A/N: The first part of the chapter goes deep; but if you're one of those people who read the sneak peek from my tumblr (aurebcsh if you want to get things like that too) you probably already know. I'm not proud of the phrasing of ANYTHING.
Also of important note, I'm trying to keep the OT characters here to a minimum. Think of it this way, I'm preserving that side of canon so the movies still have to happen —but sometimes there's going to be a little twist. We are, after all, still two years away from ESB.
—Motive of Operation:
On the list of things Bodhi has done, this… actually isn't that bad. He will be thrown out into the Hoth winter for disobeying superior orders though.
Cassian is still hovering over the captain's chair. "Cassian," Bodhi turns around, "I can handle this."
In all honesty, Bodhi is not very sure he can. He's flown the route from Hoth to Bespin multiple times, but that doesn't mean he can't doubt himself. The only thing Bodhi's ever done is doubt himself, and this day—when he is at his most confident and comfortable—is no exception.
If all Bodhi's done is doubt and all Chirrut's done is believe (and in extension, all Jyn's ever done is fight), all Cassian's ever done is try to control everything.
Which is why he hardly works with actual living beings. Once a living thing is involved, the situation can't be controlled. Bodhi is used to the fact that Cassian disappears with K-2SO on assignments and doesn't ever invite any of them. It's one of his more annoying traits.
In other words, Cassian wouldn't be on this ship right now if he didn't have a mission to deal with. It's a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless. "Don't pull rank on me, Cass," he says as he flips various switches and buttons, "I'm the captain of this ship."
Bodhi rests his hand on the hyperdrive and turns to face Cassian, whose face betrays nothing. "I don't mean this to offend you, but I am a more practiced pilot."
"Stars, Cass, I said I can handle this." He laughs as the ship hovers in space momentarily. It will take a few more minutes before the jump to hyperspace. The Bespin system is generally distant, but the cluster of planets makes a possible trajectory hard to compute. Bodhi can still do it though. "You don't need to control everything."
He scowls. "I am not trying to—" Bodhi doesn't let him finish.
"Thanks anyway, captain," He turns again to face the viewport. "But I don't need a co-pilot right now."
Bodhi imagines he shrugged then walked out. Cassian has never been a man to emote—but Bodhi knows that there are emotions down there. Bodhi once caught him alone just days after Galen died. Even if it was bad, Bodhi was glad to know it wasn't another droid under that fluffy blue coat.
Bodhi gets the sense that the man doesn't really want to copilot. (If Cassian is ever going to fly a ship, he has to be the captain.) Right now, he only wants to get away from the people in the cargo hold—or more accurately, any kind of personal conversation with Jyn Erso when there are people watching.
And for Jyn, Bodhi isn't too sure. Sometimes she laughs—at the same jokes that would have made her father laugh. Her cheeks tug whenever he, Baze or Chirrut pass by. (Bodhi doesn't know about how she deals with Cassian. They're never in the same area when Bodhi's around. It's an art form: how they dance around each other.) Jyn will smile and try, but she will not feel at all. She's as cold as the air she breathes, no matter how she tries to pretend to Bodhi that she isn't.
But when no one is around, and Bodhi has his ear pressed to the chilled walls of his quarters in Hoth, Galen's voice comes from the other room. It is only in these times that Jyn feels, and it isn't even a good kind of feeling. Bodhi still isn't that good at reading people, but he knows fear, pain and loss like the control panel of his ship.
In all honesty, Bodhi Rook is the most capable pilot in the Rebel Alliance. Not the most skilled, but certainly the most efficient. With the exception of his post-psychological torture period, Bodhi actually doesn't need a co-pilot. Cassian just needed to be able to have a hand in what would happen next.
It's not a betrayal exactly, but he still needs to get Jyn to trust him—under questionable platforms. And even from those walls of aloofness and isolation, her trust is a detonator waiting to implode. Jyn put her trust in too many things, and those things were taken from her. She trusted the Alliance, for a moment, and it ended with her father dead. If Jyn wanted to kill Cassian then, for that momentary trust, then he can't imagine what she'd do when she finds out that he used her.
Cassian climbs down the ladder into the cabin. Chirrut and Baze are trapped in another set of articulate bickering—most likely over what numbers to play when they get to Cloud City. Kay is in the corner of the cargo hold, hooked up to a few wires and most likely uploading a new back-up drive. The light in the droid's eyes is dead, having momentarily disabled for the data transfer. Jyn's eyes are locked on his. "So you're actually joining us to Bespin?"
"People have to change sometime," he replies. These people are his friends, and he's just going on a weekend trip with them. It's something friends do, right?
He has friends, right?
Cassian can never truly hold out on his own, which is why he has K-2SO. But when a droid didn't seem to be enough, Cassian found Galen and Bodhi, Chirrut and Baze.
Then again, Cassian has separate reasons to be going to Bespin.
Jyn purses her lips. "The Alliance's changed too," she says. There is no smile on her face, but no sneer either. She's only stating a fact, and that's the kind of emotion she chooses to express. "It's something new." Like you aren't fighting a losing war anymore. It goes unsaid, but it's in her eyes.
"I was hoping you'd notice," Cassian smiles on her behalf. There is a new aura among the rebels, despite the cold. It's a year-old emotion, but even Cassian noticed when it was there. It stays now, and he's gotten used to it. "It's hope, Jyn. You had that once." It was all she had once.
"I had a lot of things, Cassian."
He nods, "And you lost that many things. It's why you push everything else away. It's practical. I used to think like that. When there's nothing around you, there's nothing to lose." It takes one to know one, after all.
"That's where you're wrong, captain," Jyn is finally smiling—a rueful expression, but it might be a little bit happy. "There is always more to lose."
Jyn stands and makes for the ladder out of the hold. "I'll go see if Bodhi needs a copilot." He watches her climb up the ladder and disappear again.
Bodhi already made it clear to Cassian that he doesn't. But when a minute passes and Jyn doesn't reappear, he realizes Bodhi just wanted Cassian to at least talk to the other people in the cargo hold.
Well, that conversation died. Even the other two's argument has dissipated into steam.
Chirrut laughs silently, "It wouldn't be the first time you've chased Jyn Erso away from us all, captain."
Cassian thinks it's supposed to be a joke, because even Baze laughs. "Something about him always agitates her."
"She isn't agitated, Baze," Chirrut counters, "Flustered, angry, jealous. But not agitated." They have the habit of talking about Cassian when he's only a meter away—specifically in third person. After a year of knowing them, he's used to it.
It's understandable that Cassian would make Jyn flustered and angry. She has every right to be. It's better than the indifference she's bared from Eadu and Scarif and Coruscant.
He makes a sputtered laugh, "Jealous?" Aside from the junior officers in the Alliance who envy his rank, Cassian can't really think of anything in his life that anyone would be jealous of. Much more in the case of Jyn Erso. "Of what?"
If Chirrut weren't blind, he would probably share a pitiful gaze with Baze. "It's been a year," the sniper says in disbelief.
The time gap doesn't matter. Cassian still won't understand. He walks towards the bags and shuffles with their contents.
The sightless man places his hand on Baze's shoulder but faces Cassian. "She's been jealous of you and Bodhi. Only one has been treating her fairly." Chirrut tilts his head and smiles pointedly. Obviously, it isn't Cassian. "You knew her father, better than she did."
Cassian finds that hilarious. Galen raised her, while they only knew each other a grand total of three years. How can Cassian and Bodhi know Galen Erso better than the man's own daughter?
"Now, personally, I have never met the man," Chirrut continues, "But I think that father who raised her is different from the man who was on Eadu."
Baze gently jostles Chirrut. "You're making the captain feel worse, Chirrut." At that, Cassian decides to pick up one of the blaster rifles folded into one of the duffel bag's ridges. (Bodhi brought guns, which is good. Cassian found them in less than four seconds, so Jyn can find them immediately, which is bad.) His nerves itch for action.
"I know how he feels, Baze," he replies, "He still carries his prison around with him everywhere he goes."
Cassian's hand doesn't exactly stop, since he's done this so many times. He already has it in his muscle memory.
He continues to fiddle with the rifle, dismantling and reassembling the gun over and over, even if his attention is now directed to Chirrut—and a conversation on Jedha from a million years ago.
There are different prisons beyond what we see, Captain, Chirrut told him. He ignored him then, returning to the lock that was wired with a bomb. Jedha was a strange day for them all.
Chirrut says now: He still carries his prison around with him everywhere he goes.
"But the Force has never been stronger." Chirrut doesn't necessarily face him—as one usually can't if they're blind—but Cassian forces his eyes and ears to the old zealot anyway. Kay-Tu may be the best at strategic analysis, but Chirrut is undefeated when it comes to reading a situation and the people in it.
Cassian shakes his head and returns to breaking down the rifle in his hands. But still he continues to listen. "It's her, isn't it?" Baze asks.
The next is silent, so soft that Cassian barely picks it up—if not for his spy's ears trained to pick up sound beyond walls. "Jyn Erso still shines, Baze. There are walls we don't know are there, but the light comes from beneath."
The world goes white as the light from beneath struggles to chase them beyond lightspeed.
Hope. You had that once. But before that, she had fire. Saw gave her that fire, and she hated him for it.
But the hope; the moment Cassian told her that he knew where her father was, that her father was alive, he did the worst thing anyone can ever do to her: Cassian Andor gave her hope.
She lost her mother. She lost Saw. She lost her father, but stars forbid she lose the hope she never wanted. All she has is hope.
All she has is her cave and the dying words of the ghosts of her past. They told her to run, and she should have run. Jyn chose to listen to something else: words meant for the world, words never meant for Jyn to hear. They tell her to believe and save and dream and destroy.
She listens because she needs to remember Galen Erso and Saw Gerrera.
Saw told her to save the rebellion, to save his dream. Jyn is trying, just trying to keep that fight alive for him.
Her father told her that the Death Star must be destroyed.
When she saw Cassian on Scarif—where the last copy of the schematics were—Jyn had to honor those words. She led Krennic out of the databank, because Cassian had to steal those plans and destroy her father's monster.
She didn't exactly expect him to destroy the entire base. (Not that she blames Cassian. Jyn has blown up enough Imperial facilities for all four of her lives.)
There are always more than two ways to honor her father's memory and Saw's dream.
But those whispers from her hatch aren't the last memories of her father, or Saw.
There is still Bodhi, Cassian and K-2SO, who kept her father away from the loneliness that slowly ruined Jyn.
There is still Chirrut and Baze who survive as the last remnants of Saw's Jedha and the Jedha of the Old Republic, the world her mother believed in.
Jyn shouldn't be on this cargo freighter. Her presence risks their lives—and with them the memories of her father, the Galen Erso she doesn't know, and the remains of Saw Gerrera, a man built of fire, steel and sheer willpower.
It's only a weekend with the people she's trying to get away from. Then she gets to disappear, continue her own fight with herself, and they make their distance.
She's a detonator that can't light on its own.
Loneliness will never make her happy, but loneliness will sure as hell keep her safe. She should have listened to her father when he first told her. She should have run.
Self-preservation isn't cowardice, but what she's planning isn't only self-preservation. She'll gladly plunge herself in ice and let go of emotion again if it means that Saw and Galen can rest in quietly in her memory. It's her best option, but it's the least pleasant.
There are plans and secrets and lies, and Jyn hopes that they survive this probably disastrous weekend with her so that they can know. Because if she tells them now and something happens on Bespin, then everything is ruined and her fire will finally consume her.
Save the rebellion! Save the dream!
She's trying. Oh, stars above, she's trying.
She can't bring it to herself to just disappear from these people again. For hopefully the last time in her petty life, Jyn wants someone to think of her from between the stars. She wants someone to know that she's alive and she wants to be able to say at least one goodbye.
Jyn collapses on the ladder, her breathing is wracked and painful and her head reeling. (She's sure she hears Chirrut call her name over the echo of her hatch, but she's also sure to ignore it.)
The thaw is over, and the hatch shatters like baked clay. Her arms are numb over her, doing all they can to support her weight against the durasteel ladder.
She was in the engine compartment for the last minutes of the flight. She didn't notice their arrival on Bespin until the engine stopped running. They've just jumped out of hyperspace, and Jyn is in no proper position for the rest of the trip. Mentally or physically.
We were hoping to use you, Jyn, Mothma told her on her second day on Hoth. Your father was helping us, but not enough, and we were planning to use you.
She laughed at that. Guess I left before you could.
No, the ex-Senator confirmed, we let you see your father, so that you would trust us. Jyn never trusted the Alliance to begin with, but she still needs to save their cause. Not for them, or for herself, but for her past.
I believed that if you trusted us, it would make the 'using you' more bearable. On one side, maybe. But trust is a weapon that Jyn will only let people wield once. Lyra Erso once told her daughter to trust a group of rebels. Lyra Erso died.
We never planned what would happen next.
Maybe it was bound to happen; that even in a kinder universe, Galen Erso would die.
Does Jyn even believe in an alternate reality? Her parents didn't study the physics of the universe and the possibility of other worlds; they only studied the changes of the world around them.
People have to change sometime. Did she really think that the world never changed? Then she is a fool. The world is made of miracles, unexpected earthquakes, storms that come from nowhere to destroy a planet. Anything is possible.
She jumps down the last three steps of the ladder to the main cabin, taking an immediate back step with her left to balance herself from the impact. Everyone else, from Baze to K-2SO, is already standing on the boarding ramp with their bags slung over their backs and shoulders, minus three layers since leaving Hoth.
"I do hope she wasn't looking for the guns," Kay-Tu says once Jyn is within their sights.
Cassian doesn't say anything to support the accusation, but his smile is still complacent. He knows where the guns are, or he knows there are no guns to begin with. No matter, Jyn doesn't even want them.
Jyn smiles cheekily at the droid before looking at Bodhi, "So where are we?"
They all take the same step forward out of the cargo shuttle. Jyn didn't get a good study of it on Hoth, but she can't see any signs of the spacecraft once being Imperial. When they're off, the boarding ramp closes behind them so Jyn can marvel at the view of Cloud City and the rest of the gas planet below them.
"I think the West Platform on the 26th level," Bodhi replies. As Tanith Ponta, Jyn knows that Cloud City is a mining colony, though the upper 50 floors are meant for resorts and casinos. Everything from below that is strictly into the mining business.
She also knows that the operation is small enough that the Empire doesn't interfere, but if it's a well-regarded resort location: an officer on vacation is bound to know her.
Luckily, she's prepared for that. Apparently, so is Cassian. He tosses her a set of scandocs. She quickly adjusts her duffel bag more securely over her shoulder so it won't fall as she catches the scandocs midair. Bodhi raises his own in the air and smiles endearingly as he holds up his own.
"Pleased to meet you, Katya Safin," Cassian says to her before gesturing to Bodhi, "This is Dev Cavora."
Bodhi makes a stunted wave to her. She stuffs the scandocs into the pocket of her bag. "So how come none of you get fake identities?"
"No one knows who they are," Bodhi explains, "And Cassian here is in Rebel Intelligence, so he's supposed to be a nobody."
Cassian picks up for a more informed intervention, "Because Dev has had his name in all the news docs galaxy-wide once, but thankfully his face isn't so well-known. You, on the other hand, are a familiar in the Coruscanti socialite inner circle, and they most likely also take vacations in Cloud City. THe customers are the kind who don't want to attract attention to themselves."
"And when they see my face?"
"Didn't you cover that on your own, Katya?" he catches himself immediately that the transition is almost smooth. "You obviously told a story when Lianna and Tanith made the holonet."
Well, actually, that one was simple. The holograms where grainy, but the two certainly resembled her. Lianna Hallik had no body to be identified while Tanith Ponta—or at least the cadaver that Krennic helped plant—was too disfigured to look remotely like Jyn.
Meanwhile, he door to the facility from the platform opens to reveal a silver 3PO-series droid. Jyn steps closer to Bodhi and hisses into his ear, "You do have a cover story for this, right?" (In hindsight, it would probably have been best to discuss this on the ship or perhaps even in Hoth.)
"We're a commercial association from the Business District in Corellia," he replies, "We come here regularly, so it's usually for different reasons. Most of the hotel staff already knows us, so we'll just have to introduce our new co-workers."
"Greetings, Master Cavora," the droid traipses towards them. It nods at Baze and Chirrut before returning to 'Cavora.' "May I ask who are your new companions?"
"Hey, Em. This is Jeron Andor," Bodhi jerks his head in Cassian's general direction. "Katya's his plus one."
Jyn tries not to sputter uncontrollably. After the droid (most likely named M-3PO) hospitably shakes Cassian's hand, it turns to her. "Katya Safin," she introduces herself as she takes the silver-plated hand.
"Truly pleased to meet you, Miss Safin," he shakes her hand vigorously. "And the droid?" Em's silver head rises up at the direction of the towering Kay-Tuesso. "Forgive me, but I'm afraid Baron Administrator Calrissian does not condone Imperial interference in this facility."
Cassian clears his throat, "Our superiors wanted to supervise our team-building operations on Cloud City, to see if funds are well-spent. It's not an intervention." Well, clearly they've woven a whole system of lies that Jyn isn't aware of.
After that, the droid directs them inside while continuing a conversation with Bodhi—ahem, Dev.
Concurrently, Jyn sidles up to Cassian. "I'm your plus one?" She practically hisses.
"We were supposed to brief you, but you weren't exactly anywhere," Cassian clears out, "We didn't look."
She doesn't bother to question that anymore. "Why Jeron though?" She decides to ask. "If you're going to keep your last name?" It's the worst way to go into hiding, keeping the original surname that can be used for future reference.
He places his hand at the small of her back as he directs her to one of the hotel's spinning corridors. He lets go before Jyn can sprain his wrist.
Baze, Chirrut and Bodhi seem to know where they're going as M-3PO saunters in front of them all. "It's my middle name, if you wanted to know."
Jyn hums in recognition, quickens her pace so she has a distance from Cassian and keeps walking steadily from there. He doesn't try to return to her side.
The hallway is straight from there, all the way to a pure white lobby buzzing with life. "You'll have to check in as per usual. Of course, the systems are unaware of any prior reservations."
"Katya!" Bodhi calls. He's walking backwards, facing her, "Toss me your credit chip, will you?"
Jyn stuffs her hand into the small pocket of her bag, where the holoprojector and her credit chip (Lianna's) is. "You never said I'd be paying."
"You get a little sidetrip after this, Kat," he replies. Bodhi's eyes say DEMESEL, "Least you can do is pay for all of us."
Then Jyn reminds herself that this whole weekend is just Bodhi Rook blackmail. She takes out the chip and tosses it to him.
Once they arrive at the circular lobby, Cassian promptly plops himself onto one of the couches as Bodhi walks over to the desk agent. Jyn approaches the viewport and just watches the colors as the sun sets over Cloud City. It's a beautiful place, and a wonder as to why it's undiscovered.
"Sometimes I wish I wasn't blind," Chirrut says beside her. He nudges Baze, "It's still beautiful, I assume?"
"The clouds will always change, but the view remains the same," replies the other man.
K-2SO's mechanical whirring ends right behind her. "Clouds are visible masses of condensed water vapor suspended in a planetary atmosphere, with the property to reflect light into singular colors though mostly in white. However, planets in which humanoids and humans cannot be acclimatized to are also unable to form clouds."
Jyn turns around to stare at the droid.
"But yes, it is a common opinion that the clouds here are beautiful." The droid's eyes flicker over them, who are all looking at him with the same expression. "Honestly, you humans. I was making a joke. There is irony in finding a mass of cold air beautiful."
To break the awkwardness, Bodhi conveniently arrives bearing a little slip of flimsi most likely bearing their rooms' entry code. "They're going to keep your chip hostage for a while," he nudges her, "'In case of additional charges in the duration of your stay.'" The pilot says this in a pitiful mimic of M-3PO's mechanical voice.
The said droid doesn't accompany them anymore through the winding passageways as they approach their suite. (Oh, yes. Cassian knows for some reason that Jyn not only withdraws money from her Betha II account, but also deposits in it with the knowledge that one day she'd have to leave. He knows that much about her, and said as much to Bodhi. In turn, he checked them in to a multi-bedroom suite all because he knew he could.)
It's cold. Not a Hoth kind of cold, but an empty kind. Like the cave in Lah'mu.
Well, unlike the cave, it's a pure shade of white, with a somber glow from the ceiling that gradually shifts colors from red to yellow to navy and back again. Their bags are all tossed haphazardly in the center of the living room, with clear several plush seats and a semicircular network of adjoining rooms.
There's a counter on the left side, with a dining table hidden behind it. With a few snooping, she finds out about the kitchen and two refreshers. Either sonic or water.
Jyn pokes her head into the other rooms as she continues to survey the suite. "Okay," she returns to the round living room. "There are only two bedrooms. Both single bed." It might be a mistake in the reservations, or a budgeting tactic.
Bodhi's hand shoots up immediately. "I get one."
"I don't need to sleep," K-2SO says as he plays with a hologram on the counter at the side of the living room. It spells out Zenreina's Cirrus is calligraphic Aurebesh.
"Baze and I will take the other room," Chirrut announces after popping up from said quarters. Baze, too, sticks his head into the conversation. "We'll have a protocol droid bring you some cots."
Jyn hikes her feet up the chaise longue that overlooks the window and the parts of the city below them. A few cloud cars pass by, with tourists watching the Bespin transition to night for the purpose of reminding Jyn that it's late, even if it's still only morning on Hoth.
Bodhi picks up his bag from their pile and walks into the room he's just claimed. "Well, we have time to explore the Bespin nightlife tomorrow. Now, I feel like sleeping through an the Hoth morning while in a warm environment."
The sound of his body collapsing on the obviously soft single bed is distinct to all their ears. Jyn stretches more over and takes a nap too.
Bodhi is sitting cross-legged over Jyn's cot as Cassian tosses a bunch of pillows on his. Baze is exploring the kitchen, as he always does if their room ever has one, while Jyn is still enjoying the water refresher. Chirrut's in their room, most likely doing his evening prayers.
There's faint humming from within the suite. Obviously not Chirrut. Baze sometimes sings when he cooks, and maybe Jyn does it when she's alone. Bodhi decides to drown it out, whoever it may be. No one else can be listening either way.
"What's the mission, Cassian?"
The major tucks a blaster (set on safety for now) under the pillow as he looks at Bodhi. "I'm technically on shore leave." A master liar at his finest.
"And you spend your shore leave doing more missions," Bodhi shrugs. "You're here for a reason."
Instead of taking a seat on the fairly soft mattress, Cassian just takes to the chaise longue that Jyn had made home for most of the evening. "Is this the paranoia again?"
Bodhi's paranoia was a big issue long ago, when the memories of the entire Blue Squadron still haunted him. He's the last survivor of the whole team from the Battle of Yavin, and one day the universe will come to finish the job.
That paranoia has long since died out since the first trip to Bespin with Chirrut and Baze, and their camaraderie is the only thing keeping fear at bay. This isn't paranoia.
This is Cassian Jeron Andor trying to change the subject.
"Cassian, you're a very good liar," is his only reply. "But you have to be careful. If this mission has anything, anything, to do with Jyn, she's going to break."
The man isn't looking directly at Bodhi. Up, at the swirling ceiling of amber light. "And if she can help with the rebellion; help the cause that everyone in Blue died for?"
Bodhi winces. "They're already gone, Cassian," he says, more for his own benefit than Cassian's. "Jyn is still here. I'm asking you this for her sake. Be here as a friend, not a major in a civil war. Don't just think about the people in Blue; think about Galen."
(Thank the stars Jyn apparently takes long baths.)
Cassian's head whips to Bodhi. "If I tell you that I am on a mission, will you tell Jyn?" Bodhi ignores the question.
"You have to know what it's like to be lonely," Bodhi continues, "I can never really be sure about what I'm seeing, Cassian, but Jyn looks like she doesn't want to be lonely. She's looking for a home." Bodhi locks his eyes to him. "Whatever your mission—if it even concerns her, and I assume it does—you will break an already broken trust. Whatever home she finds, she'll never believe in."
Bodhi tries not to laugh at himself and think about how much time he's been spending with Chirrut. "And if you want her to help the rebellion, using her isn't the best way to start. So for once in your life, Cassian, be a rebel."
The sound of rushing water stops, a sound Bodhi hadn't noticed until it was gone. The distant singing, on the other hand, continues. (So it was Jyn.) As if they're going by a natural schedule, Baze appears from the kitchen with savory-smelling dishes of Corellian porcelain. "Dinner!"
Bodhi stands up and heads for the dining table. Behind him, and yes he checked, Cassian fixing the cots to put a distance between his bed and Jyn's. (Because, frankly, K-2SO claimed the chaise longue before leaving the suite to explore the casino.)
There's a woosh from the door of the water refresher. Just before Jyn steps out, pajamas and wet hair, Bodhi grabs Cassian by the wrist and practically hisses, "If you won't do it for her sake, Cass, then do it for Galen."