After he is retrieved from the wreckage of what used to be Scarif, Cassian is hospitalized and repeatedly interrogated. He spends a short time in prison before escaping and making his way to a neutral satellite.
There's a full-blown civil war on, thanks to him and all his dead friends.
He considers going his own way, maybe heading for Wild Space. Instead, he dutifully makes contact with Draven's network; he'll get himself back to base, he promises.
"Negative," he is told. "Await retrieval at δ-673."
"I'm perfectly able to fly."
"I can get a ship," he insists.
He wants to argue further. He knows he ought to, but lassitude or fear or something related to the two overtakes him. He needs to save his energy, he decides, for whatever will go catastrophically wrong for him next.
The transmission is cut.
He's half a cycle early to provincial space port on Stinwa.
Cassian sits by a small cactus garden in the departures lounge. He sifts the pebbles in the planter without looking at them. Sometimes he shakes them in his palm like dice; other times, he digs his hand into the rocks as far as it will go.
Most of the traffic through this port is intra-system. He watches groups of school kids arriving to visit the famous Ringing Harps and business travelers, alone or in pairs, lugging sample cases and decks of holos for demonstration. Imperials are nowhere to be seen, though he assumes that's merely a matter of time. By the end of the year, there will be troopers and inquisitors everywhere you turn.
Just now, however, spirits are high, almost frantically excited. Several of the school kids wear little Rebel Alliance starbird pins and flat caps.
His meal is untouched despite the wait. He lines up five smooth stones on his tray, all alike, all unremarkable.
He doesn't remember his parents' funerals, if such events even took place. One day, they were breathing and working; the next day dawned without them. The situation will be, he thinks, much the same for his friends. No one will acknowledge their absence aside from him.
"Captain Pokorni," a voice says behind him. It's an old cover identity, one he ought to have retired a while ago.
Another voice, at once deeper and more impatient, says, "Cassian!"
His hand goes to where his holster should be, but before he can react fully, Cassian is embraced, all but lifted off the ground. Kes holds him there, dangling, his face buried in Cassian's neck.
"Careful," Shara says, just behind Kes. "Captain Pokorni's still banged up no doubt. You keep slobbering all over him, he'll pull some stitches or leak bacta."
"Fuck! Sorry!" Kes sets him back down and holds Cassian by the shoulders. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"All in one piece," Cassian says.
"It's just —" Kes rubs the back of his neck and makes a show of dropping his voice. His eyes are suddenly wet. "Thought you were dead."
"So did I," Cassian replies.
Kes is big and effusive; Shara is slight and sharp. They're both beautiful and all together too damn good for someone like Cassian. He had calculated, back before anything happened, the advantage of getting involved with an extant couple. They'd always have each other; they were already each other's primary focus. He could slip in and out of their lives without fuss and thus remain relatively aloof.
"That," Kes had said when Cassian tried to explain the reasoning, "is the stupidest fucking thing I've ever heard."
Cassian shrugged and pulled off his jersey; he had leave for just a cycle and ten, so it'd be nice if Dameron shut up and put his big mouth to better use. "Go to hell."
Kes had grinned at that, shoved Cassian against the wall of his absurdly narrow bunk. "You first."
"You're insulting yourself, you know that, right?" Shara had asked. She was pulling on her boots, heading to the hangar.
Kes looked up from Cassian's chest, blinking in confusion. "What?"
"You tell me to go to hell," Cassian said, "right before blowing me. You see the unfortunate conclusion."
Kes's eyes widened and he opened his mouth. "But!"
Shara pulled her hair back against the nape of her neck. Cassian had left a bite mark there, and he watched her press her thumb against the bruise and shiver appreciatively. She caught him watching and shook her head.
Standing, she pulled on her jersey before kissing her fingertips and touching them to Kes's forehead, then Cassian's. "See you, force willing."
When they were alone, and Cassian had come all over Kes's goofy handsome face, Kes picked up the thread again. That alone was notable, given how erratic and quickly-moving his attention tended to be.
"Want you, man," Kes said, flopping over onto his stomach. The bunk was too narrow and Cassian was crammed against the wall. If he complained, however, he knew Kes would mock him for being small. "Not a side dish!"
"Your sex life is a restaurant meal?"
Kes nodded and rested his chin on his folded arms. "Sure, why not? It's all hunger and shit."
From this vantage point, Cassian admired the breadth of Kes's shoulders, the perfect rise of his ass. He wished, briefly, he could get it up again, give Kes something else to do.
"Hunger," Cassian echoed. He wasn't sure he agreed.
"I'm so sorry," Shara says now when they're aboard the battered patrol sloop. Kes is still in port, arguing over their fictional freight. "About Jyn and Bodhi. And K-2. Everyone."
She's studying him, her dark eyes so much harder to read than Kes's bright hazel.
"Me, too," Cassian says. "Sorry, I mean."
"You all accomplished something truly extraordinary." She means that, too, he knows she does. Her dedication to the cause is fervent but reasoned, utterly sincere without being naive in the least.
"Yeah." He nods. "I've never gotten so many comrades killed all at once."
Shara's mouth twists. After a long, hard look, she breaks away and checks the flight controls and nav readout.
Together, he and Shara are too jagged, a little too sour. They grind and spark, but they're never comfortable for very long. Out of bed, that is; in bed, he remembers that she is forceful and generous, untiring and eager. He's always liked how sharp she is, how much she discomfits him.
Kes returns to ship with dinner in steaming cartons and three large bottles of homebrew under his arms. Cassian can't remember the last time he was hungry; he turns the five stones in his pocket over and over with one hand while the others eat. He looks at the itinerary on the nav screen and fails to make any sense of it.
"We're not going to Yavin?" he asks when the bottles are half-drunk and Kes is nuzzling Cassian's neck while copping obvious feels of Shara's breasts.
She shakes her head. "Evac was two tendays ago. Heading for colder climes."
Kes looks up, eyes soft under his lashes, voice a little slurred. "Brought our cuttings, don't worry."
They dug a garden last year and then Cassian fucked off on several missions, leaving Kes to do all the work. Yet the guy still calls the plants ours.
"You want the rest of the news?" Shara asks. She pours herself another gazzy drink, neatly avoiding the alcohol.
"No," Cassian admits. The last thing he wants to hear is base gossip, ins-and-outs of intrigue and deals, Organa and Mothma and every big shot big mouth who ever drew breath. He lifts his bottle and drinks down instead. Kes whoops and joins him.
They are queued in port until moonrise the next day. Cassian and Shara take turns fucking Kes until he's quivering and mumbling and then Cassian takes up residence between her legs. He wishes she'd smother him like this, close her thighs and never let go, drown him in her own pleasure.
The next morning, Cassian takes a walk around the port, past the freight warehouses and droid hangars. Shara goes with him, quiet and watchful, her hand in his; Kes oversleeps but catches up easily when he does wake. His stride is just so much longer.
From the top of this hill, they can see the back of the Ringing Harps. When the wind's just right and the star is winking pink and new, the symbiotic tree-and-lichen spirals sing out across the valley.
Cassian holds the stones in his palms and waits for the song.