I don't own Star Wars. If I did, certain things in episode 7 never would've happened, and the following story is how Rogue One would've ended.

That Men May Rise on Stepping-Stones by Emachinescat

A Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Fan-Fiction

SUMMARY: "Uncertainty nibbles at his mind for the fraction of a heartbeat before he glances at the approaching firestorm and remembers that uncertainty is one asset he has absolutely no time for, not anymore. He hasn't time for much at all, really, and his priorities have suddenly shifted." An alternate ending for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Spoilers. Requested by PendragonsSword.

A/N: I'm finally dipping my toes into the Star Wars fandom, after all these years! This short story was actually commissioned by my best friend, PendragonsSword, with whom I have griped with often about the less than satisfactory ending to Rogue One. So this is an alternate ending she asked me to write, and I was all for it, because, if nothing else, this should have happened! Obviously, there will be SPOILERS for the movie.

Also, the title comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam A.H.H., and I'm using it to refer to the higher causes death sometimes calls great men and women to – just like in Rogue One. The stanza it's taken from says this:

I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

Please review, I hope you enjoy!

The water, calm as glass, reflects the chaos in the heavens. A blinding light, a resonating, final lurch of fire and color and unintelligible sound… And then the mirror is smashed, the sea roiling and boiling, howling with smoke and flame and death, and it rises, it rushes, screams across the surface of Scarif… everything is destruction… devastation … death.

The star destroyer lurks above, a malignant, pulsing moon above a dying world, and it takes mere moments for the blaze to infect the very core of the planet, to light up the ocean like a supernova, to bite great crevices into the soil, through rock and metal, to shatter life and consume everything in its voracious path.

Death Star, indeed.

Though only a handful of precious seconds pass before life bows to death, time disengages, creeping slowly for the two lone figures on the beach: dirty, bloody, bruised, scorched, Cassian Andor tears haunted eyes from the roaring pulse of elements bounding ever closer, and regards the strong, tear-streaked face of the young woman standing silently next to him. Jyn Erso is not weak for having shed tears; she is strong, and powerful, and proud – pained by those she has lost and soothed by the whisper of hope that rides on what they've just accomplished. And, in that moment, Cassian realizes with a kind of detached incredulity, that she is beautiful.

Tangled, sweat-and-blood streaked hair, face pale beneath bruises and dirt, eyes dark and glistening, clothes torn and stained, heart as beautiful as her face. Intoxicating.

Uncertainty nibbles at his mind for a fraction of a heartbeat before he glances at the approaching firestorm and remembers that uncertainty is one asset he has absolutely no time for, not anymore. He hasn't time for much at all, really, and his priorities have suddenly shifted. The plans have been transmitted. There is hope for the Rebels to rise yet. And he will be damned if he allows himself and Jyn to die before he lets her know what has been building inside of him during the short time they've spent together.

Wasting not another moment, he reaches forward, cupping a scraped cheek in one bloodied hand. Jyn starts, eyes questioning, defensive, before she, too, leans in, impending death not forgotten, but somehow nowhere nearly as important as it had been seconds before.

Their lips collide – no time for hesitation or timidity – passionately, with no abrasiveness, and heat flushes down the back of his neck at the feel of her kiss. He pulls her closer, and she mirrors him, allowing his hand to wander into her tangled hair; the feel of her is even more incredible than he had imagined as they comfort one another.

She slides a hand to rest on the back of his neck and he shivers, despite the breathless heat that encroaches ever closer, and distantly, he wonders if this is her doing, or the explosion's.

It matters not in the end, and the two are still holding one another, locked in a passionate, immortal kiss, even as the world falls apart around them and is consumed by fire.

A/N: That was depressing. But still so much more satisfying than the ending we were given! I can't tell you how often my best friend and I have complained to one another that Jyn and Cassian should have kissed at the end. I wanted this to be a snapshot of the ending, though, not something long and drawn out, but emotional, jarring, and pure – something not about lust or 'cause we can,' but that stems from the feelings that they develop toward one another throughout the course of the movie. Obviously, had they survived, their relationship would've taken a lot longer to form and to get to this point, but like Cassian realized in this story – there comes a time when there is no more time, and you have to make a decision about what matters most in however much time you have left.

Hopefully this is what the bestie was looking for! And hopefully everyone else enjoyed as well. I assume there might be similar fics out there somewhere, but I don't really read SW fanfiction often, and I wanted my own take on it, so any similarity to any other alternate ending fanfic out there is entirely coincidental. :)

Please let me know what you thought!

~Emachinescat ^. .^