After six weeks of planning, thirty-eight permit applications for the construction of temporary structures, and what Jyn conservatively estimates to be about four miles of strung up twinkle lights, the Yavin Harvest Festival is officially underway. They’ve already begun to draw crowds as school lets out and if Cassian’s numbers are right -- which, given the sheer number of binders devoted to them, she assumes they must be -- they’ll have twice that by tonight.
The event itself is happening on the lot at the edge of Starloft Park, but City Hall is buzzing with staff trying to put out all the tiny fires that have cropped up in the first few hours of the festival. (This includes an actual fire, by the way. Why anyone thought it would be a good idea to display the state’s biggest magnifying glass up on several bales of hay is beyond Jyn, but Baze was there to put it out and rally some of the volunteers to help carry it into one of the tents for safekeeping.)
The building is full of people coordinating pickups for special guests and calling out to each other about inventories for the medical tent, and it takes Jyn a few tries before she can find a hallway to duck into and catch a few breaths in before she goes back into the fray. It’s the first quiet moment she’s had all week, in front of an agriculture-themed mural where the painted cow’s face looks just human enough to be uncomfortable.
It’s hard, really, to be picky about the murals at Yavin City Hall. All of them have deeply unsettling details that you only notice when you look at them for longer than a few seconds. The only exception is one on the second floor, a painting of Stargazer Hill at sunset. It reminds her of Lah’mu, with its pink sky fading into night and the constellations dotted up near the ceiling. Whenever it turns out that Cassian and Bodhi have lunch meetings scheduled, she sneaks off to eat there instead of in the courtyard, revelling in the quiet of the mostly-disused archives corridor. Today, though, the vaguely demonic cow is the best she can do.
Jyn’s only just plunked down on a bench and tipped her head back against the wall when her walkie talkie crackles to life. She contemplates, for the tiniest second, hiding it in a ceiling tile or some unsuspecting person’s file cabinet, but then she thinks of her friends dealing with increasingly rowdy festival-goers with only Baze on hand to glare intimidatingly from behind the information table and she reconsiders.
“Please be advised,” says Draven through the static, “after a physical altercation between three of the contestants, this afternoon’s pie competition has been canceled. Someone escort the judge off the premises before he’s attacked by the rest of the competitors.”
She smothers a snicker, then realizes that no one can hear her and laughs out loud. Unable to help it, she hits the talk button and says, “Did you have to put the contestants in the tiny jail on the fairground? Please tell me they’re in the tiny jail.”
Draven ignores her and requests a response from the others, which she takes as a yes. Someone -- Melshie, by the sound of it -- radios back that he’s on it, and the walkie goes quiet again.
Jyn shakes her head. Leave it to Yavinians to turn a quaint pie contest into a brawl.
She would call it mad, except that she can hear Cassian’s voice in her head telling her for the eightieth time that Yavin’s people are scrappy because they’re survivors. He always says it the way a person might explain why their asshole cat keeps knocking over your water: exasperation, tempered with affection and the slightest hint of wariness.
She looks at her phone, facedown beside her on the bench and mercifully quiet now that Bodhi’s stopped badgering her for updates. She sent the email already, a polite and professional response to the job offer that hopefully sounded like a woman who knew where she was headed instead of someone who’d been panicking for six days straight. By all rights she’s allowed to avoid thinking about it without feeling a nagging sense of guilt, but now the residual anxiety that she held at bay all morning is creeping back in.
Saw would have advised meditation, but clearing her mind just seems like a good way to make room for all the thoughts that she’s actively ignoring at the moment. She’d chosen the manual labor route this morning, something that her muscles are not bound to forgive her for anytime soon: six hours later, her shoulders are still sore from hauling folding chairs with Baze.
He’d tried to convince her to leave him to it after the first twenty minutes, but she insisted on staying until it was done: a solid hour of pulling the chairs off trucks and walking them two at a time to the tent for the charity auction. (She had actually picked up four chairs the first time, which hadn’t been so bad until she took a step and wound up in the dirt.) Still, in spite of the sun beating down and the building ache in her biceps, it had felt good to focus on something completely unrelated to her impending deadline.
Once the chairs ran out, she’d spun around looking for something else to latch onto and found Chirrut, already holding his hand out to her. “Come,” he’d said to her, “you can help me oversee the refreshments.”
Baze had rolled his eyes but gestured for Jyn to go ahead. “You’ve done plenty,” he’d said, inclining his head. “Now go make sure this one doesn’t get into any trouble.”
“I never get into trouble,” Chirrut had said mildly, patting Jyn’s hand as she took his arm. “Trouble always finds me.”
“Only because you wave your arms and flag it down,” Jyn had said, and he'd laughed before telling her to start them off at the funnel cake booth.
Eating their way through the festival under the pretense of quality control had kept her and Chirrut busy for the rest of the morning, and when Bodhi came looking for them, he suggested that Jyn head to the medical tent to help organize the supplies while he and Chirrut returned to the information booth.
Like any mature adult, she immediately pulled a face and shook her head, turning her attention back to her sopapillas.
“Jyn,” Bodhi had said patiently, “Cassian just did his final checks there. It’s the first place he went, which means that he’s going to go to every booth at the festival before he circles back.”
“And what if he doubles back for a spot check?” she’d countered. There was no use pretending that she wasn’t avoiding him; Bodhi would never have bought it for a second and Chirrut had actually allowed her to hide behind him when Cassian had walked past them half an hour ago.
“Please, he left Kay in charge.”
And so Jyn had whiled away the rest of her time in the medical tent with Kay, offering aloe vera to people with sunburn and band-aids to children who were probably hoping for candy instead. It was surprisingly enjoyable, actually, if only because for once it was other people on the receiving end of Kay’s impassive-yet-judgmental stare as they tried to convince him to let them lie down on one of the cots in the tent.
Yavinians, she’d decided as she drove back to City Hall, were a strange breed. Most people were strange; she’d learned that very early on in her time as a state auditor. But Yavinians seemed to go the extra mile. She’d never sat in on town hall meetings at her old job, so maybe it just seemed that way, but she was fairly certain that other cities didn’t have a dedicated time block to discuss doomsday bunkers scheduled into every town hall.
(“The people here live in fear of two things,” Cassian had told her once, over waffles. “A nuclear apocalypse and the day the squirrels finally decide to organize their ranks and overrun our town.” It surprised a laugh out of her, loud and delighted, and the grin she’d received in return was so disarming that it should’ve come with a warning.)
The job in Coruscant would be a return to form for her: short stays in a hundred different cities, with no time for petitions about smug inscriptions on benches or city-wide walkouts over ice cream. No time for messiness or inter-office politics, and certainly no time for renegade missions to Scarif to leverage a corrupt candy company CEO out of building a refinery upstream from the park that drives an entire town’s economy.
Saw would be appalled that she’d even consider staying, Jyn thinks. All those lessons in the woods about not disturbing the earth, only for her to leave her fingerprints on anything she could get her hands on here: the certificate of protected status for Cassian’s park, the sunken garden in the town square, the plans for every booth at the harvest festival. She’d resigned from her job and taken full responsibility for Scarif in front of the council to protect people she’d known for barely two months. Then she’d spent weeks bracing for the crushing regret and found instead that she really couldn’t bring herself to feel all that bad about it. Whatever she’s done here in Yavin, it’s the exact opposite of ‘leave no trace’. So many years of keeping her head down and her feet light and in the end all it took to trip her up was a small town with a severe squirrel problem.
Any other philosophizing that she had planned is interrupted when she hears the pounding of someone’s -- or maybe two someones’ -- boots as they run down the halls. She looks to her left just in time to see Tonc the intern laughing as he runs past her, tightly clutching a stack of bright orange flyers that she knows were supposed to be shredded days ago.
She has a hunch about who might be giving chase, and it only takes a second for her to be proved right. “Tonc!” Cassian calls from the next corridor. “You can’t hand those out! Come back he- Councilwoman Mothma, good to see you.”
Tonc, stopped at the end of the hallway, looks positively gleeful at Cassian’s misfortune. He throws a wink Jyn’s way and then runs off, presumably to double back to the Parks offices and leave the stack on Cassian’s desk now that he’s caused his share of chaos for the day.
She has the vague hope that Cassian might give up and take the short way back to his office, but he comes around the corner a second later, throwing his hands up in exasperation when he sees that Tonc is gone. He frowns at the end of the hallway for a moment or two and Jyn finds that she can pinpoint exactly when he figures out that those flyers aren’t going anywhere except back to Parks. He sighs, shaking his head, and walks towards the bench where she’s sitting.
“I’m assigning him to the fourth floor for this,” he says by way of greeting, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms.
Jyn snorts. “That feels a bit extreme. Last time I was on the fourth floor, I saw someone try to stab another person with a wooden coffee stirrer.”
“That sounds about right.”
She nods, but she can’t think of anything to add, so instead his words just kind of hang in the air. This, she reminds herself, is why it’s a bad idea to avoid a conversation with someone by hiding out at their place of work.
“Were you at the Festival earlier?” Cassian finally asks. “Kay said you worked the medical tent with him, but I didn’t see you.”
“I was there,” she says, probably too quickly. “I, uh- I was helping Chirrut taste test the food at all the stalls, so we were on the move, I suppose. Must have just missed each other.”
“I guess so,” he says slowly, nodding.
She should just leave it there, but her mouth just keeps going. “And after that, I was in the medical tent with Kay, and we worked the first shift and it was great, but then after the volunteers relieved us, I needed a break, so I...came here,” she finishes lamely.
Cassian tilts his head. “To your office? That’s just depressing. You should’ve gone to the diner at least. ”
Jyn doesn’t know how to say ‘if I’d gone there, Kes would most definitely have told you exactly where I was and I couldn’t have that happening’ without blowing her cover, so instead she deflects. “I’m sorry, Mr. Andor, but did you just tell me it was depressing to spend free time at the office? You’ve worked every Saturday for the past two months.” So has she, but that’s beside the point.
“I had a harvest festival to plan,” he sputters. “People with better things to do in their free time shouldn’t be spending it at City Hall, and especially not by this mural. It’s the ugliest one in the building.”
It catches her so off guard that she forgets to be awkward about it. “Should that really be a serious consideration I make whenever I’m here?”
He looks up at the mural, frowning slightly. “Normally, I’d say no, but that cow just has a creepy energy to it.”
Jyn laughs, shaking her head. “It’s the face, I think,” she says, turning to get a better look. “Too human for a cow, but not enough for a human.”
“And what about how the eyes follow you everywhere?”
“Oh, that part’s definitely a malevolent spirit.”
Cassian grins down at her, but it’s not as bright as it usually is, his smile turning into something wry after a moment. “I guess the artwork in Coruscant won’t be as, uh...provincial,” he says. “So at least you have that to look forward to.”
She shrugs. “I don’t know. They’ve begun to grow on me, I think.”
“The murals?” he asks, eyebrows furrowed, and Jyn isn’t sure whether the answer is yes.
“Not this one, obviously,” she says, with a sort of pathetic laugh. “But yeah, some of the others have. Some of the ones I, uh- see more often.”
“Well, I’ve just worked with so many- uh, murals. Around. Around so many murals, because Bodhi and I used to travel so much. And it’s just that the ones here have become...familiar? Friendly, almost. I can count on them,” says Jyn, trying not to physically wince at how badly this is going. “What I mean to say is that I like the murals. I like them and I would...miss them if I left.”
The only response she gets is silence and the only thought running through Jyn’s head is that she wishes they’d left the sinkhole in Yavin Town Square in tact so she could just roll herself into it. Maybe there’s another sinkhole in a neighboring town that she could use. She makes a mental note to look it up as soon as they decide that this excruciating silence is over.
It seems like that’s where things are headed when Cassian pushes off the wall, but instead he moves around to sit beside Jyn on the bench and continues to not say anything. She’s on the point of hoping for Draven to come yell at both of them when Cassian finally speaks.
“You should say no,” he says.
Jyn blinks. “What?”
“To the job in Coruscant,” Cassian says. “You should say no, because you would hate the work and you would hate your co-workers, and, I mean, who would want to live in Coruscant anyway?”
“I lived in Coruscant when I was young, actually.” There is something warm and light and not quite familiar expanding in the general area behind Jyn’s ribcage, and for all that she’s been trying to avoid a conversation with him all day, she suddenly finds herself quite desperate to hear what he has to say.
Cassian makes a vague well-there-you-go gesture. “Then you know exactly what I’m talking about.”
“So,” Jyn says slowly, “you think I should say no to this job because Coruscant is awful.”
“No,” he says abruptly, then falters. “I- that’s not what I meant.”
He looks down at his hands, his eyebrows knitted together, and it occurs to Jyn that this kind of uncertainty in someone as direct as Cassian Andor is just stupidly endearing. It also occurs to her that she might be somewhat pathetic for thinking that, but she’s only built to handle one devastating personal revelation at a time, so it’ll have to wait.
“I think,” Cassian finally says, looking steadily at her, “that you should say no to the job in Coruscant because you belong here, not there. I think that you should say no to any job that isn’t the one Bodhi’s offering you.”
She grins at him and feels suddenly like that warmth in her chest has spread all over. “I already did,” she says.
His eyes go wide. “What?”
“I already said no to Coruscant,” Jyn says. “And I already accepted Bodhi’s offer.”
“So you’re staying?”
“I’m staying,” she says, and this time she is marginally more prepared for the full force of his smile.
“Well then, I look forward to working with you here. Maybe not right here,” Cassian says, glancing up at the demon cow mural again. “But here, in Yavin.”
Jyn opens her mouth to say something, although she’s not entirely sure what, when someone calls out both of their names.
She and Cassian turn to see Melshie standing at the end of the hall, an entire pie in his hands with a fork sticking out of it. “Hey!” he calls out. “We had to ‘confiscate’ the pies after the brawl at the contest, so now they’re all at Parks. Go get some before they disappear.”
The two of them share a look as Melshie walks away.
“If you go get us a pie and some forks,” Jyn says, “I’ll go steal us some of the good coffee from the mayor’s office.”
“Perfect,” says Cassian. “But you know Kay will whine if we don't bring him any, so meet me upstairs. There’s that bench by archives on the second floor? With the constellation mural?”
“I know the one,” Jyn says, nodding.
“And Jyn?” Cassian calls out, just as they’ve turned to head their separate ways.
She turns on her heel. “Yeah?”