anghraine: cassian andor and jyn erso exchanging a glance (cassian and jyn)
anghraine ([personal profile] anghraine) wrote2017-02-10 02:06 pm

icoooooons

It's the small joys!

And here's another chapter. On Tumblr, I just said "I'm so glad everyone is reading this for domesticity, emotional ineptitude, and EU-ignoring headcanons"—I genuinely thought those might be problems, LOL. Instead, it ended up getting a lot more notes than all but the first, so apparently not. I was genuinely puzzled at first, but it is longer and shippier than usual. (Blankets and touching!)

title: per ardua ad astra (6/?)
verse: Death Star
characters: Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor; Jyn/Cassian (for real! awkward-can't-express-feelings Jyn/Cassian, but nevertheless)
stuff that happens: BACKSTORY HOUR starring Quadruple Agent Cassein Willix and Princess Senator Spy Leia Organa; Jyn gets professional advice; Cassian's neatnik paranoia is not to be stopped by mere broken bones; bonding through geological facts; Jyn behaves very well under very unfair pressures.
previous chapters: one, two, three, four, five

When she murmured I’m not used to people sticking around when things go bad to Cassian, she meant it for him, thanks and explanation and apology rolled up together. As near as she got to any of them. He had to know that. He did know—he’d tilted towards her as she spoke, leaned in to listen and to promise, their steps falling into sync from opposite directions. She never saw him do the same thing with anyone else, not with his soldiers, not Bodhi, not Kay. It wasn’t Captain Andor who told her welcome home.

Jyn still didn’t know exactly what Cassian meant. She wasn’t sure Cassian knew what he meant. But it had something to do with the fact that they stood in the Death Star, Jyn all but twitching with nerves while Cassian concealed what must be agony, and they felt something like safe.


Ten minutes after swallowing the sedatives, Cassian still peppered Jyn with questions. He wanted to know every word she spoke to the quartermaster, the doctor, the NCOs in the mess hall. He wanted every name she’d heard, no matter how trivial. He wanted every detail she’d manufactured about Isidar Lyr, every hint of a hint from Bodhi. He wanted directions to everything she’d seen, her estimates of distances and descriptions of architecture.

In any other circumstance, Jyn would have told him where he could stuff his questions. But he needed to know, if not all of it at this exact moment.

“Do sedatives not work on you?” she finally demanded. She could almost believe he’d built up some sort of resistance. Maybe Draven just dosed his people until they turned immune or dropped dead.

“They’ll work,” Cassian replied, with the slight lilt she was starting to recognize as amusement. “Eventually.”

Jyn rolled her eyes and flopped back on her bed, one knee propped up. After everything, there was an odd relief in annoyance.

“My turn,” she said.

“I have been unconscious for almost two days,” said Cassian. “I know nothing you have not told me.”

His voice steadied as he spoke, flattened into his usual sober practicality. Maybe more. Definitely more. Well, he wouldn’t like that, would he? Jyn knew that Cassian trusted her, probably more than any other living person, but it didn’t mean he cared to depend on information from an untrained third party.

He could talk about agents lacking information, and it might be true enough for most of them. But not for Cassian himself. He wasn’t some foot soldier—whatever went for foot soldiers among spies. He had status and authority, when he chose to use them. He’d raised the forces for their mission before Jyn or anyone else had any idea it’d happened, the Alliance leadership knew who he was, and he seemed to know just about everything there was to know about everyone. She didn’t believe for a single moment that he had a habit of depending on others.

Another thing they had in common. Those were racking up, really. At this rate, they’d turn out to be twins separated at birth.

Ugh.

“You know nothing about the Death Star, maybe,” said Jyn. “But I’m curious about Willix. I’ve never seen an identity slice like it. And I’ve seen some good ones.”

“Have you?”

On the point of answering, she scowled. “I didn’t think you hurt your eardrums. I said Willix, not Hallik.

Cassian didn’t reply, which could mean anything from finally starting to drift off to simmering anger. Jyn chose to take it as compliance.

“I checked his profile,” she went on, “and I don’t know whether to be more impressed or disgusted. Who put that thing together?”

“Disgusted?” said Cassian. “By what?”

Another one of his non-answers. Relevant this time, though, so she let it pass.

“You, or someone—probably multiple someones—went to enormous trouble with Willix,” she told him. “That level of detail … it’s incredibly difficult, and dangerous, too. Easier to get caught that way.”

“Yes,” he said, tone betraying nothing.

“And then you chose Cassein for your secret spy name? Really?” Even lying down, she shook her head. “And I thought Lyr was bad.”

“I did not choose it.” Somehow, his unchanged voice managed to sound slightly offended.

“Well, who did?”

“The Willixes, I assume,” he said.

After one bemused moment, her thoughts adjusted. “He’s real?” That made more sense—the risky accumulation of detail, the easy clearance. “You stole the entire identity of an actual Imperial captain?”

Not as impressive, to be sure. But in another way, more so.

“Mm.” He yawned, and she didn’t know whether to take it as a good sign or misdirection. “The name is common on Alderaan. That we share it is … happy coincidence.”

“You don’t quite share it,” she remarked.

“A dialectical variation.”

Misdirection, Jyn decided. She felt pretty sure that nobody with that many drugs in his system should be able to think the words dialectical variation, much less say them.

Though, common on Alderaan—now that was a distraction. But it kept coming up. Princess Leia of Alderaan, the Rebel spy en route to the Death Star. Her father, the senator from Alderaan who’d founded the Rebellion and actually listened to Jyn’s speech. Cassein Willix, an Alderaanian farmer turned Imperial officer. When she thought about it, she felt as if she saw something out of the corner of her eye, something she should pick up but couldn’t quite make out. Presumably not as happenstance as it seemed, in any case.

She settled for, “Seems odd that the Rebellion would go after some random officer out of Alderaan. It’s as friendly territory as you’ve got, isn’t it?”

Dialectical variation ran through her mind again. Cassian-Cassein. His accent when he dropped into Willix—not much different to her ears, just more pronounced, an easy method for soothing Coruscanti superiority. The way he spoke of Princess Leia, respect and familiarity blended together. He’d weighed in on her appointment, analyzed her strengths and weaknesses, been told when and where she was supposed to be.

“Unless they wanted an Alderaanian,” Jyn said, before he could reply. “Specifically.”

“It was not … essential,” Cassian said. “Preferable, yes.”

“Because of Princess Leia?” asked Jyn. “The Rebellion wanted someone to keep an eye on her?”

“To assist her,” he corrected.

“Right. So they used Willix as her … aide or something?”

Cassian said, “No. An Imperial officer is not an aide to a civilian. But one might occasionally be placed to, ah, protect a senator suspected of Rebel sympathies.”

“Might be?” Pointlessly, she tugged at the grey material loose about her thighs, rubbed the material between her fingers. One of the higher quality fabrics she’d ever worn, really. “If spies whispered in the right ears?”

“Yes.”

If she got out of here, she was burning this uniform. And Cassian’s. But a laugh tickled her throat, too.

“I suppose said spies suggested that an Alderaanian princess might be more likely to lower her guard around an Alderaanian officer,” said Jyn. “Such as, say, Cassein Willix.”

“So I hear,” Cassian replied. “Of course, I was not personally present.”

“Because you had to be Willix.” Despite everything she’d done and lived, her head still swam, a bit. “A Rebel spy, pretending to be an Imperial spy, pretending to protect a different Rebel spy while in fact keeping tabs on her for the Empire, but actually doing it for the Rebellion because she’s invaluable but unreliable. Is that it?”

“Almost,” he said. “The princess’s temperament was a consideration, but we would not expend these resources simply to monitor her. The primary concern was that any transmissions she sent or received would be intercepted. By the nature of her assignment, the Rebellion needed direct contact with her, yet could not risk it. And there were other agents in Imperial City struggling to coordinate under the conditions there.”

Then, she understood.

“You were the Alliance liaison,” said Jyn. “Right there in Imperial City. And that place is a cesspool.”

Cassian replied, “I spent two years there and would be happy never to return.”

“They couldn’t send just anyone, could they?” Not to Coruscant. Otherwise, delivering messages seemed a bit below his pay grade, if he was paid at all. But then, Cassian set loose in Imperial City probably got up to far more trouble than misinformation and passing orders.

She would, anyway.

“Thank you,” said Cassian. He yawned again. This time, she suspected it might be real.

“They needed someone who wouldn’t slip up,” Jyn said, more to herself than him. She thought of the shifting accent again. “Once the Alliance stole Willix, they … what? Looked at their best agents and picked the closest to the real thing they had?”

“More or less.” He definitely sounded sleepy now.

“Let me guess,” she said. “A real Alderaanian wasn’t essential, but preferable. You had the right skills and looks, so you got to be Willix. That must have been a fun conversation.”

“Very exciting,” muttered Cassian. “General Draven said ‘Andor, we need someone to be this Alderaanian farmboy we’ve turned up. You’ll be posted in Coruscant to support Princess Leia.’ And I said, ‘yes, sir.’ ”

That startled a laugh out of her. She had no difficulty whatsoever believing it a precise account, though not one he’d have related in a clearer frame of mind. Most people, of course, grew less careful as they drew near sleep, but she wouldn’t have thought Cassian one of them. She certainly hadn’t noticed anything of the kind back on his ship.

Then again, back on his ship, he hadn’t been twenty minutes into a heavy dose of Imperial soporifics, either.

“Any chance of Willix showing up somewhere and mucking things up?” she asked.

“No,” said Cassian, with utter certainty.

Jyn decided she didn’t want to know.

They fell into gentle silence, the room quiet but for the low hum of electricity and their own breaths. Even Jyn, her nerves well-honed after a life on the run—not to mention two days on the Death Star—found herself relaxing as Cassian’s breaths evened out. She didn’t feel sleepy, just a peculiar sort of peace.

When his head shifted, Jyn looked over at him. “Cassian? Are you awake?”

“Yes,” he said, drowsy but coherent. “At the moment.”

“I need your advice.”

“You?” He opened his eyes and blinked at her. “From me?

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said. “I mean your, er, professional expertise.”

Cassian squinted. “What?”

“In your line of work,” said Jyn, “do you try and pick up as much information as you can, wherever you find it, or focus on getting everything you can from a few good sources?”

“Both,” he replied through a yawn. “If only one is possible, though, a reliable source is worth a hundred gossips.”

She’d been afraid of that.

“Why—”

Unconvincingly, Jyn said, “I was just wondering.”

“Mm.” Even the tired murmur managed to sound skeptical. But the drugs had finally done their work. Cassian closed his eyes, and in another moment, slept.



On the bright side, Cassian slept like the dead. He didn’t snore, or talk in his sleep, or toss and turn.

On the dark side, Cassian slept like the dead. After he’d nearly been dead. The quiet was one thing with both of them alert and attentive, but quite another with Cassian unconscious and silent. Every few minutes, Jyn surrendered to the urge to go over and make sure he still breathed.

Inevitably, he did. If anything, he seemed better: not limp and fragile, not strained and pale. Each time she checked, more colour had crept into his face, more lines smoothed themselves away. He was fine, she told herself. The ribs would hurt, but Esten had pulled him out of danger. Esten and Force knew how much bacta and Jyn, getting him care and getting him out. He’d live. As long as the rest of them, anyway.

Her stomach growled for an hour before Jyn worked herself up to leaving. Even as she headed to the mess hall, her thoughts whirled. Bodhi—she’d not heard a word from him since before she extracted Cassian. It probably didn’t mean anything, except that he had no news, or no solitude. But it might. He might be suffering treatment harsher than Saw could ever dream up.

This didn’t help, Jyn told herself sternly. There was no reason to torment herself over things which hadn’t happened, and which she couldn’t affect even if they had. Bodhi possessed more nerve and wits than either of them had given him credit for; he wouldn’t do anything foolish, and he’d at least try to contact her if something went wrong. On their end, she and Cassian were resourceful and resolute. Jyn knew how to survive, one step after the other. Cassian knew how to turn each step towards an end. If a way out of this existed, they’d find it. And if a way out of this didn’t exist, they’d face that when it came.

Nevertheless, Jyn ate as quickly as she could manage in the mess hall. It was only half-full at this hour—tomorrow she’d see what she could do about cultivating people. For now, her own calculations occupied her.

She ran through the cons of the situation, obvious as they were. Trapped in the Death Star. Princess Leia captured and dragged onboard by Imperial Chirrut. Her forthcoming torture. The fact that Imperial Chirrut existed at all. The fact that the best case scenario had all four of them blown to smithereens. The possibility of getting caught and either killed, themselves tortured, or both, at any moment. No method of escape except a ship, which they had no immediate way of acquiring.

Pros, she told herself. Supplies, medicine, and secure quarters—all obtained without suspicion. Bodhi absorbed into the stormtroopers and already picking up valuable information. Cassian able to walk, on the mend, and fully functional intellectually. Jyn no worse for the ordeals of the last three weeks, not to mention the last three days. They had a top-notch shot in Jyn and an honest-to-the-Force sniper in Cassian, and a full case of blasters. If they did manage to fly a ship, they had two pilots, Cassian good and Bodhi excellent.

Could be better. Could be a hell of a lot worse.

Jyn tossed away the tin dishes, stalked back to the quarters as fast as her legs would take her, then checked on Cassian for a seventeenth time. Still asleep, still fine. Crawling into bed, she willed herself to sleep.

After twenty minutes, it worked. She slept like a steel beam, and didn’t wake up until a drawer rattled by her head the next morning.

Someone was muttering, “Toçè an aqqi d’estida i anayà—

Jyn recognized the voice, however breathless, if not the words. What the …?

“Cassian?” She rubbed her eyes.

A few feet away, he bent down with stray equipment in his hand and clothes draped over his arm. But he was already showered and uniformed. His other hand pressed against his side until he glanced up at her.

“Jyn,” he said civilly, and went back to picking up clutter.

She jolted upright. “What are you doing?

“Inspection,” said Cassian.

Her heart thudded. “Now?”

“No.” Straightening up, he dropped wrinkled uniforms into a bin she hadn’t noticed. With an unpleasant sucking sound, the floor of the bin vanished and the clothes slid down a chute. The floor slid back into place. “If there is one.”

Whatever amount of sleep she’d gotten, it wasn’t enough. Jyn gave up on de-coding him and said, “Cassian. Use whole sentences and stop straining your ribs.”

Cassian replied, “I think they are better.”

“Sure they are,” said Jyn. “What were you talking about?”

“Imperial bases usually hold regular inspections.” With the kits in his arms, he made his way over to the narrow closet near the door. He set them out in neat lines. “On a base of this size, with this many troops, I do not know. If we do get inspected, though, and are in violation of code, it may raise suspicions.”

Oh. She had no difficulty believing him compulsively neat by nature—his Alliance quarters looked it—but this had seemed excessive and then some. Pragmatism, though, she could respect. Getting up, Jyn turned to him.

“Right,” she said. “At the least, it might draw attention. Fine, but I don’t know regulations and you … stop. I’m going to get dressed and then I’ll do it. Don’t touch my bed.” His was already neat, folded at precise angles. “Actually, don’t touch anything. Just sit.”

She didn’t seriously expect him to sit down. Sure enough, although she took the galaxy’s shortest shower and didn’t even try to figure out her jacket beyond a few buttons, she emerged from the fresher into pristine quarters. All the pairs of requisitioned items had been divided between each side of the room, every one exactly opposite to its brother. The blaster case had disappeared. Nothing but her rumpled bedding interrupted the blocky regularity of the place. It made her want to do something stupid, like carve JYN ERSO WAS HERE into the wall.

Cassian leaned against his dresser, datapad in hand, just as he’d leaned against the terminals in the Rebel council room. A little more stiffly, but all things considered, it seemed a good sign.

“Not much for orders, are you?” she said, and regretted it as soon as she spoke. That had been one of the odder twists of their fight after Eadu—I disobeyed orders! It should have been the pillar of his defense, the fact that he had defied the command she accused him of following. But even with every observation warped by rage, she couldn’t misunderstand the horror in his voice. Not at the Alliance, not Draven, not even Krennic, but at himself for balking at a pointless murder.

That was before, Jyn reminded herself. In the end, he defied all those generals and senators for her, personally shot Krennic. Really, it meant more that he’d done it despite his temperament, not because of it. Yet she felt certain those veins would always run through his character, an underlying inclination towards devotion and obedience.

Not that she didn’t have her own. If something in him never stopped whispering there are rules and you have your orders, something in Jyn never stopped urging her look after yourself, no one else will and just keep running. She knew perfectly well that it’d get louder when not drowned out by overpowering necessity.

If Cassian’s mind followed the same direction as hers, he gave no sign.

“Orders?” he repeated. “It depends on where they come from.”

The moment’s ambivalence passed. Jyn snorted.

“Don’t think about trying to call all the shots just because you outrank me here.”

“I outrank you everywhere,” said Cassian, with a suspect quirk of his mouth.

All right, she might have brought that one on herself.

Absent a good rebuttal, Jyn said, “If you’re going to help me with these, then help. How am I supposed to do the folding thing?” She tugged the blankets and sheets off her bed, and looked at them in some dismay.

Setting down the datapad, Cassian walked over to stand beside her. He snagged one of the blankets in her arms.

Jyn scowled up at him. “That was a question, not an invitation. Actually, go lie down. I can follow instructions, when it’s worth my time.”

“Moving helps with the breathing,” he said. When she looked skeptical, he added, “I will not break. You can do the worst of it.”

“The analgesics would help more,” she grumbled, but went along with it.

Together, they shook out the sheets, and Jyn tucked them around the mattress according to the Empire’s absurd specifications. The pillow had to be precisely centered in its case, equidistant from each end, and the blanket folded six centimeters from its edges. If anyone had told her two weeks ago that she and Cassian Andor would end up making beds in the Death Star—

Somewhere between appalled and bemused, Jyn held up the blanket while Cassian measured out the edges. She could barely see him past the top.

“Here, take this,” he said, holding out the folded edge to her.

Jyn reached for it, even as she did her best to keep the middle held high. “Must have been a pain to do yours by yourself.”

“Yes,” said Cassian. He looked over the blanket at her, and in an instant, the bizarre domesticity of it all just struck her as funny.

“I’ll admit it. I did not foresee this,” Jyn told him.

Though she couldn’t see Cassian’s mouth, his eyes crinkled. “Nor I.”

For some reason, the quiet—which had settled comfortably as they worked—turned heavy once more. Hastily, she said,

“So Willix is supposed to be some farmboy who got picked up by Starfleet and made a career for himself?”

“He was, yes,” said Cassian.

Jyn thought of asking if he’d killed the real Willix, or if someone else had done it. But she supposed it made little difference, in the end. Cassian would have pulled the trigger, even if he hadn’t done it this particular time. And she didn’t exactly have a habit of weeping over Imperial officers. The lower ranks were one thing, and civilians, but the officers—the Krennics—they saw it all. They knew what they did.

“I take it you weren’t actually a farmboy,” she said, because she couldn’t imagine it in a million years. “From—what was it, Seraiah? The place you talked about when you were lying your head off in the elevator.”

“Sereia,” said Cassian, gesturing for her to help fold the blanket down the middle. “No. I come from Vaesda. No farms.”

“We had them,” Jyn said suddenly. “I don’t remember the planet much. But it was green. My parents had a farm. More an experiment than anything for Papa, I think, but Mama liked to make things grow. When we left the house, we’d see fields for miles and miles.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, she felt disconcerted. More than disconcerted. Those scraps of happiness before the Empire ripped it all apart—she never spoke of it. Not ever, to anyone. Yet she’d found herself talking without hesitation, as if there were no barrier between her memory and her voice. As if the walls shut out danger instead of trapping them in it.

They shut out people. The next best thing, she decided, calming as she looked over at Cassian. He didn’t count. Not—of course he counted as a person. Just not a threat.

To her, anyway.

For several moment, Cassian worked in silence. Then he said, “Would you go back?”

No sprang to her tongue, without thought. But she did think.

“I don’t know,” she said slowly. “It’s not … I wasn’t born there. I’m a natural citizen of Coruscant.” She held the folded middle while Cassian measured the other edge. “You already knew that, I’m sure.”

Too worn or too himself for an explanation, he only said, “Yes.”

“So there’s not much point, with my family gone. But I don’t know.” It was home, for that little while. The only one she ever had, really. Somehow she didn’t imagine that the dim early years under Krennic’s thumb had been anything like a home.

Welcome home flashed into her mind, her memories flung from that dimly-remembered apartment in Coruscant to the Rebel base on Yavin. Maybe he meant the Rebellion, but she hadn’t. It wasn’t the Rebellion who stuck by her at Jedha. It sure as hell wasn’t at Eadu. It wasn’t the Rebellion who marched at her side after the snarling fight on the ship. Or ever.

When she murmured I’m not used to people sticking around when things go bad to Cassian, she meant it for him, thanks and explanation and apology rolled up together. As near as she got to any of them. He had to know that. He did know—he’d tilted towards her as she spoke, leaned in to listen and to promise, their steps falling into sync from opposite directions. She never saw him do the same thing with anyone else, not with his soldiers, not Bodhi, not Kay. It wasn’t Captain Andor who told her welcome home.

Jyn still didn’t know exactly what Cassian meant. She wasn’t sure Cassian knew what he meant. But it had something to do with the fact that they stood in the Death Star, Jyn all but twitching with nerves while Cassian concealed what must be agony, and they felt something like safe.

“If we live,” she said, “maybe I’ll go, someday. See if it brings anything back. They get harder to remember—the good things.” She could feel the weight of the crystal in her pocket, even as she took the blanket and carefully laid it down.

“Yes,” said Cassian once again. Jyn thought she heard something rough in his tone—maybe just weariness, maybe more.

“If your people didn’t have any farms,” she said, “I guess Willix’s district would be pretty far off from yours.”

“Three thousand miles away, in a different country,” said Cassian, the harsh edge fading into mere annoyance. Not with her, Jyn suspected. “I never saw it in my life, except pictures.”

“I thought it might be something like that.”

He smiled at her, more easily than usual. “Also, Vaesda was four thousand feet higher.”

“Up in the mountains, huh?” Jyn had little knowledge of Alderaan, beyond the chain of spies spun out from Bail Organa. But she’d heard about the mountains.

Though he didn’t seem offended, he only said, “Pull the blanket towards the foot. About three inches. Yes, there. And now left—your left.”

Jyn sighed. But she didn’t doubt that any Imperials who passed by would prove at least as obsessive. She tugged and straightened the material, bent the corners into correct shape, and ignored Cassian’s retreating steps.

“There,” she said. “Good?”

When she turned, she saw that he’d returned to his dresser, and now had a nutrient milk in one hand and pills in the other. Green pills—those would be the analgesics, not the sedatives.

Cassian gulped down the medicine and walked back over to examine the bed. He glanced from one end to the other.

“Good.”

“Another trial survived,” said Jyn. “Barely.”

She didn’t want to think of how much he would endure before voluntarily taking Imperial drugs. Maybe he was just being sensible again. But probably not.

“You pull us through again,” Cassian replied, as lightly as he ever said anything. But he looked at her with an even more intense expression than usual, his gaze very steady.

Jyn didn’t say you’re welcome; she didn’t need to. She just nodded, and silence fell again, perhaps the easiest yet.



The quiet only broke when Cassian said abruptly, “The Anduçelos.”

She started. “What?”

“The Anduçelos Mountains,” he said, his voice very even. “Vaesda was up in them, yes.”

He took a drink of the milk, his gaze flicking away. Uncertainty, she’d have thought, in anyone else. Maybe in him, too. It should have punctured the peace—but didn’t. Cassian himself seemed taken aback by his words, as if he hadn’t meant to say them. No more, Jyn thought, than she’d planned to babble about her parents’ farm.

She hazarded, “Those are the ones surrounding Aldera?”

“Yes.” He shifted his weight. Just a little, but even that much was unusual, from him. “They have ilum deposits. At least, in Vaes District they do.”

That focused her attention. Ilum, inert in itself, turned explosive under treatment. Jyn didn’t know the details of the process—she never took after her father that way—but she knew varying amounts of it went into blasters, starship cannons, bombs, just about anything. Saw kept his precious stores sealed up tight, but he showed a cache to her once and told her all about it. He told her, too, that Galen used to experiment with the stuff. Now, she felt sure that had been for the Death Star. There probably wasn’t enough ilum in the galaxy to power this thing. But on the smaller scale, it had incredible power. Ilum mines could level the towns that prospered around them.

“Damn,” said Jyn. “I thought Alderaan didn’t have weapons.”

“It doesn’t,” he said, with a touch of satisfaction. “We are good Imperial citizens. We do not use the ilum; we sell it.”

And funnelled it to the Rebellion, no doubt.

“What is it like? I mean, Vaesda,” she asked, trying to replicate his pronunciation. “Not ilum. I know what that’s like.”

“I am sure you do,” said Cassian dryly. “It was … I do not remember very much. I was very young. I remember the nyrfa—a sort of cattle that lives up there—and the mines and the cold.” He paused. “Mostly the cold. The snow never went away, and the mining towns were filthy. But it could be beautiful, away from the cities.”

Thinking of the farm, she said, “That usually helps.”

He shrugged. “Your world was green, you said. Mine was white. On bright days, everything shone.”

“Didn’t it blind you?” Jyn asked.

“Yes,” he replied, an unfamiliar animation lighting up his face. “My sister and I had goggles to shield our eyes, but only hers worked right. She was older and always climbing something, so we agreed that she would keep the good set, and not tell our mother that I took mine off. That was why I missed rocks and sticks in our way, and Rana when she jumped down behind me, and the clonetroopers.” Before Jyn could do much more than register that one of these was very unlike the others, Cassian said quickly, “Your jacket is wrong.”

“What?” A clumsy detour, but of course, the jacket was wrong. She’d only bothered with a few buttons, since it never hung right, in any case. “Oh, these ones are too small. I don’t know why, I gave them the measurements—”

“The pleats,” he said, and reached for her shoulders.

She stiffened. Though Cassian must have noticed, he pretended not to, just caught his fingers under the awkward folds of material and adjusted something, then tugged a little. The whole thing immediately loosened—still not exactly smooth, but at least not tight.

“That’s better,” admitted Jyn. “I suppose I should have guessed that even Imperial jackets have procedures.”

“Yes. They do, that is.” With an odd twist to his mouth, he added, “Also, the buttons go behind the flaps, not through … and …”

“Oh, fine. You fix it.” She unbuttoned the jacket all the way and unbelted it, rather amused that his gaze swung up to her face at the first button, and fixed there, despite the layer of (regulation!) undershirt beneath the jacket. Though, for a fully dressed woman, she herself felt exposed in some odd way.

Cassian looked profoundly uncomfortable, but without further hesitation, he pulled one side of the jacket to her shoulder, and held the material taut. He didn’t try anything, of course, touch her in any way that the requisitions droids hadn’t, but Jyn nonetheless felt blood rise to her face. Cassian wasn’t a droid. And he could be—unsettling, even as he said in a dispassionate voice,

“It has to be completely smooth, no wrinkles, or the jacket will not hang correctly.” He pulled the other flap over, fastening it. “Here, you button from beneath, only through the one layer. The top one must lie flat.”

As he buttoned the jacket to her waist, Jyn glanced down, pretending to something like detachment as she watched Cassian’s fingers move down her body. Even trivial mistakes could be dangerous, she reminded herself. If anyone had paid attention to the jacket, it might well have been as disastrous as recognition. That was all.

Anyway, he had broken ribs.

Jyn cleared her throat. “I suppose I had better go down to the mess hall and”—her lip curled—“make friends. Is this supposed to be that loose?”

“You fold at the waist,” said Cassian, reaching down to tuck down pleats she hadn’t noticed while Jyn lifted her arms and thought virtuous thoughts. “It is stiff enough to hold, so the belt does the rest.”

Thankfully—for a certain value of thanks—he stepped back, and Jyn buckled the belt herself. He didn’t correct her, so she supposed she did it right.

“Am I a proper Imperial now?” she asked.

“You look like it,” said Cassian.

He could split too many hairs, but she’d take this one. Jyn smiled, a little unsteadily.

“Jyn.”

When his hand touched her shoulder again, she nearly jumped. Instead, she just returned his gaze, while Cassian searched her face for—something.

Quietly, he said, “Be careful.”

She nodded. “I should be back in about an hour. Don’t assume I’m dead unless it’s three hours, and you haven’t heard from me. Get some rest.”

As she ducked out of their quarters, into the hall, she glanced back over her shoulder. Cassian hadn’t moved, just stood there by his bed, frowning after her.

“Don’t worry, captain.” Jyn allowed herself a smile, slight but genuine. “I won’t do anything you wouldn’t.”