Slip of the Tongue

 This scene is one of my favorite Cassian moments and it’s been really hard to get right because there’s just so much emotion and hopelessness and this feeling of loss and desperation and you see how hard it is for him to actually be honest even with himself.  Even then it’s like he doesn’t quite realize that he’s said “all of us” on the third try.

And then K-2 has to go and loosen the tension a bit….

Jyn pushed her way out of the disintegrating meeting as fast as she could without running.  Vaguely, she was aware that Bodhi was trailing along after her, but she was in no mood to talk and she ignored the turning heads and whispers drawn by his uniform that followed her as she escaped the close dark tunnels and corridors for the echoing space of the open hangar.

“You don’t look happy.”

Baze’s deep voice carried from beside a refueling station where he was lounged with one foot propped on his gear.  Chirrut sat two meters closer on the raised base of the tank, his hands curled around his staff.

Jyn barely slowed down, deciding the news would be common knowledge soon enough.  She tossed her hands in frustration.  “They prefer to surrender.”

“And you?”

“She wants to fight,” Chirrut declared, with the unshakeable certainty that no longer surprised her.

“So do I,” Bodhi panted from behind her as she finally gave up rushing and stopped.  His head bobbed up and down.  “We all do.”

Chirrut made a gathering motion around the top of his staff.  “The Force is strong.”  He grinned as if he’d made some kind of profound statement.  It was probably supposed to be encouraging, but Jyn was already shaking her head.

“I don’t think four of us is quite enough.”

She didn’t mean it to be rude, but she had only ever been realistic.  At the moment, they were the only three people she trusted in the entire galaxy, and they were stuck on a barely-less-than-hostile base with no transport.  She smiled sadly at Chirrut, at Bodhi’s determined, earnest face.

Baze, on the other hand, seemed unfazed even as she half-reluctantly started to back away, to once again be alone.  “How many do we need?” he asked.

Jyn frowned, stopping in her tracks.  “What are you talking about?”

The massive Guardian made a face as if it was the most obvious thing in the world and when she still didn’t get it he raised his eyebrows and jerked a finger emphatically at something behind and above her head.

Still confused, Jyn turned.

A loose straggle of men was emerging uncertainly from the helter-skelter of parked starfighters, forming into a motley group that lingered an awkward distance away but clearly wanted something.  One, she noticed almost as an afterthought, was actually a Drabatan, its amphibious gray skin lined and wrinkled and its eyes scrunched to slits beneath a helmet.  Some were bearded, others cleanshaven – she recognized Sergeant Melshi, the Pathfinder she’d kicked and possibly hit over the head with a shovel – but they looked rough.  All were armed, their clothing too patchwork to be proper uniforms.

At the forefront came a wary Cassian Andor.

“They were never going to believe you.”

Coming from him of all people, it stung.  Jyn made an effort not to clench her hands into fists and instead forced herself to wave them in a sarcastic flourish.

“I appreciate the support.”

She hadn’t seen him since he had gone for debriefing after they had landed.  He hadn’t even bothered to go to the councilors meeting, had left her and Bodhi to face their sneers alone when he could at least have given the weight of credibility to what they had all seen.  She had no cause to forgive him.

“But I do.”

She almost missed the meaning of the quick words, so soft in the echo and taken out of context.  He took three slow steps into the open space between the two groups and hesitated.  He looked clean, spruced up, even, his clothes fresh and his hair parted and combed back from his forehead even if he hadn’t shaved.

“I believe you,” he said simply.

Jyn didn’t quite know where to look.  Cassian’s eyes were stripped and vulnerable, like seeing a scarred wall of permacrete toppled to expose something aching and beaten and empty inside that nobody was supposed to even know was there.

He stood a little hunched with his mouth so tense she was almost afraid of what he might say next.

He turned his head to include the others behind him.

“We’d like to volunteer,” he said clearly, loud enough to carry with his back turned.  She heard a sharp intake of air behind her and it sounded like Bodhi grinned.

“Some of us – ”

Cassian gave her a haunted look.

“Most of us – ” he amended, with an effort.

“We’ve all done terrible things on behalf of the Rebellion.”

The damning words seemed to bring a cautious relief.  He looked back at his men again, picking out individual faces in the crowd.

“Spies, saboteurs – ”

He swung slowly around toward her as he spoke but still finished before he looked her in the eye.

“ – assassins…”

It was as close to a confession as she suspected she would ever get from him.  He straightened.

“Everything I did, I did for the Rebellion.”  His voice was stronger, even if his accent had grown thicker and was softening around the edges, but his head twitched sideways as if he knew that confessing changed nothing.  There was no pride in his eyes.

“And every time I walked away from something I wanted to forget…”

He took two breaths in a row without speaking and finally dropped his gaze to the permacrete while he struggled to keep his voice steady.

“…I told myself it was for a cause…that I believed in.”  He shrugged faintly, spreading his hands and dropping them back to his sides.  His head jerked hopelessly.  “A cause that was worth it.”

Jyn didn’t know what to say.  The three men behind her kept quiet and still.

“Without that, we’re lost.  Everything we’ve done would have been for nothing.”

The bitter, self-deprecating laugh that came out with the words was suspiciously unsteady.   Need was the only thing holding back the looming shadows of despair in Cassian’s eyes, and he spoke with brutal, soft-voiced honesty as he looked into her eyes.

“I couldn’t face myself if I gave up now.”

There was a hot lump in Jyn’s throat that she couldn’t quite swallow as he shook his head.  “None of us could,” he added with a shrug, a bleak, halfhearted smile twisting his thin mouth.

It felt like trespassing in a torture chamber where all the overseers had gone missing and left their victims strapped down and bleeding, and they wanted her to keep them alive but to leave the restraints intact.  It was the saddest thing she’d ever seen.

She’d bartered on her freedom, had fought for it and played the Alliance’s games and gone through hell for it, and these men, given freedom, would feel guilty taking it.  One of them even more so than the others.

Jyn felt the corners of her mouth lift in a small, genuine smile.

Behind her, Bodhi cleared his throat.

“It won’t be comfortable – it’d be a bit cramped, but we’d all – we’d all fit,” he offered.  He gestured inclusively, nodded, shrugged conversationally.  “We could go.”

Jyn couldn’t quite explain why she felt so happy.  It was pride, maybe, for this nervous wreck of a man who had still believed in her father enough to risk his life for it, and had never looked back.

Cassian’s crooked smile flared with a wry warmth as she turned back to him, embarrassed now with the emotional part out in the air, glad to be done.  He nodded sharply, huffing out a rough shaky breath of relief.

“Okay – you’re up!”

He turned away, brisk and businesslike and in charge.  “Grab anything that’s not nailed down.”  Jyn smiled at Bodhi, gave him an encouraging nod.  Behind her, Cassian barked out orders to his men.  “Go-go-go!”

They scattered as if a spell had been broken, leaving only K-2SO looming in front of the parked X-wings as Bodhi and the Guardians also hurried off to collect what was needed.

“Jyn, I’ll be there for you,” the droid said, with what could almost be described as feeling.  For once he didn’t add something insulting.

She exhaled slowly, shaky with the realization of what they were actually doing, and smiled fondly back.

K-2 suddenly seemed to realize that his master was lingering expectantly, watching him.  His glowing photoreceptors flicked to Cassian, then back to Jyn.  “Cassian said I had to,” he blurted out, and promptly fled.

Jyn very nearly laughed outright.

Cassian closed the distance between them with only a hint of color in his cheeks and the remains of the smile still hovering around his lips.

Jyn decided to spare him.  “I’m not used to people sticking around when things go bad,” she admitted, sidling past his shoulder as he stepped up to her.  It was an apology, after a fashion.  An offering.

Cassian seemed to understand.  His smile widened as he turned to stay with her.

He leaned in and lowered his voice conspiratorily.

“Welcome home,” he murmured.  She smiled tentatively back as he straightened, daring to maintain eye contact as long as he did, once again conscious of how far she had to look up when he stood close.

It was ridiculous, that they were planning a suicide mission and he was already smiling more.  He had the most to lose if they failed, both from the Alliance and from the Empire, and yet…he didn’t seem worried.

At the moment, she was just glad that he was coming, for too many and too complicated reasons to think about.

Very glad.


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