You Deserve Better

I know, I know, I said I had gotten the alternate ending out of my system with In the Shadow of a Light. This is just a little snippety sequel to it, but whatever.  I was attacked without warning by a rabid plotbunny and this is the result.

I wasn’t even sure I was going to post it for a while, but I’m kind of attached to it because sitting in my car for two hours to write it one Sunday afternoon before going into a nursing home meant that I got to visit with a very dear friend one last time.

Jyn doesn’t quite know what to make of Cassian’s insistence that he will marry her before they ever even share a room.  She’s never done this before, doesn’t quite see the point in a formality, but then her life has never been defined by formalities.  She saw all sorts of things in her time with the Partisans: scandals and on/off romances that ended in shouting and sometimes overdosing and depression.  Nothing that was exactly stable.  Her parents were married, of course, so for their sakes she has some partiality to the concept, but she has had so little experience of permanence of any kind that she’s vaguely unsettled.

“It’s not that I wouldn’t be faithful to you,” Cassian explains with the unfettered intensity of truth that fills his eyes when he talks to her now.  “It’s not that I feel some need to control you.  I don’t.”  He shrugs off the very idea with a smile that says they both know the chance of that actually happening to be ridiculous.

“But Jyn, I’ve taken oaths as long as I can remember, to this group or that one until they were killed off and I ended up with the Rebellion.  I have broken those oaths when it was necessary and more than once for you.  Because it was the right thing to do.  And this…you deserve more even than what I gave them.  Because I am never going to go back on my word to you, and I never want to let us get into anything that would make you less in anyone’s eyes.  Ever.”

She has some trouble forming anything coherent, after that, and when the corner of his mouth lifts in a tentative smile she loops her arm through his and presses it tight against her side while she leans her head on his shoulder.

They discuss options, in the days and weeks after that while he practices walking outside the safe house and she keeps him company.  Civil ceremony or religious, where people even go for things like this.  Unspoken is that he has to be cleared from medbay before they can even go off-base to make inquiries.  Cassian eventually enlists Bodhi to help because he’s already flying in and out on supply runs and salvage missions, still glaringly self-conscious in Rebellion-issued orange flightsuits.  More often he wears civilian clothes with no insignia, the non-uniform of the small base’s cover operation.  He doesn’t seem too surprised at the news, but he is with his assignment.

Two days before Cassian is cleared for light duty, the news comes in of the victory on Endor.  The base celebrates quietly after the first outburst of euphoria.  Jyn is growing impatient and with the impatience is the dread that they will call the man she can no longer imagine living without back to their network of shadows and lies where the new peace in his face will slowly drown under the weight they ask him to bear for them.  She will kidnap him herself, she thinks, kill Draven, even, before she lets that happen.

The day Cassian is cleared, Bodhi brings them a location.  It’s only a few hours in hyperspace away, only a few minutes detour off one of his ration supply runs, where they can justify going without alerting the whole base.  Jyn squeezes Cassian’s hand with a grip that says next time he is scheduled to go, they will make it happen.

Orders from Draven never come.

Instead, they sit through a visual transmission with a frazzled colonel Cassian barely knows who is sorting through a mountain of paperwork and personnel files left in the wake of Draven’s death in the last hours of the Rebellion, leading troops in the field to draw Imperial suspicion away from the attack on the new Death Star.  Cassian looks pensive at the news while Jyn is not sure that she is not just a little bit sorry to hear it.  The colonel is reducing the Intelligence network by more than half, offering operatives transfers to the civil crime sector or industry, or posts in a peacetime army that will be mostly deskwork.

Jyn watches Cassian hesitate, knows she cannot hold him back from what will fulfill him in better ways.

She is still stunned when he asks if a discharge is among the possibilities.

When the colonel gawks he cites medical reasons, fatigue, compromised decision-making under stress.  Jyn doesn’t dare breathe.  Cassian makes a case that they don’t need him anymore, that he’s already outlived his usefulness to their cause.  Jyn winces at his choice of words and bites her lip when he deliberately brings up the un-approved mission to Scarif.  The colonel tries to brush it off as long pardoned and irrelevant but Cassian is done and he flat-out tells him that he will not be a spy for anyone anymore, that he’s spilled enough blood to face execution if it hadn’t been a war, and that all he wants is to walk away from the Rebellion’s triumph with the acknowledgement that he owes them nothing.

The colonel doesn’t actually admit that he is right, but he does mumble something about the paperwork taking a few days.  Just before the transmission ends, he gruffly says “Good luck, Captain.”

They wait tensely for two days, three, barely able to sleep and spending nearly every waking minute in eachother’s company.  Bodhi tells them in the evening of the third day that he’s been scheduled to go out again, and Cassian insists that they will go with him no matter what the results on the discharge are.  Jyn is brittle with fear that the Alliance will double-cross them and take him out instead because he knows too much.  He sees her worry, carries the same fear lurking in the depths of his eyes, but tomorrow will be for them and he has promised her he is done waiting.

The temple is ancient, built into the side of a rolling green valley where four-legged animals graze undisturbed.  They watch the approach from the cockpit, squeezed in on either side of Bodhi at the controls, their other witness a mechanic Bodhi’s struck up a friendship with, a quiet man with few words and a placid, unshakeable goodness that reminds Jyn vaguely of Chirrut.

Bodhi goes ahead with Matthis to confirm the arrangements.  Jyn wants to take her time, to savor this beautiful golden morning that smells of green things and life with Cassian’s warm steady hand in hers.  There are steps at wide intervals leading up to the broad buff stone terrace, gradually rising into the foundation for the temple’s massive pillars and eaves.  Cassian is limping, taking the stairs carefully, but he will always limp and she is content to match her pace to his.

They are wearing inconspicuous civilian clothes, so ordinary that they hardly look like they’re going to their own wedding, but Jyn doesn’t care.  She’s never had a gown in her life, and there’s certainly been no way to get one.  This outfit does have a skirt, at least, and the dull blue fabric flaps around her calves and the tops of her boots in a way that is foreign and feminine in a way she likes.  It is a balmy day with only a hint of dampness to it, enough that Cassian seems glad of his jacket – a civilian version of the one he left behind on Scarif.  He is such a fledgling civilian he makes her laugh, but she’s wearing a blaster too.

When they pass under the eaves the clergy don’t seem to mind.

The officiant runs through the ceremony briefly beforehand, familiarizing them with the texts, and Jyn’s stomach begins to tighten nervously.  They take their places standing before the broad ornamental altar facing each other, with the cleric on the step above them and Bodhi and Matthis standing a bit off to the side.  Moist sunshine spills in through the square side pillars, while tiny birds flutter in and out and chirp among the eaves and all around the valley in a chorus of life and fulfillment, and Jyn is glad they came.  Cassian takes her hands and stands straight.

He pledges himself to her in words that make her chin tremble beneath her smile, that make her throat tight and her heart swell too big to fit under her ribs as tears slide down her cheeks.  She sees them glisten in the corners of her eyes right before they fall, starts to see that Cassian is blinking too even if his voice barely falters, deep with feeling and conviction as he pledges himself to her, mind and body, and she finds it easier than she thought it would be when it is her turn.

Bodhi and Matthis leave them in the valley while they complete their pickup, returning when the shadows are growing long and a chill is creeping up from the stones of the temple’s landing pad.  Jyn looks up at her husband as the cargo transport shudders down to rest, regretful that this perfect day is over and that she may still lose him after all this, but he cradles her cheek in his hand and leans his forehead against hers, and they have one last moment of peace before returning to their fears.

When they get back to base, the commanding officer hands Cassian a sealed file.  They open it in a quiet corner of the mess hall, reading through its contents with no one else to see their reactions, and their eyes grow wide in wonder and hope and joy and Cassian pulls her in and kisses her soundly as a note signifying 28,000 credits worth of back pay and discharge bonus slips off his knee to the floor.

They take only two days to make plans and say their goodbyes.  Bodhi will stay; he needs to be busy and he has found acceptance here and a quiet that suits him.  As the transport that will take them the first step roars off his flight suit is a bright speck on the landing pad.

Their journey is long but it is an adventure they have time to enjoy, detouring to take in sights and everywhere marveling at how the remains of the Empire crumble so quickly under the touch of spring.

Jyn’s first pregnancy comes sooner than she might have planned if she’d given it much thought, but once the morning sickness passes (and it’s slight, with proper medical management) she begins to enjoy the feeling of life growing slowly inside her.  Cassian’s eyes are alive with a new gentleness she loves, and when they find a planet and a home to call their own she watches him put down roots like a thirsty tree.

Her labor is difficult enough to give her second thoughts but the memory of it fades when she wakes up to gentle sunlight and the sight of Cassian sitting beside her with a swaddled bundle in his arms.  His wonder is akin to awe and his tremulous smile is infinitely precious.

The baby has a shock of black hair so soft it lies down under her touch, his tiny face too small yet to see much traces of either of them besides coloring and round cheeks.

Jyn is almost surprised that his perfect little nose is straight.

The baby is almost a week old when Jyn comes from the kitchen to check on him and finds the little crib empty.  She fights down her first instinct of panic and forces herself to process and focus.  Cassian changes the passcodes and updates the scanners on their internal and perimeter systems regularly, to the point that she’s teased him more than once that their small home is more secure than the Rebels’ old Base One on Yavin IV, and she has received no alerts and no alarms are blaring.  Still fighting the breathless feeling fluttering in her chest, she keys into the data display and pulls up the locator signal from the tiny chip embedded in the baby’s anklet.

The indicator blips regularly from a point within the gray rectangle of the work bay, calming her heart rate slightly, but she hurries outside regardless.  She is still a little sore and the blaster at her hip is a reassuring, menacing weight.

The bay doors are all open; she silently slips inside and glides stealthily among the workspaces and half-repaired speeders and malfunctioning powered-down droids (no KX series yet) toward the front.  It is quiet there, which is unusual; no banging wrenches or clanking oil cans from Cassian tinkering around and another fear stabs into her chest.  He is slower on his feet than before, even if he is rarely out of reach of a blaster, and just possibly…

She rounds the corner of a parked agricultural harvester and stops short, her lips softening into a smile.

Warm late afternoon sunlight streams in through the west-facing bay doors, gilding the worn permacrete floor and scattering iridescent rainbows among the oil stains.  Her husband is sitting on a cargo crate in his shirtsleeves, his elbows on his knees, cradling their child on his forearms with the tiny wispy head cupped in his careful, calloused hands.  He looks like he still can’t believe what he is holding.

He raises his head without startling and smiles at her, the sheepish, crooked smile she can’t be angry with, and she crosses the bay to sit beside him, resting her chin on his shoulder to watch their son’s little face pucker in sleep.  She wraps one arm around Cassian’s waist and he shifts into her, comfortably, and they sit together in the sunlight, two marveling heads together, and there is no longer any emptiness in the galaxy.

Jyn idly fingers her mother’s necklace, and the memories bring her no pain.

The End


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