovery, all the work, all the lost conversations and subtle conflict.

It took seven months, but this mission is finally -- finally -- over.

If he’s telling the truth -- and Cassian thinks for once, he might be -- he has no idea what to do with that.

But, as they break orbit and head off into the vast reaches of space, Cassian thinks he’s finally ready to find out.