—Before I Freeze Over:
Jyn hasn't left the room the entire evening. It isn't exactly their fault they arrived on Hoth in its night cycle. High Command would rather meet her in the morning, and Chirrut kindly volunteered his room (as if he doesn't already stay in Baze's.) Of course, Bodhi would like to think that she's slept the whole time. Seeing her, less gray than when he last saw her—but even darker eyes, Bodhi knows that she needs that sleep.
But she didn't. If Bodhi so much as pressed his ear against the wall, he could hear Galen whispering from the other room. Clicks later, it doesn't actually stop. Bodhi knows she's listening to the messages K-2SO had given her on the ship. He also knows that those messages don't matter to her in the slightest.
Jyn is looking for one particular message, a message that Cassian doesn't have. And the only other people who've seen the message are all dead—but Bodhi knows. He's carried that very message for three years. She and Bodhi can listen to Galen's voice clicks upon clicks, but Jyn will never find the words of a message no one else has seen.
She will always be looking for that message, even if she knows it's gone. Bodhi speaks from experience on that front. Sometimes, he forgets about Jedha, his family, and the fact that they're gone. It all just sweeps him off his feet so suddenly.
Bodhi thinks about something that his mother might like, but then he remembers. He realizes every time that she isn't there anymore, and every single time, it doesn't open any wounds—it makes new ones. He isn't as good as Kay-Tu at reading people, but he can only guess about Jyn.
Bodhi approaches the door, hesitates a while before knocking fiscally. "Jyn?" He can hear Galen talk from behind the thick door. There is a pilot I have sent your way. He will most likely be in an Imperial uniform, but if he calls me by name then you must not harm him. Abruptly, the message stops and the door opens to Jyn's obviously sleepless eyes.
Her green eyes are circled with veins of red, and her hair is still down. Bodhi isn't used to her hair being loose around her shoulders. Not that it makes her seem weak, but more like it makes her seem fragile—so unlike the bruised and battered girl who told him to run from a shipwreck.
He clears his throat. "Cassian and Kay-Tu are heading here in an eighth hour, and I just thought I should, erm," Bodhi nods, "tell you." He gestures to his own face to reference to her restlessness. Jyn's face contorts into an amused grimace as she swings the door a bit wider for Bodhi to see.
Considering it's only a night, Chirrut's bedroom is nicely kept. Well, it always is since the man hardly actually sleeps in it. The bed is unused, but rumpled from where Jyn has lay out the whole night. Holochips are scattered around the sheet, with a small holoprojector no bigger than Bodhi's hand. "I mean, so you can get ready and everything," he adds.
Jyn smiles. "What are the stories?" Of course, that is exactly what Bodhi's come to prepare Jyn for. Not the meeting with High Command, but the whispers from whatever's left of the Rebel Alliance. She needs to know, so she can detach herself before it affects her. This is what Bodhi thinks.
"One," Bodhi coughs as he steps into the room. "And it is very famous in the meal lines." He takes a seat on the bed. "Well, two, but they're related theories." Theories that are still very possible even if Bodhi can say he trusts Jyn.
She leans against the wall in nonchalance. Her leg shivers a bit, but it's probably just from the cold. "I have a guess."
"Some people think you're a spy," Bodhi says. "The first half thinks you were a spy for the Alliance, and the other half thinks you're a spy for the Empire." They're both unkind in Jyn's context. And one might be true, but for the sake of everything, Bodhi hopes for neither.
"As in, the whole 'run away to the Empire' thing was a ploy for you to sneak into the Empire and spy for any new developments." Plausible, and that would mean that their spy crew would also be a ruse to mislead Imperial leeches. "And the other side is that the Empire purposely set a spy after you so that we'd trust you and you'd lead them here to the base."
Jyn laughs, and Bodhi thinks it's the first time he's ever actually heard her laugh (the sabacc game didn't count.) "I'm not."
"For the Alliance or for the Empire?" Bodhi raises his eyebrow. The palm-sized holoprojector is in his hand, and he fidgets with the circular machine.
She walks closer to the bed and picks up the mess of holochips on the blanket. "This isn't a black and white fight, Bodhi. I'm out of that Venn diagram already. At this point, I'm more refugee than I am possible spy."
Bodhi rubs the sleeplessness out of his face. "Also, aside from that—" There is the usual sound of Cassian clearing his throat at the door. Bodhi stands up and tosses the projector to Jyn, who catches it reflexively. "Cassian is here!" he looks at the chrono. "And you're early."
"And you're awake," Cassian replies.
Bodhi shrugs. "I just wanted to talk. I was just about to get to the more interesting parts of the conversation." Jyn raises her eyebrow at Bodhi with an inquisitive stare.
To break away from the silence of her infamous glare, Cassian rescues Bodhi with another cough. "Yes, I'm early. I figured Jyn would want to eat before she and High Command see each other again." Ah, yes. The last meeting ended with Bodhi smuggling Jyn out to Eadu, wherein more dangerous things have followed. "Trust me, your meals might be better back on Coruscant, but the ones here have gotten a bit better."
Rebels need to be in better shape considering the environment they're in, so of course gets a bit better, not that it was bad to begin with. It grew on the taste spectrum, though really it was more the portion sizes. Bodhi makes a gagging face at the thought of the food (which isn't that bad) and Jyn laughs again. She and Galen have the same sense of humor, it appears.
"You can go back to sleeping in, Bodhi. Or you can start loading your ship for that weekend at Cloud City," Cassian stands at the doorway. "Jyn's coming with you, right?"
Bodhi nods. (Jyn also plays along with a somewhat reluctant yes that is followed by an eye roll.) Cassian hums, "Okay, remember to bring some guns. Don't tell her where you keep them." He cocks his head towards the corridor, "Let's go." Without waiting for a reply, the captain turns around and walks away at a slow pace.
So quickly, her laugh dies away. But it is a phoenix that can burn into the ash of a sneer but Bodhi is sure it will always come back. "Cassian has that effect on people," he regards the ghost of a smile on her face.
"I'm starting to see why," Jyn smiles, but it isn't a happy kind of smile. She's tying her hair into a small knot at the back of her head. Bodhi thinks that it is a kind of symbol for Jyn. She'd kept it loose on Eadu, and Coruscant. This is her moving out and back into the rebellion.
She puts on her new coat, which was given to her earlier that night, and follows Cassian out of the room. Bodhi approaches the bedside table and juggles the holoprojector in his hand.
He picks a chip from the stack and holds it between his index and his thumb. Bodhi rolls the chip between his fingers as he stares at the holoprojector he's been juggling in his hand. He thinks for a moment before setting both back on the surface and leaving the room.
Cassian's right: Bodhi still needs the sleep.
Have you ever had your limbs fall asleep? Felt that soothing chill that comes to you when you start to feel again? Oh, Jyn is feeling it. But there's an untold ending to that sensation: a painful discomfort that only comes when you try to move.
Jyn is ice, like Hoth. The wall of black frost at the back of her mind has begun to thaw under the exposure of blue light, and the icemelt fills her veins with bitter cold. Her cave peeks at her from beyond it. The defrost is painful, but for a night she has no dreams, no nightmares, and no sleep at all.
Let Jyn know that my love for her has never faded. That not a day has gone by without my thinking of her, her mother, our family.
Is that right? Jyn can't recall exactly. Constantly she hears her father's voice, but they aren't the words she's looking for. It his voice from transmission he's sent to the Alliance, they are all business and nothing more or anything less.
You too should run. Jyn, run. She tried to run, but she can't now. Any movement will hurt her, as the cold is only flowing through her entire body in something that calms her and makes her hurt too much.
It's happening. I let it happen. I should've stopped it. These are the words that echo in her, and these are the words she doesn't want to know. Her gaze rises to Cassian. Perhaps she has always been feeling this cold, but the embers in her have always kept her warm. She tries to think of something to say, anything.
The rebels watch her again, just like they did on Yavin 4. The words Erso and spy are in the crisp cool air on the under-ice base of Hoth. "Ignore them," Cassian leans to her so he can whisper. "News travels fast when the Alliance doesn't actually have much to do."
Jyn wracks her mind for what she's heard or read from the news docs at Coruscant, as she carefully skirts away from the black slush she's frozen away. "So the blockade at Chandaar isn't Alliance?" If Jyn were in the Fleet (Imperial, of course) she'd be in that depth of information. Fortunately for these people, she isn't.
"No," he shakes his head, "It's mainly Cronese people taking back their system. Mothma wants to help, but we've been crippled since the Death Star."
Jyn bites her cheek at the mention of the Death Star. She winds back, to an offhanded comment Krennic once made to her days before he blew up. But before it could play, she spits her consciousness back to the nonchalant conversation she has with Cassian.
"They all think I'm a spy," her head jerks towards the passersby with lips moving too fast for reading. "Why don't you?"
Cassian only smiles and turns away. It's that kind of smile that makes Jyn wish she still has his blaster. There is always poetic justice being killed by something that was once yours. But Jyn doesn't actually want to kill him, honestly. It's herself she needs to watch out for now.
"Because you're still trying to make your father proud," he says.
It makes me proud to think that you can fight when I cannot.
They stop before a carved arch of ice that exudes a bit of warm, presumably due to the tight pack of people in the mess hall. It smells of blaster oil and steel and sweat, despite the frigid air of Hoth. And Jyn is thirteen again, angry and lost and practically a child among Saw Gerrera's Partisans. She thought she was an orphan, and she really is now. Rebels everywhere, names she doesn't know and faces she doesn't recognize.
And it's stupidly early. Jyn forgot that nine in every ten rebels rise with the sun, no matter the system.
The line isn't as congested as Coruscanti airway traffic. Some eyes pass over her at the line, some look away just as she scans the room. Jyn doesn't want to press so close to Cassian, but the notice isn't boding well for her.
Further poking and study tells Jyn that it's a hash of bantha beef, protatoes and some other vegetable Jyn can't identify—and she lived a major part of her life on a farm. She takes a spoonful then decides to drown herself with the watered down caf in her styroplas cup. Bodhi's opinions aren't wrong when it comes to a former Imperial taste. "I suggest you eat quick," he points at her food. "I didn't come get you early enough, because you have minutes."
"I'm not actually eating, you know," she stirs the hash around. It's gone cold a long time ago, which leaves Jyn to wonder exactly what time they cook the food for the human rebels. Especially since it's already congealing.
Cassian laughs, more for himself than it is anything else, "More for the tauntauns then." It doesn't motivate her to start eating.
Some of the Rebels drop in with pickaxes and the like, but Jyn has already been briefed on that event. Echo Base—aptly named by the way everything echoes if you say it loud enough—is still under construction. The information is only meant to warn her about the wampas who might attack her in her sleep. (It doesn't change what she thinks about her relationship with the Alliance at that point.) After all, with so many open holes in the glacier, the ice creatures can just crawl their way in and have their way with all the rebels if they feel like it.
And those rebels, as they pass over the table, send odd looks over to Cassian's direction. He appears unfazed, but he's a spy. It's second nature to control his face. Jyn has learned the habit in Coruscant, especially at all the dinner parties. She thinks its opinion that sends them to look at their direction. Perhaps Cassian has let another family die out again.
Of course, the more logical explanation is that he's in the base for once. If Bodhi, Baze and Chirrut are anything to go by, then Cassian has thrown himself into mission after mission with barely any time to mingle in Echo Base. One more person passes by, and Cassian downs his caf with a graceless flourish. Clearly, the focused attention is affecting him more than he lets out. "Let's go."
Major Cassian Andor is a good agent, no doubt. He deserves that promotion. But if Draven were to have at least one negative opinion of the man, it will be regarding the Erso missions.
He was supposed to extract Jyn Erso from Eadu, but instead returned with news of Galen Erso's death and other vital information. He's supposed to come back from Coruscant with new information and Imperial secrets, but instead returns with Jyn Erso.
"Good to see you again, senator," the young woman smiles at Mon Mothma, or rather, her hologram. For some reason, Jyn Erso is wearing a sergeant's coat, unlabeled but obviously not hers. "General," her attention passes over Draven. Her eyes cross Major Andor, no words besides an eye roll.
Draven tugs at the cuffs of his jacket. "We can skip the formalities, Miss Erso."
"We can skip the introductions then too," she replies, "I know who you all are." Her eyes scan the round table and the only two people standing around it. General Rieekan has more pressing matters to attend to, and would rather not deign to join this conference. "And since my scandocs have probably popped back up into the Imperial registry, I guess you actually know who I am now."
Jyn Erso has come back a worse person than when she had first arrived back on Yavin 4. At least then, she was trying to fight the Empire (though the Alliance was always a target for her.) Now, it appears, she's become entirely lethargic towards the fight. She's gone from caring about her father and herself to caring about nothing else at all.
"This is more for our benefit than it is for yours, Jyn," Cassian Andor says as he holds a datapad in his hand.
The young woman shrugs. "Why don't you keep out the 'I was invited to join the Fleet.' part? It's overdone."
Draven has read that file days prior. Of course, if Mothma feels that Jyn Erso might make a valuable ally, he is in no position to argue no matter how much he might want to.
"Within your first week at the University of Coruscant, which was only days after the Eadu extraction and days before the Death Star advance on Yavin 4," the major's eyes continue to skim the scandocs. "You were approached by a captain of the Imperial fleet."
Jyn Erso appears unfazed. "I said no. Just like I did for the next two times."
If the Empire is that persistent regarding her recruitment, then perhaps they are unaware of her connection to the Rebel Alliance—most likely basing on how she reacted when her father was shot down on Eadu. If Draven were to put himself in the enemy's course of thinking, then the Empire would most likely be trying to get Jyn Erso due to her obvious ties to the extremist movement. With the right military backers, she would make a formidable foe ready to take down the Alliance.
"You graduated after only two months," he continues.
Erso's face is smug as Mon Mothma is only smiling. "I just knew it all too well," she scoffs.
Andor ignores the remark. The ex-senator's expression only gets more defined despite the grainy frequency of the hologram, but it dies as soon as she sees Draven studying her quizzically. "After which, you continued to be unemployed, which the Empire took as an opportunity to try and recruit you again."
Jyn takes a long and breathy exhale but doesn't comment. Draven takes this as some sort of victory. He stands beside Andor, casting small glances at the file. "While the Empire is oblivious, we are aware of your private account in Betha II, which you have been withdrawing from in set amounts every week."
That is mainly the reason why she has continued to go as a non-working socialite citizen of the Imperial center. She wouldn't need to work with credits lining her accounts. Jyn Erso most likely committed the arson itself, but got good money from the insurance anyway. Her father's savings are helpful as well.
"Meanwhile, Lianna Hallik was mourned among the many dead from the Jedha mining disaster," Draven notices the twitch of a smile on the major's face, "Tanith Ponta was found dead in her home, unclear whether by suicide or by a criminal gang she associated herself with. The case was never looked into." It's also obvious that she arranged the demise of all her concurrent alter egos.
Draven clears his throat, "And since you insist on your uselessness to us," he picks up, "We'll just have to change that." His eyes travel to Mon Mothma, who shows no signs of forthcoming arguments, "You have to pay your dues some way, such as hollowing out the rest of Echo Base." Which is, of course, the initial course Rieekan had agreed upon to begin with.
"What dues," Jyn Erso stands. Cassian Andor steps back intelligently to a safe distance in which he can escape if the young woman decides to lunge. "do I have to pay that require freezing my face off?"
"You have no home to return to, yes?" He shrugs deliberately, "We're giving you a place to stay, but it isn't exactly free."
"But you can stay as long as you like," Mon Mothma adds. The ex-senator once told Draven that the Alliance has made many mistakes regarding the Erso family. He feels as if he should chalk it up to favoritism, but it feels more of guilt. Mothma reserves her usual poison for anyone else but Jyn Erso.
If anything, it is that young woman who is playing poisonous, "I'm only staying three days, Senator." Draven's superior does nothing more than a near imperceptible nod and a gesture of dismissal.
Jyn leans away from the table; she is already facing the doorway, but her attention is still focused on them. "So that's it, then? I just have to whack and melt ice for three more days, then I get to disappear."
"The disappearing is up to you, Jyn," Mothma's voice follows the girl out of the conference room. She casts one sidelong glance of callousness as she grazes Draven's air, before the hologram promptly fades away.
Andor heaves in a sigh. "I'm going after her. She might run aga—" Run again. Like last time, where she persuaded Bodhi Rook to smuggle her out of Yavin 4 and onto Eadu.
"Why three days, major?"
The other man's posture straightens more so habitually. "She's joining Rook to Bespin, general."
Draven purses his lips. Bodhi Rook's days off are the Alliance's worst kept secret, having reached all corners of the new Echo Base by only the third exit. There are really no rules against it, but most rebels know better than to risk going into out into the open. Some rebels are more devoted to this cause than anything. Off-days are just regular days with more people judging them.
Jyn Erso is currently being hunted down. Her disappearance is not important enough to warrant a small group from the Stormtrooper Corps. At best, she is being hunted down by nothing more than questionable bounty hunters. Rook's outings are always a risk, but putting Jyn Erso on that ship makes it a bigger one.
"Go with them, major," he commands.
Andor nods, but the knit of his eyebrows bears his curiosity. "Of course, sir, but I assure you: she doesn't need to be protected."
Draven would laugh if not for the gravity of the situation. "That much is already obvious, Andor. I want you to go with them because Jyn Erso knows something. The only problem is that she doesn't want to tell us. Stick with her for the next three days; go with her to Bespin. Get her to trust you, major, and get her to tell."
Thanks to Galen Erso and the step ahead he granted, the rebels have been united at one singular front. Wherever possible, Draven must kill off the very things that will tear apart the Alliance—whether by surrender or extremism. Once again the Erso's will be vital.
"Yessir," Cassian Andor nods, adjusts the collar of his coat, and then leaves.
Baze loads their only set of rations (and some credits) onto the Bodhi's cargo ship. The pilot commandeered it from Eadu, before he and the rest of the Blue Squadron destroyed what was left of the facility. Baze imagines the ship is some sort of compensation for the two ships destroyed under Bodhi's piloting. (Then again, it was Bodhi's piloting that saved him from the unfortunate fate of the rest of the Blue Squadron.)
The pilot approaches Baze while pulling the goggles from his face. He's just returned from a patrol out in the harsh cold of Hoth, and there is still snow dotting his long hair. Baze ruffles the snowflakes away with his hand. "Where's Chirrut?"
"Inside," Baze gestures towards the cabin of the ship. It's warmer in there, after all. Then Jyn enters from the south passage, and Baze is forced to snort. Bodhi turns and does the same. They both know of her history as a petty criminal, but the title is more of criminal than it is petty. "That's Cassian's coat," he tells her.
The young woman folds her arms over a coat that is ultimately oversized in her terms. "It's comfy." Cassian has most likely set to wearing his standard Alliance Major coat, but he'd also notice if his favorite fur-lined parka went missing.
Sure enough, Baze is right about the coat thing. Cassian Andor stands behind them with his eyes on Jyn Erso—or maybe just his coat. "I was wondering where that was."
"I just took it this morning," Jyn turns around. "which was"—she gazes at the nonexistent chrono that supposedly on her wrist—"twenty minutes ago. Have you come to see us off, captain?"
It's unheard of. Cassian never said goodbye at the previous 48 times they've done this. Baze knows because K-2SO is keeping a tally. Instead of answering the question, Cassian corrects her instead. "It's major, Jyn."
He never tries to correct the deliberate mistake if Baze, Chirrut or Bodhi make it. "I'll get the ship started," Bodhi crosses between them, up the boarding ramp, down the ladder and into the cockpit. Baze decides to get in through the cabin as well.
"The major is not here to see you off," K-2SO answers in his stead, "We are here to join you on your journey to the Cloud City on Bespin."
"Oh, joy," Baze hears Jyn mutter.
K-2SO steps onto the ship along with the other two just as Baze lowers himself down to the cabin. "I imagine that a weekend in Cloud City will be just so, Jyn Erso."
Baze imagines it will not only be a joy, but also very very interesting.