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Up The Alleyway (Rogue One)

Title: Up the Alleyway
Author: Morgan Stuart
Fandom: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Disclaimer: This universe does not belong to me; I'm just an appreciative visitor. I make no profit from this fan work.
Description: K-2SO didn’t expect him back until daylight. Cassian Andor had to survive until then.
Author's Note: This takes place before the events depicted in the film Rogue One.
Warnings (Highlight to Read): Depictions of attempted murder, injuries, and the aftermath of torture, non-explicit mention of off-screen violence



The darkness had fangs and claws, and it seemed determined to shred him into pieces and swallow them all.

Captain Cassian Andor fought back with everything he had. The problem was that, as first minutes and then hours unfolded, he had less and less: less strength, less fight, less blood in his tortured body.

If he were questioned (again!), he might find it a challenge to produce even the name of this crime-infested wreck of a moon. He almost certainly would not be able to recall the filthy alley in which he now lay, for all that it was feared and celebrated as the single most dangerous lane in the capital city.

It certainly deserved its reputation. That much he knew.

As he struggled to remain still and silent where he had crawled and secreted himself, half buried under debris and garbage, he became a captive audience to horrific sounds. His mind constructed narratives around the multi-species screams and grunts and pleadings: one professional-style execution. One beating-turned-murder. Three other violent assaults, at least one culminating in rape.

Cassian understood that with any movement or noise on his part, the shadows would erupt in predators who would take delight in finishing what his interrogators had started. That had been the whole point of disposing of him this way in the first place. He’d been unceremoniously dumped here to die by the underworld boss who (with implicit Imperial blessing) ruled over this blighted turf; anyone who set foot or talon or paw on this street would know that Cassian had been put there only for hurting, not helping.

And so Cassian gritted his teeth and served as blind and sickened witness to what others suffered, nursing the conviction that his own story might yet end differently.

He endured, because that was what he did. He didn’t have the luxury of choice.

Both literally and metaphorically speaking, he had always traveled lightly. Just now he felt the weight of only two significant burdens.

First and foremost, there was the Cause.

He was a realist, and he fully understood that less than a quarter of Alliance operatives lived to complete their twentieth mission. With more than a dozen already under his belt, Cassian acknowledged the odds stacking ever higher against him. His best chance for success and for survival – the two weren’t synonymous, of course, and he ranked their importance in exactly that order – was to keep his attention on the here and now.

Cassian needed to live long enough to report to General Draven. His initial assignment had unraveled due to faulty information, true enough, but that was the way of this work, and what he had discovered in the process would likely prove far more useful to the Rebel Alliance than his original objective had been. His agony would have been more than worth it, if it advanced the Cause.

The second weight had a name: K-2S0.

Who would look out for K-2SO if Cassian lay cold and dead in the gutter? He tried to imagine what future could lay before the droid no one else had thought worthy of salvaging, no one else had championed, and the question pained him as much as any of his wounds.

Man and machine – each defined by what he had lost, by the fact he fit in no other place in the galaxy save the one now defined by his duty – had grown to be friend and family to each other. And these were concepts with which neither possessed significant previous experience.

Cassian found it meant something quite profound to him, to understand someone and to be understood in turn.

***


K-2 didn’t expect him back until daylight. Cassian had to hold out until then.

He drank in steady, shallow breaths and worked his dry throat around the bitterness of old vomit and gore. Moment by moment, he held back the night.

It bled into early morning. Then the alleyway added insult to injury.

He didn’t begrudge the handful of youth who, moving along the lane in a close pack for mutual protection, upending rubbish and filth in the hunt for anything salvageable, stumbled across his prone form. After all, Cassian knew firsthand what it was like to fall through the cracks of a broken society and balance on the knife’s edge of want.

Human memory was selective, of course. When he thought of his early years in the wilds of the Outer Rim, he remembered his inherent sense of the wrongness of his universe. He recalled scrounging and mourning and fearing – that and yearning for freedom, although he had been far too young to articulate this well, to do anything more than throw rocks and shake a small fist.

He wanted to believe his younger self would have checked a body for signs of life before stealing the boots from its feet. Then again, he admitted to himself, perhaps that was wishful thinking. Perhaps the child Cassian, like these pathetic scavengers, would have preferred not to know if he were plundering the dead, the drunk, or the desperately wounded.

It hardly mattered now. With his face turned away from the street, blanketed in stinking refuse, he did his best to impersonate a corpse.

To be fair, this didn’t require much effort.

They took his boots. They left his jacket, however, after noting the security-grade shackles that bound his wrists behind his back. Removing the jacket would have meant cutting it to ribbons first, and what was the point?

Besides, as one of the pack discovered and explained to his peers, the jacket was soaked with blood, anyway. No real loss.

As the sound of the gang’s retreat faded, Cassian shifted slightly, adjusting the awkward drape of his torso to press the wounds on his belly and side more tightly against the ragged block of ferrocrete beneath him, the only pressure he could contrive to try to staunch the bleeding. Broken bones grated, and his misshapen shoulder throbbed in nauseating time with his pulse.

The lane seemed colder now, and not only because his socked feet felt the bite of the night air. The non-encounter with the youth, and the choking sense of come-full-circle futility that came with it, threatened to hurt Cassian in a way his interrogation hadn’t managed to do.

He couldn't afford that. If the fangs and claws of the darkness dragged him down, he suspected he would never rise back up again.

And so Cassian fought back with all he had. And he kept fighting.

Inexorably, whatever meager light he had known in his short life retreated further and further, like the glow of the sky seen from the bottom of an ever-deepening well.

***


A light touch carding through his hair shocked Cassian back to awareness. His sudden start ignited agony in all of the wrong places, and before he could draw breath to cry out, he passed out.

A sharp slap revived him.

“You are in exceptionally poor condition, Cassian. Do try to stay conscious.”

The frantic refrain of danger! thundered through his skull for several disorienting heartbeats. Then the blurred fragments of Cassian’s reality resolved into clarity, centered by that most welcome voice.

Two preternaturally bright eyes shone in the shadows.

“Kay,” Cassian managed at last, the ghost of a sound.

“I know you said not to expect you until dawn, but your transponder indicated that your location was fixed in the same outdoor – and might I add unsavory – location for four point three-seven local hours. That seemed suspicious.

“Besides, you didn’t leave me enough to do while you were gone. I was bored.”

Cassian smiled. A cut on his lip reopened, and he tasted fresh blood.

“I’ve cleared the alley of hostiles, located the nearest safe house, and confirmed it’s stocked with medical supplies,” K-2 continued, shifting Cassian with smooth efficiency, ignoring his gasps and hisses, freeing his bound hands and tucking his good arm against the worst of his wounds.

“That said, I am less than optimistic about your chances. My initial assessment of your injuries…”

Cassian allowed both the words and the pain to wash over him. K-2 rose, cradling his charge in his arms, tilting Cassian until aching human forehead rested against cool droid plating.

K-2’s litany of dire wounds and dismal odds continued. Cassian took comfort in it.

He understood what it meant. And he knew from experience that the times K-2 claimed to be least optimistic invariably became the times when the droid proved to be the fiercest ally anyone could hope for.

Hope.

That was what Captain Cassian Andor felt.

“Thanks, Kay.” Cassian’s lips formed the words. His voice was gone; his eyes were wet.

Dawn was nowhere in sight, but the biting, clawing darkness was in full retreat.

***


"The last time Cassian had hurt so bad, K-2SO had carried him to a safe house and along the way enumerated his every injury, thoroughly assessed the likelihoods of infection and permanent nerve damage. It had been the droid's way of showing he cared -- or at least the droid's way of showing he was invested in his master's fate."
- Alexander Freed, Rogue One novelization


THE END

Vital Stats: Originally written in January 2017.

Originally written for this prompt at the Rogue One Kink Meme.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
hardboiledbaby
Jan. 9th, 2017 03:37 am (UTC)
Gorgeously done; thank you for sharing!

Also, hi! Lovely to see you :)
morganstuart
Jan. 9th, 2017 01:24 pm (UTC)
Hi there! It's lovely to see you, too. :) Where has the time gone? I didn't mean to be away this long!

Thanks a million for your kind words. I really appreciate them!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )