(A/N) Okay, so this entire piece of AU fluff was inspired by a customer-service horror story I read, so anyone who's about to comment saying this could never happen - you have obviously never worked in retail.
Also, all the bakery details are based on misty memories of working in a supermarket bakery lo these many years ago, so please correct me on any inaccuracies.
Cassian Andor frowned, double-checked his phone's GPS, and looked back up at the sign over the display window. Stardust Bakery. He was in the right place.
He adjusted his scarf and sighed. He'd gone into law school determined to right wrongs, to fight for the little guy, to make the world a better place. And now, ten years later, where was he?
Bringing frivolous lawsuits against small business owners on behalf of a large, soulless corporation.
He reminded himself, as always, that he still had astronomical school loans to pay back. And also that this particular small business owner had defrauded a would-be customer, and fraud was still illegal no matter who was doing it to whom.
He adjusted his scarf again and pushed the door open.
A bell jingled cheerily, and a wave of warm, bread-scented air rolled out at him. He took a deep, involuntary breath and heard his stomach growl. God, it smelled good.
The shop was tiny, the walls all lined with shelves and racks of different baked goods, except for a nook where two wrought-iron tables and four chairs were crammed next to a window. A menu mounted on the wall explained all the different kinds of toppings he could get on a bagel from 6 am to 10 am, and a coffee to go with it. Cassian regretted that it was 10:30, then told himself sternly that he was here for his job, not a snack.
The man behind the counter looked up from where he was bagging bagels behind the counter. "Hey there," he called out. "Welcome to Stardust. Would you like to try a sample of our cinnamon raisin bread?"
"No, thank you," Cassian said over his still-growling stomach. "I need to speak to the owner."
"Jyn? She's putting loaves in the proofing box - it could be a few minutes - "
"Okay," he said rather meekly. "So, uh, today's specials are - "
"I don't intend to buy anything," Cassian said as gently and professionally as he could.
"Oh-okay. Uh. What is this regarding?"
He fished in his pocket and held out a business card. "My name is Cassian Andor. I'm a lawyer. I represent Empire Holdings, LLC, and in this particular case, I also represent Mrs. Palpatine, the wife of the CEO."
The man's dark eyes went huge. He took the card and disappeared into the back.
At least they seemed to know how much trouble they were in.
Cassian stood waiting quietly, trying to keep his eyes from straying over the various different loaves of bread - challah, marble rye, sourdough - the fat bagels still in the baskets - chocolate chip, banana nut, onion - the paper-wrapped muffins on trays in a glass case - apple nut, glazed strawberry, lemon poppyseed.
His mouth watered.
He took a few steps away from the counter and found himself studying a rack of jewel-toned preserves in cut-glass jars - apple jelly, peach jam, orange marmalade. The paper labels said Guardian Farms, with a local address.
A little fridge hummed next to the rack, and when he looked inside, it was full of paper-wrapped lumps with the same logo. Butter, the labels said, salted and unsalted, and cream cheese.
From the back, there was a mighty thud and a woman's voice said, "You've got to be fucking kidding me."
A murmur that was almost certainly the man.
"Of all the motherfucking wastes of my time - " The voice got louder and Cassian looked over in time to see a dark-haired woman storm out from behind the counter and right up to him.
He stood his ground, knowing better than to be intimidated even if she was surprisingly terrifying for someone six inches shorter than him, with flour on her outthrust chin, and enormous green-grey eyes and a pouty little mouth and -
She glared up at him. "Cassian Andor?"
"Jyn Erso, I presume." Owner and head baker, in spite of her apparent youth.
She waved his card in front of his nose. "Are you really a lawyer or did you get a diploma off the internet?"
His eyes narrowed. "I'm really a lawyer."
From somewhere behind her, the man said, "Jyn, maybe you two should sit down somewhere."
"Bodhi, I've got this."
Bodhi, Cassian noted. The name of the man mentioned in the suit. No wonder he looked green.
Something scraped against the floor, and Bodhi said more firmly, "Sit down. Please. Both of you."
When Cassian tore his eyes away from Jyn's, he saw that Bodhi had pulled out two chairs from one of the tables. He said, "That's a good idea," and forced himself to step away, taking one of the chairs.
"Coffee!" Bodhi said brightly.
"Bodhi, for fuck's sake - "
"That's not - "
But Bodhi was already gone, fussing over two carafes on the counter. Jyn looked a little helpless in the face of her employee's aggressive hospitality. When she caught Cassian's eyes, her own narrowed at him, promising a fight from her at least.
Bodhi came back with two paper cups of hot black coffee, a couple of packets of cream and sugar, and some slices of bread on a plate, with a blob of butter next to it. "Today's special! Cinnamon raisin, Jyn's original recipe. Very popular. Always a best-seller."
Cassian sipped the coffee to be polite - oh, god, it was even really good coffee - and reached into his attache case to pull out a manila folder. Time to take back control of this encounter. "As I was saying, I represent Mrs. Palpatine in the matter of her fraud case against Stardust Bakery."
Jyn snorted loudly. Her arms were crossed and her chin set. She hadn't touched her coffee or the bread. "Fraud? She's calling it fraud now?"
Cassian said, "She attests that you promised, and failed to deliver, a cake for her daughter's wedding on June nineteenth of this year."
"Oh my god," Jyn muttered.
"She further attests that you took a deposit of five hundred dollars, and never refunded it despite failing to deliver the agreed-upon item." He folded his hands over the folder. "She wants a full return of her money and a further ten thousand dollars for emotional trauma."
Bodhi said, "Ten thousand - "
Jyn didn't say anything.
"Jyn, that would sink us - "
"I know," she said, still staring Cassian down. Her eyes blazed and her jaw was clenched so hard Cassian wouldn't have been surprised to hear teeth shattering. "You done now? Can I respond?"
"First off, Mr. Lawyer Andor," Jyn said. "Take a look around. Go on. Have a good long look at all the shelves and displays."
"I've seen it," Cassian said.
"Do you see cakes out anywhere?"
"No." But many bakeries made cakes to order as specialty items.
"Do you see cookies? Donuts? Pastries? Sweets of any kind?"
"… no," he was forced to admit.
"We make bread, bagels, and muffins," Jyn said. "Have done for the past eight years, ever since we opened our doors. We've never made anything but bread, bagels, and muffins."
Bodhi muttered, "We could branch out into cookies, it wouldn't be that - " but a boiling look from Jyn stopped him.
Cassian said, "Why did you take her order then?"
She made a noise somewhere between a growl and a shriek in her throat. "We didn't. We wouldn't."
"She says she ordered three layers of lemon-creme, raspberry, and chocolate ganache, frosted in her daughter's wedding colors of mint green and harvest gold."
Which sounded both nauseating and hideous to him but then, it hadn't been his cake.
Jyn huffed out a breath and started to say more, but Bodhi cut in. "Why don't I tell him what happened?"
"You're Bodhi Rook?" Cassian asked him.
"You're named in the suit as the employee who falsely promised her the cake."
Jyn twitched, and Bodhi put a hand on her shoulder. Her rigid spine softened, but her eyes still glittered dangerously. She looked up at him and let out her breath.
Cassian eyed them, wondering what the situation was there. Simple curiosity, he assured himself. No other reason.
She looked back at Cassian. "He's right. You should get his side of the story."
She got to her feet and waved Bodhi into her place. She leaned up against the window, arms still crossed, looking like an eagle poised to tear out Cassian's liver at the slightest hint that he might bully or traumatize her employee.
Cassian took out his yellow legal pad and a pencil. "What happened?"
"She came in," Bodhi said. "About mid-June."
"June twelfth," Jyn interjected.
"Yeah. And she started firing off orders for this cake. She was texting the whole time. I kept saying we didn't do cakes but she never looked up from her phone. A lot of people think we do cakes, and we usually send them to this friend of ours, Baze? He and his husband run Guardian Farms, and he makes amazing cakes. People love them - anyway, I tried to give her his card like six or seven times, and she just kept telling me when she needed the cake and where to deliver it."
Cassian felt his stomach sink. That squared with his impression of the CEO's wife - domineering and oblivious.
"What about the deposit she accuses you of stealing?"
"Total fiction," Jyn said.
"She stated the amount of five hundred dollars."
Bodhi said, "I tried to tell her we didn't take deposits because we don't do cakes. She told me she knew the owner personally, to put it on her account, and then she just walked out the door."
"We don't have corporate or personal accounts, and I sure as hell didn't know her," Jyn added. "If you want, you can check with our accountants. They're two doors down, Skywalker and Organa. You won't see that number anywhere in our books."
Cassian noted the names. "What happened next?"
Jyn answered. "She came back a week later and screamed the house down when we didn't have her cake. Because we don't do cakes."
"I called the cops," Bodhi said.
Cassian felt his eyebrows shoot up. That was a detail that had gotten left out. "Because she was disrupting your place of business?"
"Uh, yeah, and also Jyn was getting ready to punch her."
"I didn't hear that," Cassian said. "Please don't repeat it. Ever. What happened then?"
"They didn't arrest her because she's such a prominent citizen, but they did make her leave. She came back twice herself to yell at us, and then she sent her daughter and her new son-in-law."
Those details had also been left out. He pinched the bridge of his nose. "How did they react?"
"They both understood once we explained. You're the first lawyer she's sent, through. And then there's the online stuff."
Jyn took a phone out of her pocket, swiped and tapped a few times, and handed it over. It was the bakery's Yelp page, with a screen-long diatribe about how unprofessional they were, how disgusting their bread was, how she'd seen cockroaches in their shop and knew somebody who'd gotten deathly ill from eating a moldy bagel.
"There's more," she said. "Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, hell, even on our business page on Google."
He stared at the rant for a moment and thought, This is who you're working for. This petty, ridiculous, vindictive person, who doesn't see anything wrong with using money and power to club the world into submission.
This is way beyond taking a job for the sake of the bills.
This is the exact opposite of everything you ever believed in or identified with.
He set the phone down in the middle of the table. "Ms. Erso, Mr. Rook, I'd like to apologize to you both for wasting your time with this nonsense."
Bodhi blinked. Jyn did too, uncrossing her arms. "Well," she said. "Apology accepted."
"I'd furthermore be pleased to offer myself as legal representation in your counter-suit against Mrs. Palpatine."
He waved at the phone. "This is a clear case of harassment, and if the stories about the vermin or the bagel are untrue - "
Jyn bristled. "Of course they're untrue. We've maintained a perfect Health Department record for the past eight years and you can - "
"Then throw in libel," Cassian said calmly. "With the importance of social media to small business, you could be facing significant harm to your livelihood from these false stories."
Jyn shifted uneasily, her eyes flicking away.
"Your business is suffering already," Cassian guessed, and watched her squirm.
Bodhi said, "Jyn! You said it was normal fluctuation."
"It's a dip," Jyn said. "They happen! It's not bad enough that I'm going to turn around and throw a stupid lawsuit back at her. I'm too busy for all that crap."
"Consider that if we threaten to bring a counter-suit, she might be persuaded to drop hers," Cassian pointed out.
That clearly hadn't occurred to Jyn. "Really?"
"It's quite common. Especially if we lean hard on this online harassment angle."
She eyed him. "Won't that be a little sticky? What with you working for her husband and everything."
"Ah," he said. "Yes. I knew I'd been forgetting something." He fished around in his pocket, pulled out his phone, and dialed. "Mr. Draven?
The voice of his boss echoed down the line. "Andor. Make it quick."
"Yes, sir. I'm at Stardust Bakery. The whole suit is completely ridiculous, sir. Mrs. Palpatine doesn't have a leg to stand on, and any reputable judge would laugh himself sick before he threw it out of court."
Draven didn't sound surprised. "She'll want to pursue it anyway."
"I'm sure she will, sir. But I don't intend to have anything to do with it."
"That's not your choice."
"Yes, it is. I quit, sir. I'm going into practice for myself. Effective immediately." He hung up and smiled beatifically at Jyn and Bodhi.
They goggled back at him.
"You just quit?" Jyn said. "Right now."
"I've been sick of that job for a long time."
His phone buzzed. A text from Draven. Your personal effects will be at security by 1 pm.
As if he needed any reassurance that it had been the right choice.
Since he was no longer here in a professional capacity, he reached out and took one of the slices of cinnamon raisin bread, spreading it with a little butter, and bit in.
He almost made a very undignified noise. It was warm and rich with raisins and cinnamon, yeasty, soft. It brought back memories of his nana, giving him cinnamon raisin toast as she quizzed him in Spanish on what he'd learned in school that day, her eyes shining at what a fine, clever nieto she had.
It was a memory in a bite.
Bodhi grinned. "I know, right? I told you it was one of our bestsellers!"
Jyn tried and failed to stop herself from looking pleased.
He swallowed and almost whimpered as it hit his hollow stomach. "Thank you both for giving me the kick in the ass necessary to go into practice for myself."
"Well, you're welcome, I guess," Jyn said. "But how am I going to find you now?" She wiggled his card at him. A grin kept tugging at the corners of her mouth. "I'm guessing you can't go back to this fancy midtown office."
"I'll give you my phone number," he said. "And let you know when I've found some office space." He took another bite and almost moaned.
His phone buzzed frantically, and he looked at it again. A text from Kay, his favorite legal secretary. A series of texts, actually, stacking on top of each other even as he swiped the screen.
I have been informed of your decision to resign
It is foolish, quixotic, and impulsive in the extreme
I calculate only a 36% chance that this ridiculous venture will survive longer than a year
I have also tendered my resignation, effective immediately
With a truly excellent legal secretary such as myself, your chances of success rise to 54%
Let me know our new address as soon as possible
"Your boss yelling at you?" Jyn asked.
"No," he said. "Actually. Uh. They're from a - a friend." He looked up, feeling dazed. "I seem to have an employee now."
Something buzzed in the back, and Jyn jolted. "Shit, that's the sourdough. I'll be right back." She pointed at Cassian. "Don't go anywhere. I want to know more about this counter-suit thingy."
He gave her a little wave. His mouth was full again.
Bodhi waited until she'd disappeared into the back before he got up and brought more slices of bread. "You know," he said in a low voice, "she's single."
Cassian almost choked on his third slice of bread. He managed to swallow without any crumbs going into his lungs and said, "You two aren't - ?"
Bodhi snorted. "Jyn? She's like my sister. My overprotective, hotheaded sister that I have to bail out of trouble as often as the other way around. Dating a lawyer might be good for her. And she likes you. She was practically flirting. I mean, for her."
Cassian felt himself go beet-red. He couldn't remember the last time he'd blushed.
Jyn came back, face pink from the heat of the ovens, carrying an intoxicating scent of warm sourdough bread with her. "So," she said. "What now?"
Bodhi said brightly, "Actually, I was just about to say - "
Cassian made a strangled noise.
The other man's eyes glittered with laughter. "That we might be able to help with a new place for you."
"You talking about the office space?" Jyn asked, apparently unaware of any machinations on Bodhi's part.
"Right upstairs. Big enough for two. Nice spot for a law office."
"Really," Cassian said, turning the idea over. A reasonable distance from his apartment, the smell of warm bread filtering up through the vents -
The fascinating downstairs neighbor, with her beautiful, snapping eyes.
He cleared his throat. "Well. Who can I contact about viewing it?"
"That'd be Jyn," Bodhi said. He was grinning openly now.
"You?" Cassian asked her.
She shrugged, trying to look diffident. "I own the building. You want to see it right now?"
"I'd love to," Cassian said, taking another bite of bread.