Hello, Star Wars/Star Trek fandom! I have long been a part of you, and when I watched Rogue One, I was quite haunted by the stars of the film.
This is a very peculiar AU I have been working on for a while; it's very abstract, so I hope you'll all be patient with me.
It will have two parts; it was supposed to be a one-shot, but, well, you all know how that goes.
Truly hope you enjoy; any criticism will be duly noted.
Much love to you all.
There's a sense of peace as the explosion engulfs her, in the locked embrace she and Cassian share, the need for touch as death invites them fulfilled. There's also a sense of excitement for what lies beyond, for what she does not know and cannot know until this next moment-
She'll miss the maybes and the almosts she and Cassian Andor think of in this suspension, the moment before death, in each other's arms. She thinks of him, of her father (Your father would have been proud of you, Jyn), of her mother, of the things she wishes she could say to the man in her arms to comfort him as he did her, of how they'll never get the chance to do so. She hears him whisper her name, as if it matters the most to him.
It almost doesn't hurt-but it does, if only for a moment.
Silence rings in her ears, and she wonders if she-if anything at all-exists.
"Jyn," her mother calls. She's playing in the farm, in the crops outside the house-rows and rows and rows of luscious, majestic green that make her giddy with joy. "Jyn, come back inside."
She contemplates running off so her father could chase her around in the fields, but a certain smell wafts into her nostrils and her ears perk up in delight. She feels a laugh bubbling deep inside her, and she runs to the door, eager to eat her mother's plomeek soup.
Her father's smile welcomes her as her mother's disapproving (though Jyn can read her easily: this "disapproving" thin line really has a hint of amusement hidden in the corners of her mouth) facade; her father picks her up and hoists her up his shoulders.
"Plomeek soup. It's someone's favorite in this household...I can't seem to recall who." She grins widely, tugging on his ears as she did when she was younger, wondering why his wasn't like hers. "You know that, Papa; it's mine."
"Oh! Yes, of course it is. Were you aware of this fact, Lyra?" Jyn giggles as her father imitates her mother's robotic voice.
"Galen, the soup will get cold," her mother's tone drones (she knows when love drips from it like honey: this is one of those times).
They eat and eat and laugh around the dinner table (with the exception of her mother) and she feels joyful, fulfilled.
Then, she notices-months or years later, she can't be sure when it all starts-the crops seem less green than before. She doesn't stop to think about it, playing with her toys in the field, but as the years go by, the fields grow smaller and smaller. At first she thinks it's her perception, that as she grows bigger, the unyielding strength and beauty and freedom the farm once presented to her decreased in proportion. (It's not.)
She's thirteen when the governor takes control of the situation, of the rotting fields and the dying crops and the barren land. There's nearly nothing left of the green she played in, of the green that Papa used to say were her eyes; left behind is a yellow-brown paste that dirties the fields and a fungus that kills all hope. Left behind is a family in despair, without a living, without food. Left behind is a governor who is forced to make decisions and choices she hopes, hopes to God, he will regret for the rest of his life.
She's thirteen when the soldiers come, a whole platoon to her village. Her mother's ears straighten-as do hers-and she sees her blush an angry green. Her father tightens his grip on her mother's hand, and they share a moment of tense hesitation before the soldiers push one of their rifles into their backs. She wants to resist, wants to tell off the soldier when she's frightened by her mother's smoldering look, who sends her a tug through the Vulcan bond. It's clear what they'll do as her father wraps his arm around her waist: they will walk, the soldiers leading them on as if boxing them into a tight glass cage. They live on the outskirts of town, never bothering to come down to the rest of the village because of the length. She has always lived alone, played alone in the fields. But that day, they drag them all down to the public, crowded like sheep in the square, where she has only been in twice her entire life. A line is drawn down the middle in chalk on the asphalt, hardly seen under the hundreds of quaking legs.
She's thirteen when the governor (oh, what an honor it is for you to be visiting our town, have you reasoned out a method to solve the famine? Have you-) stands on a public stage, his people scattered about him, a tall dictator with a large white coat flowing behind him. He steps down as the people quiet, hands on children's shoulders, fearful yet hopeful at the same time.
She's thirteen when it starts with a scrutinizing look, a jerk of his head, and his unheard command to the nearest soldier. It's unclear what the man is doing until a child is wrenched away from his parents' arms. The governor is separating them. Her father's grip on her tightens, and her mother's hand tenses on hers, and she stands in between her parents, defiant and rebellious as she is, stubborn and chin angled up against this man she does not trust, a man who has struck fear in her parents' hearts, fearless as they are. The governor approaches them, and she sees him up close, memorizes his face: an old, weary man with greying sideburns, pale cheeks, and a dramatic flair to his voice, a rich Shakespearean tone to his words. "The scientist-set him aside," he says, his soft voice betraying his tense shoulders. "We will be needing him."
She's thirteen when she almost screams in protest, when her father is wrenched away from her, and her mother grunts in surprise, screaming his name. She's too shocked to act on it. Galen Erso is dragged away, across the white chalk by two soldiers, struggling even then to force him away from his family. Two more hold her mother back, struggling to get the Vulcan under control. There's a lump in her throat as she listens to her parents' screams; there's a distant look in her eyes and she is not there in the center of the city, but in the green fields, drowning in the color of her own eyes.
She's thirteen as she stands, her mother's arm around her waist, pulling her in as the soldiers let her fall and return to the governor, who has finished his rounds. She's thirteen when she hears her whisper, "Whatever happens, you run, Jyn, run." She's thirteen when she sees her father mouthing at her to run, run, run; she's thirteen when she hears, vaguely, in the midst of the chaos, the governor's words; she's thirteen when her death warrant is signed, ordered by a dictator inspired by eugenics, when he speaks his name and their execution statement.
She's thirteen when she freezes in confusion, as her mother falls down beside her, pulling her down and covering her from the carnage and the blood, when she whispers, "Trust the Force, Jyn, run." When she lays beneath her mother's dying body and she sees her father separate from his own group, running toward her to free her from her cold embrace. When she sees her father fall from a stun blast in the chaos, eyes locked on her green field ones. When she freezes in shock-blinks twice, mouth agape, with her mother's blood in her hair, in her eyes, in her mouth, and she feels her emotions as she bleeds out over her (fear, fear, fear, panic, longing, Galen), seeping into her mind uncontrollably, too weak to control her emotions, and her voice (Trust the Force, Jyn) in her mind through the bond they have, making her touch the Kyber crystal around her neck lovingly; when she feels the snap of her bond with her mother, the emptiness as she realizes her mother is gone and she plays dead, closing her eyes.
She's thirteen when she pushes out from beneath her mother's body, long after the troops and the governor and her father, dragged away, and the screaming people have left, ushered to some other place to be kept alive, because they were far, far better than her.
She's thirteen when she leaves her mother's body out of fear, leaves the hundreds of corpses lying where she lay only a few minutes before, and runs, runs away.
Her eyes are green, like what her home planet used to be, but her soul is black with the blood that stains her clothing as she runs through the dirty yellow famine of what Tarsus IV is.
She goes to her farm, gathering her pack, any food she can salvage (most of the soldiers already took everything), any water she can find. She sets out to live in the woods and in the fields, where she had always dreamed of living, of laying in, and drowning in the sea of green.
But the planet reeks of death and pain, and when she settles down in the dark the first night, she cannot stop the tears from drowning her.
She meets Saw Gerrera on the fifth day she runs. It's near a river, and she remembers him from the time she was eight-her father's friend. Wild haired, ebony skin spotted with red spores, eyes old and weary, and limping, she barely recognizes him. But he recognizes her.
"Jyn Erso," he says with conviction. His eyes look sympathetic, as if he knows just by looking at the dried blood on her shirt what has happened. What has happened to his friends, her parents.
She wants to run away, but she also desperately wants to trust him-the only familiar face in the woods full of phaser fire and blood.
So she nods and says, "Saw Gerrera."
They come to a mutual, unspoken agreement to accompany each other in whatever is left of Tarsus IV, whatever is left of its humanity.
They scavenge for food together, sneaking into the remaining villages or the abandoned ones for any chance of scraps left behind. They don't talk, not really; it's more of keeping the other alive for each other's sanity. She can't imagine surviving alone, lonely and dying.
So she stays with Saw, even though she knows she is just as expendable to him as one of the rotting corpses lying in the towns.
One night, half desperate to see if he has information and half desperate for someone else to know, she blurts out, "They took my father. They wanted his brain."
He says nothing.
Eventually she sleeps.
He teaches her how to fight by night and to hunt for squirrels by day, or whatever animal is left on the colony, with weapons made of fists and elbows and sticks and stones. She learns to catch food and roast it herself; she helps him determine which berries are healthy and which will kill them.
When they hear the phaser fire and the screams nearby, Saw grabs her hand and they run, run, run.
On the edge of one town, there's a wandering soldier, patrolling the woods. The town is wrapped in towers of barbed wire, locking in the people and locking out the others. It looks deserted, lifeless, hopeless; the edges are grey and the houses are dilapidated and unsanitary. They learn it's a camp for the good ones-for the ones who were chosen to live.
Hot anger runs through her veins as she thinks of her slaughtered mother, the ones who took her father, the corpses scattered about the plaza. She becomes so angry she doesn't realize she's out in the open: a short, dirty girl with bright green eyes, an easy target for the man.
He spots her instantly and takes aim; she sees his fingers poised on the trigger, can hear his ragged breath, ears perking in anticipation and fear-
A shot fires, but nothing happens. She turns around to see Saw holding a phaser. It's set to kill.
The soldier falls.
Saw takes her hand, and they run, run, run.
It's then she decides to trust him fully.
That night, as she and Saw sleep in a cave, backs pressed against the other for body warmth (she misses her father, so, so much), she speaks. "Why do you have a phaser? And you never told me?"
It's silent in the dark cave for a few moments, making her think he's asleep.
Then: "I'm a dangerous man, Jyn Erso. You're lucky I knew your father."
She licks her lips in nervousness, in cautious fear. She doesn't know how to reply to that-demand for answers, and Saw will refuse. Keep silent, and the chance to probe for them will slip away. "Well," she starts, attempting a segue. "Thank the Force you had it."
Saw's scoff scratches at her dignity, and her hands find the Kyber crystal (and her mother). "The Force is a bedtime story, Jyn, only that and nothing more. If you truly want to survive, you must fight for your life and take as much as you need with force. Legends have nothing to do with it."
The strike ends the conversation quickly. Danger aside, she's glad she has someone to rely on, to trust (she doesn't listen to his cynical grumbling-sometimes she still feels her mother's presence somewhere in her, and that is enough for her to believe). She falls asleep with the knowledge Saw will wake her by dawn.
It's night, maybe a few weeks after finding Saw, when it happens. They come across a town and sleep in an abandoned house; it's been three days without thin, tasteless meat or sickly fish.
As they sleep against the wall, huddling together for body warmth, the door opens, jerking them awake. Alert for soldiers, they are surprised when a scrambling woman crawls in, mouth open in a sob and drawling unintelligible words and sounds.
She seems to beg them for food, for anything.
Saw holds her back as she leans forward to give her a scrap of her-their bread. "Please," the inhuman wail sounds like. "Please, I, please-"
It's a large surprise when the woman-animal launches forward and tries to bite her; it's an even larger surprise that she doesn't immediately fight back from the shock. But she feels her arm wrenching forward, nearly pulling it out of the socket (who knew a starved human could be so strong?); she feels teeth sinking into her wrist and she screams, throwing her feet forward.
There's a flash and a thump, and she knows Saw used his phaser, but she's trying to breathe from the floor, in shock and trembling. Suddenly it's cold and her hands shake and she can't help but think, That's what we will become. She knows first hand how desperate she is; she knows that the madness in the woman is not her fault, she knows, she knows, she knows.
Saw's face looms over her, and he helps her up against the wall. He holds her as she sobs into his shoulder, as he cleans the puncture marks of the bite with what water they had left from the last river they found.
"Go to sleep, Jyn," Saw says, and she trusts him, so she does. The last things she sees are his eyes, full of guilt and sorrow.
When she closes her eyes, she thinks it's because he blames himself for letting the woman hurt her. She learns otherwise.
The next day, she is cold. She is alone.
Saw is not there. The dead woman, however, is there, staring at her with those desperate, empty eyes; half of their pack of items they gathered and made over the last few weeks (has it been weeks?), however, is there.
There's a cold, rushing fear that fills her every bone, a terror she hasn't felt since that day in the village, when her mother's death broke the Vulcan bond between them. She calculates it can't have been more than a few hours (how can she be sure?) since she fell asleep in Saw's arms, so perhaps he'll be back soon; but, then again, he has never left her before, right? There is no way of knowing he left to return or he left to abandon her. The pack contains her knife, her hunting staff, half the cup of water they had shared.
Saw may be dead-no, she dismisses the thought. She decides to wait for him-according to sound Vulcan logic, he can't have gone far.
When the thought of being alone squirms into her heart, she controls her emotions, something she had never thought of before, and only heard her mother telling her father about the process.
She never needed to tame them before. But as panic sets in and fear of the emptiness in the woman's eyes rears into her every thought, she purges all emotion.
Saw doesn't come back that night. She survives on water, drinking miniscule sips throughout the night until she falls asleep.
Saw doesn't come back in the morning, or the next night, or the night after.
Fear grips her throat-did they catch him? Did they kill him?
She decides to move, seeking the body of her surrogate father for the past few weeks along the river bends, underneath the trees, in any of the nearby towns. Saw isn't there.
She blinks hot tears away when she realizes what has happened.
Alone. She considers briefly purging all emotion once more, but for what? There is nothing logical about this. There is no reason she should respond logically, either.
(I'm sorry, Mama.)
(Trust the Force, Jyn.)
(As her fingers tingle around the Kyber crystal, she can almost hear her mother, and moves on.)
When Saw's betrayal rushes towards her in her nightmares (leaving her-just like her father), she cannot sleep for the days after, and the days after that.
But her fear of the abyss known as loneliness recedes quickly to the back of her mind. She can survive on her own, she knows it, if the Force wills it (a bedtime story, Jyn, only that and nothing more, Saw's expression patronizes her, his mouth staying in its grim line; she shoves him into the corners of her memory).
Something tells her she already has, touching the light crystal around her neck.
Days pass, maybe weeks. She scavenges for food wherever possible-she eats a few rats while she's starving, using her knife to gut and skin them. Whatever is left of the crops, of the grain is useless. She hungrily ravages the empty villages she comes across, ignoring the ghosts haunting her every step. Every bite she takes is another man killed (Papa?), she knows that. But she can't resist the thought of survival, of wanting more time.
She travels from town to town, over the hills of the once-beautiful planet, just as she and Saw had done. She's gaunt, her clothes stiff with blood, sweat, tears, and whatever water she can find in rivers and muddy streams; her lips are cracked and her feet are callused. She nearly loses her boots from walking too much, the edges cracked and fringed, surviving in the woods alone if she can't find a village to sit in, hidden in abandoned houses, away from the smell of the rotting grain (or is it the corpses?). In each of them, she closes her eyes and dreams of her mother and father, eating plomeek soup in green fields until the soup spills and stains the planet red.
Her aching feet march (or stumble) along the beaten path of roots and scraps of greenery; when she looks up, she is unprepared for the palm reaching for her throat, dangling her in front of the culprit.
Panic spikes inside her and she chokes, legs frantically wavering and kicking in the air vainly. She struggles to remember what Saw taught her in the little time they had. Whoever it is slams her down, and she loses all sense and all breath, her vision black, then suddenly white and empty. Her sight starts to clear to reveal a large man, fists clenching a large axe, staring her down from the sky-he seems to be taller than the trees, his bald head shining against the sunlight. "Please," she rasps out, her first time speaking in days.
"I've never tried little girl before!" he exclaims ecstatically, his mouth ruined by the blackness of his rotting smile and the gap where his front teeth should be. She pretends to be deaf to her helpless whimper.
When he attempts to swing the hatchet down on her, she rolls out of his way, grabbing a stick and waving it in his face. He roars with impatience, yielding his weapon with such cumbersome effort-his weakness. (One fighter with a sharp stick and nothing left to lose can take the day, Saw tells her as he holds her down with his elbows and she groans below him, arms fighting the force of his might.) As he tries to aim, she sprints below his extended arm and jumps onto him, driving the stick into his left eye. She feels bile rising as she hears the squirt, then nothing else but a shriek of pain and surprise; they both fall to the ground, the axe forgotten on the forest floor.
She scrambles away from him as the tall cannibal wails, wounded crudely. Perhaps it's fear, perhaps it's panic-but her hands find the man's weapon anyway. (When you fight, you fight to the death, Saw says, searching her eyes for any line of disagreement in the darkness of the woods. Do not leave loose ends. Do not give chances to those who do not deserve it.)
Her step wavers, the grasp on the hatchet slowly slipping with the blood from the man's eye. He lays on the floor, still yelling obscenities, but his energy is decreasing. He ate others. He doesn't deserve to live, she thinks to herself.
(One bite, another man dies.)
The axe swings down. The man stills.
His head lays two feet away from his neck.
Her hands slip and the axe falls away from her, and she runs, choking on vomit that spills from the corner of her mouth, nearly suffocating her, and leaving a trail on the blood-ridden dirt of her home planet. She doesn't stop until she finds a river and stumbles more than jumps into it, bile and nerves and blood and tears mixing into the water, carrying her along with it. For once, she no longer cares where it takes her.
She kills her first on the fifth day Saw leaves her. It isn't her last.
She doesn't know how long it's been since her last scrap of-she doesn't know what. The surrounding woods have given away no berries. It's her fourth-or is it fifth?-day without water. So she lays, starving and shivering in the first story of a house on the edge of a town, two corpses, a man and a woman, lying not more than fifteen meters away from her, hands at the door as if they had crawled to the handle, begging for release before the soldiers, the cowards, bastards shot them in the back. That will be me soon, Jyn thinks, desperately trying not to think of her own mother-or her father, who, for all she knows, is long dead and gone. Governor Kodos can't be trusted with a few thousand men as he was with eight thousand. Hysterically, she laughs and cries and screams, "Mama, will I become stardust like you?"
Her sobs rack her entire body, nearly breaking her brittle bones as she attempts to breathe; she finds she cannot as she tries to get her body under control, but only heightens the panic setting in. Her vision fizzes like a holoscreen, and her ragged not-breaths are all she hears-until the door opens, and there are footsteps.
She chokes back on a scream (thinking of Saw and the mad, dying woman, of where Saw is and where she could be had she fought back and didn't feel the sympathy towards one who had the same fate as her, of the cannibalistic man who wanted little girl for his lunch and received a stab to the eye and a blow to the neck) as they near her, possibly carrying a phaser and ready to empty it into her-she refuses to beg, to plead for mercy; by God, she will have her damn dignity; she will fight back as long as it takes-
She can't see him but her fists are up and she struggles when he tries to tap her shoulder; she's certain she's yelling, but she can't seem to hear what-
Then water comes rushing down her throat, soothes her senses, and she breathes a sigh of relief in instinct, choking on the sincerity with which it was administered.
"Slowly. Don't worry, I know what to do." The voice doesn't sound like the governor-he sounds young, about her age.
Her tongue laps for more, her body begging but her mind restraining her tongue from voicing her pleads.
Whoever he is kindly drips more of the heavenly water into her mouth, his other hand gripping her shoulder, acting as her anchor, keeping her from drowning in this kindness. Vaguely, she hears herself saying, "Oh, thank God, thank you, oh God-" before she promptly passes out in the boy's arms.
It's the warmth that wakes her. When she opens her eyes, she sees she is no longer in the house, but in darkness. There's cloth on her body, covering her shivering bones, and she's lying on the dirt.
A hand on her shoulder, and she almost screams in reply; another warm hand covers her mouth, sensing her panic. "Don't worry. It's me. I gave you water," he says, voice calm and clear. It's soothing. It's not like her father's voice, deep and full of joy, but it's not brittle and hard. His words flow like water, but his tone is heavy and authoritative. She wants to trust him. It's as if she's listened to his voice before, whispering her name in her ear. (She tries not to think of Saw, and of how she had thought that about him, too.)
Her eyes adjust to the darkness, and she can see the outline of the boy beside her. She nods to assure him of her cooperation, and when his hands release her, she pushes her body up, sitting cross-legged beside him, knees touching.
"Who are you?" she asks, whispering. (Do you know what I've done?)
She hears him lick his lips before he replies. "JT," he hesitates. A pause.
"What's your real name, then?"
He doesn't answer. "What's your name? How did you survive?"
"I'm Jyn," she says, realizing her throat is croaky with disuse. When was the last time she spoke to anyone? Saw, she thinks, and immediately, her ears burn green with deep anger. Why should she trust this boy, even if his voice sounds so, so dear to her; why should she trust this boy who saved her life? Didn't Saw do that? (Didn't Papa leave her?) "Now, what's yours?" she asks with an edge.
Her snarl is welcomed with his own scoff. "Look, I don't know you and you don't know me. You're pretty old for our group, so I'd like to make sure you don't kill anyone just so you don't starve. Got that clear?"
She looks straight into his direction, wherever the boy is, and grits her teeth in defiance. Chin up, she counters, "Trust goes both ways."
There's a grim silence that follows, then a heavy sigh. "Jim. Call me Jim."
That doesn't seem right, she thinks; she ignores this, her palm digging for her Kyber crystal's solace before she nods and answers his question. "I ate whatever I came by and went into all the towns for whatever I could find."
"Anyone with you?"
She almost says no when her breath catches.
"Right," the boy-Jim winces, sighing with sadness. "Sorry I asked." She nods in reply.
"Well, I'll introduce you to everyone in the morning. Right now, you should sleep."
"Everyone?" she asks, curious, scared.
"Everyone," Jim affirms, soft and certain. "I've got a few kids. There's a lot of them, actually, but most of them are too small to understand it fully. What just happened to us." She can feel him looking at her, as she's staring at him back, even though they can't see the other in the dark. "But you're not like them. You're older. I think...I'm about your age."
"I'm thirteen," she says; he returns, "So am I."
They both nod and feel each other's understanding, the air between them one of empathy. They are older. They understand what the governor has done, what the governor seeks to do to them if they are discovered. Death is their friend, lurking in the shadows, waiting. They know this-they will protect the others with this unspoken agreement. The word murder floats between them, as if the smell of having killed someone in the past reeks from both of their hands, but they don't confront it verbally-not when they need to survive and protect at any cost.
"I know you're Vulcan, but you should rest-go into a healing trance, whatever you need. I'll be keeping watch."
"Half," she corrects. "I'm half Vulcan. I'm also half human. My parents…" she trails off, wondering why she is telling this boy her story. He did save her life, she reasons. She was never one for logic-her mother was, but her mother and father never forced her to embrace the true immersion into logic, only to have proper mental shields blocking the transmittance of emotions through a simple touch. Perhaps that is why they moved to Tarsus IV-to embrace the human side of themselves. To embrace emotion, let it out of unhealthy control. It is illogical, but perhaps her mother always loved her father for it.
Exhausted, her eyelids flutter at the thought of them, her heart incessantly beating. "Rest, Jyn," Jim whispers, pushing her down gently with his hand on her shoulder. Reluctantly, she obeys.
The next day is bright and jarring. The heat on her face is welcoming, and she takes in her surroundings. She's lying in a cave, the grey-black rocks oppressive and dark, the sunlight streaming into the opening a few meters away from her right. She glances to her left-and starts, scrambling up in attention, when she sees there are children, ten of them, staring at her. Presumably her ears, as most of them are human, with the exception of a green skinned girl-an Orion-and...another Vulcan. He stares at her with obvious distrust.
"You're awake," she hears Jim say, turning around sharply to see him for the first time, curious and eager to see her savior. Perhaps the first person she can trust in this place.
The light streams in behind him as if a spotlight hitting the reluctant star, the forced leader of the group of children. He's as gaunt as her, maybe even leaner, and his stance is military, erect. He holds himself confidently, but by the way his voice was full of exhaustion yesterday, she knows it's for the children. His hair is a sandy blonde, short and spiky, most likely with sweat and and dirt; his hands are curled into fists, always ready to strike; his legs are steady, strong, though sticks, always ready to run.
His eyes-they rival hers in striking the enemy blind. His eyes are such a strong shade of blue, blaring his emotions with such savageness. She feels breathless, shocked at the sight: his eyes are the shade of blue Tarsus IV's skies once were before the slaughter of thousands of people. Before plomeek soup spilled like blood and stained the beauty red.
"Yes," she affirms at his observation, at a loss for words.
He nods in response, unreadable. "This is Jyn," he addresses the group. "You can trust her."
He gestures for her to follow him around the cave, and he introduces her to all the children.
She meets Kevin, bundled up in blankets, thumb stuck in his mouth as if it provided him with the nutrients needed to heal his malnourished body. His eyes shine with innocence and fear and she comforts him with a tentative smile, surprising herself. Shyly, Kev, as Jim calls him, smiles back when they move on. She meets Alex, the little Orion girl, barely six, who looks up at her with such a brilliant, flashing smile that she's blinded, chirping her introduction before Jim can utter her name. Her red hair is long, hanging down from her forehead in dirty, stringy strands. Then there's Baze, a buff boy larger than her by half a meter, hair in large curls across his forehead. There's a sadness around him, but when they meet, he already treats her like an older sister. He takes her hand, leading her to his brother, whose blue eyes are empty and cold, but whose smile is anything but. Chîrrut, he's called, and he smiles as if they've known each other for a long, long time and cracks a joke about his blindness, and he bears the scars marring his head with pride, white rippling across yellow. ("When the riots broke out, a couple of men barged into their home, demanding for whatever scrap they had left," Jim tells her when they leave the two brothers to themselves. "Damn bastards carved his nerves out with kitchen knives.")
There's Helen, with her curly brown hair, and her brother, Poe, with dark brown eyes and hopeless looks on their faces. There's Melshi and Pao, childhood friends, refusing to leave the other's side like a pair of Siamese twins, both with dark blue eyes (not jarring like Jim's).
They come to the Vulcan, who still glares at her so comically with distaste that she wants to laugh. His dull brown eyes don't say a word except for the obvious message to shut up to her, turning to Jim with concern written in the lines across his forehead. He's eleven, Jim tells her, a bit younger than her and Jim, and his gray clothes are a part of his light skin, sticking to his back with sweat and dirt. "I do not think this is the best course of action," he says monotonously, making her choke back on the memories of her mother. "The probability of her betraying us, considering her age and her heritage, is very high, Jim. It is very high."
"Kay," Jim warns, smirking underneath the captain-like pose. "Be nice. She's going to be our friend."
Kay sighs in frustration, looking at her (she bites back a giggle), nose wrinkling and eyes squinting, as if evaluating her trustworthiness and whether or not he should lunge and attack her right then. Finally, he huffs in defeat, and says snarkily, "The captain says you're a friend. I will not kill you."
She raises her eyebrows. "Thanks," she says dryly. Turning to Jim, she inquires, "The captain?" (Yes, captain...that sounds right.)
Jim nearly smiles, but ultimately falters. "Captain," he agrees.
The last one is Bodhi, a small boy, perhaps three years old, rocking himself in the corner of the cave, staring at the ground. She looks to Jim in worry, and his mouth is a grim line. Stepping forward, he offers his hand to the boy, and he only curls into himself more. The little child is a mere ball against his leader. "I found him only three days ago, in another town," Jim confides in a low voice. "He doesn't quite know me yet."
She nods, and decides to try. Her voice is sweet in a way it has never been since she was eleven, but she tries. "Hello. My name is Jyn," she says, sitting down and bringing her knees up beside her, mimicking his position. "It'll be alright. Me and Jim-we'll take care of you."
How illogical you are, she chastises herself. She's only just met this boy and she already trusts him. Granted, he saved her life, giving her water when she herself would never have given away any of her provisions. One bite, one sip; another man falls. One life for another.
The boy looks up carefully, eyes wide in fear, mouth nearly open in a silent, frozen yell of distress. When he catches her eye and takes her in, though, it changes into an expression of curiosity. She forces herself to swallow her doubt-and smile. She leans in, her head offered to the inquisitive fingers.
Bodhi's small fingers are thin and sharp, but they are gentle as they run over her ears. When he appears finished, she retracts her head and watches him struggle. "Wulcan," he half-asks, searching her eyes for affirmation.
"Yes," she replies, not bothering to correct him, smiling at the innocence still held in this tiny cave, in the midst of the blood flowing from four thousand corpses (and from her own hands, as well as Jim's). "Wulcan."
They gather more strays as they go along as she did, traveling from town to town, gathering whatever food they find. They're a family now, comforting one another and playing with the little ones.
Their clothing becomes tattered and dirty, their lips drier and their bodies more frail.
They become rebels, running from phaser fire when they sniff the air and sense Kodos' men coming, stealing and eating whatever they come by, relying only on themselves, trusting no one-not even the adults who come to beg them for food. She is prepared to fight more of the ones who wanted to devour her like a pig; she thinks of Bodhi and of Alex and does not want to taint any of their souls as she did hers.
One bite, another man falls, a mantra in her mind; the dying woman and Saw are pictures haunting her, his eyes of guilt-for leaving her?, she thinks in anger-and the desperate look in her father's eyes as he realizes he won't be able to reach them in time when the stun blast hit him-but she hides her face from Jim. She can't imagine ever telling him about Saw. The wound is too deep and recent, and that would lead to telling him about her father.
And what if he leaves her? Then what? They all do eventually, don't they?
She earns Kay's trust bit by bit, with each smirk and tease between the two of them. She saves his life by taking down a soldier whose phaser is trained on him, tackling the man and kicking him into the river- but not before he swipes at her shoulder with a knife, a stinging sensation filling her arm. Then it's Kay's turn to hold onto her other arm, pull, and run together, catching up with the others ahead of them, Jim carrying Bodhi on his back, unable to help.
As they reach their destination, the soldiers losing them in the thick of the woods, as Jim had planned, Kay turns to her and expresses his gratitude in the most Vulcan way possible: "Your behavior, Jyn Erso, is continually unexpected."
She smiles as his ears turn green and he blushes with thankfulness, rushing into the cave with his blackened gray clothing and his dull brown eyes that she learns holds an ocean of emotion. Beside her, Jim puts Bodhi down and smiles. "I guess Kay likes you, now," he says.
At night, she stays with Jim outside whatever cave or house or cabin they find. They develop exit strategies for the kids, plans if anyone is found, if anyone is captured. They vow to die rather than be taken-she knows the berries on the planet, and she knows which are poisonous. (She remembers her mother telling her, warning her whenever she played out in the fields; she remembers her mother's smile and the throbbing absence of a Vulcan bond and forces the memories out of her mind.) They carry a handful with them at all times-just them, not anyone else. They agree that if anyone were to die, it would be one of them, and the other would run with the rest; they agree that if anyone were to be killed, it would be one of them to do it, and none of the others.
It doesn't take them long to trust each other. They are, after all, responsible for the others. They are, after all, reliant on the other. But, she suspects, there is also that underlying current between them, the sense of familiarity, of I've held you in my arms before, in another world, in a different universe, and of their attraction to danger.
At night, Jim tells her stories of an unwanted child in a lonely house with an empty mother and an angry uncle (he's angry about Kodos, about the soldiers putting them down one by one; he's screaming at her, yelling desperately, "I've been in this fight since I was six years old!" as they lose another one they just found, failing to save them from the malnutrition); at night, Jim tells her stories of a starship captain (Captain...she thinks) for a grand total of eight minutes, who dies and leaves him wanting to go back to where he was born-space.
She tells him stories of her mother and her father, of the struggle between humanness and logical thinking, of how her mother balanced both because she loved both. She tells him stories of her mother's words, of the Force which binds all things, of Jedi knights who wielded it with grace, of the Kyber around her heart that has been hers, her mother's, her mother's mother, and so on. She tells him stories of a dark Empire threatening a Rebel force, of a weapon that could destroy an entire planet, of a haunted dark warrior who turned against all those he loved for love, of crushing the weapon and the Empire only to repeat the maddening cycle of murder and chaos, of the sacrifice and futility of the rebellion.
They both agree it's clear that history repeats itself, though it was only her mother's bedtime story. (But they both agree that bedtime stories are always true.)
She falls in love with the sound of his voice, soft but firm and strong. She falls in love with the boy who whispers her name at night to wake her; she falls in love with the boy who tells her his secrets and she tells him hers. She has never before interacted with another or had a friend besides her parents (and where are they now?).
"I'm not used to people sticking around when things go bad," Jim whispers to her one night, after he tells her about the stars and points out his birthplace.
"Welcome home," she says, thinking of her father and of Saw and of the Force, leading her to James Tiberius Kirk.
They stay in an abandoned cabin when another disaster occurs. She and Jim are sleeping back to back when she feels Jim jerk awake, and so does she. He puts his hand on her mouth, and she listens-voices, deep and low and male, as well as footsteps, heavy, with the clink of ammunition after each step.
They spring into action: they run into the cabin and wake the kids up, and they know it's time to leave. The little ones go first, confused and scared, with the older kids they trust: Melshi and Pao take Bodhi, Helen takes Poe; soon, they're all out through the burrow they dug, taking them outside ten meters away from the cabin, except for Jim, Jyn, and Kay.
Jim opens his mouth to tell Kay to move, but Kay shoots back, "If I leave now, there is a ninety percent chance that one of you will say something stupid to get the other to leave, and the other will counter that he or she will not, thus causing both of you to be killed."
Jim rolls his eyes and whispers, "Kay, dear God, help me; Kay, just-"
And the door kicks open, the soldiers trailing into the room, phasers raised up and fingers itching. Fear pulses through, along with adrenaline. Jim reaches out and pushes the phaser upwards into the nearest soldier, the aim straying and shooting into the ceiling; the soldier falls down with a bloody nose and a headbutt. She throws her arms forward, attempting to do the same and succeeding; the next man is not so easy to defeat. He slams his body into hers, pushing the phaser into her temple and throwing her against the cabin wall. She kicks against him with her foot, and he groans; she takes advantage and brings her fist into his nose and her other under his chin. He yells an obscenity and pulls the trigger, his aim off from her kicking it down to the ground, knocking it out of his hands.
There's a horrible wail behind her, and she gasps, ice flowing through her veins in fear. Not Jim.
When she turns, it's Kay who's on the ground, hand clutching his ankle, green blood spreading over the floor. Jim is struggling against his own soldier, who he has locked in an embrace, arm around his neck-his eyes widen at the sight in front of him. As he reaches her eyes, his mouth opens in a warning; she realizes it's too late: she has let her guard down and ignored the enemy in front of her, distracted.
Kodos's man grabs her arm and wrenches backward, pulling it out of its socket; she screams as she feels the ligaments twist and turn and stretch involuntarily; she wails as she hears a loud pop.
She falls without breaking the shriek, the thud heavy and loud, body aching and shoulder on fire. She hears the phaser fire without hearing it; the soldier drops beside her, eyes open and dead. Jim, she tells herself, relieved, and pushes herself not to pass out-Jim has Kay to worry about.
Blue eyes blink at her, lips mouthing words she can't hear. She blinks up in confusion, until his eyes of concern wake her up. She shakes her head (thinking of how weak she was when Saw left her, of how she couldn't fight and he left her) and brings herself up, ignoring the pull of her shoulder. "I'm fine," she thinks she says. "Get Kay."
He nods, mouth grim, but he picks up Kay gently, unconscious and bleeding, and nods to her.
They walk back to the others; she struggles to stay awake, but the pain helps in some ways. The kids look in concern, Chîrrut tugging on Baze's arm to understand the situation, but Jim shakes his head and promises them an explanation later. The captain, as Kay calls him, orders them to run, and they do.
Her shoulder seems folded into her body, deformed and aching; it's numb after the run to the next hideout: a cave they find fifty kilometers away. Kay's wound exposes the mess of nerves and muscles of his ankle, green blood splattered across the floor where he was half dragged, pouring openly by the second. The children gather around him, laying in a Vulcan healing trance, she and Jim assumes-but nothing can be sure.
She herself had never been taught how to do such a thing. (She had always told herself that she'd learn, or ask her mother when she was older. Obviously, she made a mistake.)
Jim looks at her in desperation, eyes full of compassion and love for the young boy, and she feels it in herself, as well.
She pushes forward, kneeling next to the pale boy, hesitating, but deciding to do what needed to be done. If she lets down her walls, for just a moment, Kay will hear her. Maybe, hopefully, he will wake up. Her fingers latch onto Kay's arm, and she sends a thought forward, letting all her walls down-Saw, the woman, Mama, Papa-Kay, are you alright?
There's a gasp, and she lets go, jerking away violently as she feels Kay's presence. Jim tries to steady her, hand on her back, but she flinches away so startlingly that the other kids shrink away, and Jim's hand returns to his side. He gives her time to rebuild her walls, to collect herself, and turns everyone's attention to Kay. A perfect captain, she thinks.
"Kay, are you alright?" he asks, and she sees the dull eyes open and flutter with pain, heart wrenching at the sight.
Weakly, he nods, and turns his to her, shivering away from him. "Are you?" he asks.
She nods. "Yes," she whispers, wishing she doesn't sounds so weak.
"I find that answer vague and unconvincing." The drawling tone makes her want to punch the boy in the face.
"Jyn," Jim starts, heading toward her. When she flinches and shakes her head minutely, his steel blue plays a war of decision before deciding to agree with her. Later, his eyes say, trailing on her shoulder.
"Well, Kay," he tries to alleviate the mood, though his stance, stiff and tense, says otherwise. "We'll have to fix that phaser wound before it festers."
"And how do you suppose we do that?"
Jim's smirk lights up the darkness of the cave. "We make ten men feel like a hundred."
"That is a bad idea," Kay says when Jim finishes. She almost laughs, but she's near the breaking point of exhaustion.
Alex sits beside her, her red hair tickling her nose, her warmth comforting her. She is her little sister, knowing when she needs to be left alone yet be helped at the same time, in the right way. Her heart swells at the sight of the green girl's hands pointing up at her eyes and smiling, chirping away about her favorite color, proud of her heritage-but shakes the image away, the memory of another night in another cave, days ago before anyone had been grazed by a phaser.
Jim shakes his head, and so does she. "It's the only way, Kay," she says softly. "We have to get something to help you. Think about this logically."
Kay's pout is enough to make her laugh hysterically, but she stops herself before she presents anymore weakness to the kids. It's bad enough that Kay is hurt, one of the older ones of their group; she can't make Jim's burden greater.
Jim lays his hand on Kay's arm. "Kay, please. Trust me. When have I ever let you down?"
Kay blinks. "I prefer not to answer that question."
Jim's stance nearly deflates in relief at Kay's sense of humor, and his eyes roll in fake despair.
The young Vulcan seems to relent, sighing tiredly from his position on the dirt floor. "Alright, but I will accompany you so none of you do anything stupid."
This time, she laughs in response, panic bubbling within her at the thought of Kay limping across a populated town for his own medical needs, only to be shot in the head by a phaser in response. "You can barely walk. You're not coming."
As his eyes begin to close, he retorts, "I'm surprised you're so concerned about my safety."
"I'm not," she swallows, letting Kay enjoy their little argument as she worries about his wound, the wound she caused because she slammed that phaser down as the guard shot it. "I'm just worried they might miss you and hit me."
She hears him faintly whisper, "Doesn't sound so bad to me."
That night, as the others sleep and ready themselves for the next day's plan, Jim is waiting for her outside the cave after she puts Alex to sleep. "I have to set your shoulder," he says without preamble, and steadies her away from the cave. She leans on him more than she cares to admit.
"Are you alright?" she asks, and he answers almost immediately, "I'm fine."
She scoffs as his fingers move across her shoulder. "I find that answer vague and unconvincing."
"Oh, shut up." His blue clashes with her green, and he relents. "You can look me over as soon as I fix your shoulder. It's going to hurt," he grimaces, and pushes her shoulder into place.
She thinks she screams because the next bit of consciousness she is aware of is being in Jim's arms, his voice whispering assurances into her ear, soft and warm against her cold, numb skin.
She nods off without checking on him, and when she wakes, he shows no sign of weakness.
Their first raid of a town of chosen people (perhaps one of them is Galen Erso, she wonders) lifts her off her feet in adrenaline. She'd never committed a crime before but in another life, she thinks she could live off the thrill of adventure.
It's the dead of night, and there aren't many guards-perhaps because of the two explosions made of stolen firecrackers and overheated phasers from unconscious or killed soldiers, each about five hundred meters away from the thick walls of the town, one towards the north and the other towards the south. The north is set aflame by Melshi, who ran far, far away with Kev, the small boy grinning with delight; the culprit in the south is Pao. Helen and Poe stay behind to watch over Bodhi, the three-year-old the baby of the group, and Kay, making sure he stays in his prone position.
Baze and Jim take care of the remaining guards patrolling as she destroys the lights from the nearest tower, Chîrrut outside the walls, not wanting to leave his brother. (Baze had yelled at him to stay in the cave, protesting as loudly as they could, but Chîrrut smiled and said, "I can keep watch," earning a snicker from Baze like candy from a child.)
She hunts through the houses with Alex, silent and swift. The Orion girl grins so brightly when she picks up all five food rations and the medical kit for Kay in the house that she's afraid the people inside will see its radiance.
When they emerge from the town, the guards are hurrying back, not having found anything besides the explosion and its fragments. Chîrrut stands near where they had left him, a large stick-made staff in his hands.
Their eyes adjust to find a prone body next to his feet.
They look at Chîrrut in awe. He smiles, clear blue eyes laughing in the dark, and says, "He didn't see what hit him."
Alex laughs the hardest, and Jyn can't deny that the sounds of their low, wheezing laughter are the happiest noises she has ever heard.
It's the last smile they ever see from their little Orion girl.
When Alex dies of starvation and pneumonia, they almost fall apart at the seams. They are running, the phaser fire just a few miles behind them, coming rapidly by the second; Kay limping, but healed. The rocks are slippery near the dirty stream; she falls, submerged underneath the bubbling, steaming water, laced with mud and animal dung.
When they don't see her red hair emerge, the smaller kids sent up ahead of them, Jim jumps in.
It takes several minutes for the blonde and crimson duo to pop their heads out of the water, Jim struggling to hold onto the brittle stick Jyn offers.
Alex lasts four days before she coughs her last breath, crimson blood mixing into her wet hair, mouth nearly open in a ferocious sob. She dies in her arms and she feels her walls chip away, fading like the little girl had and breaking like she is.
Jim says nothing. Neither does she. (Jim crawls further into himself; she stops him with a hand on his shoulder and a push back down into the dirt for rest, a distant memory of distrust and choices to trust between them.)
They leave her in the dust, covered and packed with dirt, leaving a single green leaf they found, scouring the woods for anything that would make green Alex smile. Her own green eyes turn darker (and Jim's eyes harden more into JT's) as they leave the fallen little girl behind to become one with the barren fields of Tarsus IV and one with the Force.
They save each other many times over the weeks the dead fields of Tarsus IV give them. The first is when they stumble onto another adult, one who gives her chills as she sees the dead, deadeyes of the old woman in the house and Saw leaving her. She stumbles as the woman lunges, snarling about running away before the soldiers attacked them. Jim does what Saw did: he pulls the woman off her, and breaks her neck to end her of the misery. She can feel bile as she berates herself for her inaction; but Jim does what Saw (and her father) did not: he stays.
The second is when they go alone to a populated, surviving town, with promising food and electricity, as if untouched by the famine (untrue). It looks as if it's the same camp where Saw killed the soldier, where he first saved her life. Unyielding brick stones laced with vines of crawling, deadly wire lines the town. They intend to scale it and jump inside, then jump back out with substantial food. It's stupid. Desperate.
He lets himself be the distraction-she protests, but she knows she's lovelier, more deceptive in the chance she is caught. They crawl in and shortly afterwards, he lets out a whoop and throws rocks at the nearest guard tower, running around the walls that keep the people inside. She crawls into the window of the nearest house.
She slips in and out undetected, not needing her charming green, nostalgic eyes for anyone-they've all been enlisted to aid in the search for an "undesirable", someone who needed to be exterminated because their existences outweigh the life of whoever it is causing commotion outside their homes, according to the voice on the intercom, blasting throughout the city. She smiles thickly as she surveys her gatherings: they have a bag of three large loaves of bread, two slices of meat, and three bottles they can use later for drinks.
When she waits near the stone wall for him to reappear, lights turn on to the center of the village instead, a spotlight in the plaza. It's Jim.
They've caught him, she realizes with the sickening thump of her heart, and they've done a number on him. He's manhandled, brought to his knees in front of the accumulating crowd; blood streams openly from his nose, and he's forming a black eye on the right side of his face. Blue eyes still livid and jarring, he begs her to run, the words in the air and in his eyes and in the plans they've made together. The berries-he'll take them.
But she can't-she can't seem to do this without him. There's something about him that makes her whisper, no, not you-you're not supposed to die.
Her feet move of their own volition, and she sprints to a forgotten guard tower, most soldiers directed to the center and outward in search of a desperate, selfless boy. There is one guard, but she takes care of him swiftly-her knee jams into his spine and she grabs his gun from behind, jerking it abruptly in his throat. There's a strangling sound as she blocks air from his lungs, an unheard thud as he loses consciousness. She takes the guard's phaser, scampers inside, and shoots every electronic panel on sight. Make ten men feel like a hundred, Jim had said that day, when they raided one of the governor's towns for the first time. So she makes one woman feel like ten men.
The world is plunged into total darkness.
She runs, runs toward the center of the plaza with all the screaming people running toward her direction, presumably, toward the tower or toward their homes for flashlights. She's pushed, shoved, screamed at; she pushes back harder and they know she won't be swayed.
By the time she reaches what seemed to be Jim's last position, her eyes have adjusted to the darkness-there are three bodies lying on the floor. There's the smell of blood and liquid pooling near her boots, seeping onto her toes through the hole the right one has developed. Her breath catches, fearing, trembling, not him, not him, not him-
A hand on her shoulder, and she moves to disarm it, flipping the body onto the floor and flinging herself atop him, fingers ready to strike her opponent's eyes; he catches her wrists and whispers, "Jyn."
She lets out a small gasp and almost collapses from the relief. But she scrambles up from their position and pulls him up, letting her arm wrap around his torso for support. She feels his body stiffen, and he pulls away. "I'm fine," he says, and she ignores the strain in his voice. The kids-their kids. They have to do this-to survive. "Let's get out of here."
Before she can utter a response, he takes her hand and they rush from the guards and people scrambling to work their flashlights and find them, scaling the wall and dropping down on the ground amidst the phaser fire near their heads and the screaming and panic of the town. He retakes her hand and doesn't let go when they run back to the cave, readying for a night of moving immediately, with a pack of a supplies and Kodos's dogs on their tail.
He has to wait three days until he can confront her of her decision, in a new location six days of day travel away from the last. Their trail is impossible to track (they made sure of it). In the light of the fire, he looks at her with blue eyes shining with doubt, anger, confusion. "You should have left. We've talked about this before. You should have followed my instructions, to the letter, but you didn't. Now, I want to know why."
She doesn't want to deal with his self-hatred, not when she's been watching his every move, his every action for the slightest hint of massive injury. Not when she has been this close to losing the one person she trusts on this planet, the first person not to leave her so far. "I couldn't," she says simply. "You would have done the same."
He shakes his head, livid with anger. "No, that doesn't justify what chaos you brought to that place-how many people died when we left, Jyn? Don't you care about those people, don't you see it's not their fault?"
(I love you, Stardust.) "Of course I know that, of course I care, but all I could see was-"
"What did you see? Why would you throw away that chance the distraction gave you? I volunteered for it, I knew the risks, and you had no right-"
"You had no right to leave us all!"
Jim splutters at that, shocked at her outburst. The woods around them are quiet and dead. The children in the cave are hopefully asleep. She can see him, his steel blue eyes softening by the second, through the soft embers of the fire dying in front of them. Smoke and mirrors.
"I…I did what I had to do. You would have been fine without me."
She shakes her head at the thought of being alone without him, leaving her.
"I would be dead without you."
She tells him about Saw and her father that night.
He tells her about Sam (and he still remembers that day, the red car speeding down the road, and how it led him to here-to her).
It seems she's not alone in having the ones they love leave.
It seems, after that night, that they're not alone at all.
It all goes down to hell weeks later. (How long has it been since she left her parents that day? She doesn't know, has absolutely no idea.)
They're walking on a hike, in search of berries, in the meantime relocating their hideout more to the north (not that it matters to them-surviving the next day is all they think about, wandering aimlessly around the planet, avoiding anybody they see). All of them wander freely, a hint of peaceful childishness in their group as they savor the dying trees and the clusters of bushes of the only food that lives on the planet.
Then the shots come-rapid, bursting into their small paradise of peace; Jim springs into action, ordering them all to start running, an unnecessary order, but still the captain's voice is authoritative and jolting.
Her and Jim's stolen phasers jostle against their hips from where they clipped them on their waistbands.
Their run brings them atop the hill of dirt and yellow remains of a field. Jim is behind her, Bodhi struggling to walk on chubby legs up ahead. She scoops him up into her arms and dashes over the rocks barefoot, feet callused and dry. The sharp edges cut into her feet, bleeding profusely. She lost her boots days ago, but they hadn't encountered soldiers until today. She barely feels the blood drip from the cuts, but she knows she'll feel like hell when the day becomes night and they've outrunned Kodos's men.
The little boy in her arms sucks his thumb in worry, glancing behind her. "Bodhi, don't look at them. Don't worry, I've got you," she says under her breath, heavy and strained and not at all believable.
She doesn't feel Jim's breath behind her on her neck anymore, and she can't risk a look back. Kay is ahead, fully recovered from his phaser wound with the help of Vulcan techniques, along with the other children. They're almost at the top, leaves and dead roots cutting into their ankles, dirt smudging in between their toes. She has to take a calculated risk to save Jim's life-knowing him, the self-sacrificing idiot got himself in trouble.
"Kay!" she yells, and the Vulcan turns around quizzically.
"I believe the captain said-"
"I know what he said!" Jyn hands him Bodhi, shoving him into Kay's confused arms. "Keep running! We'll be right behind you."
At this, he raises an eyebrow. "There is a 38 percent chance of survival."
"Go!" She hears a heavy sigh from Kay as she turns around from the top of the hill, the (their) kids descending quickly into the forest below. Good-trees provide cover, no matter how scarce they are, the greenish yellow hue of the dying leaves scattered about the brown cake mud of Tarsus.
The phaser feels sleek and small in her hand, setting it to stun in case her aim is off and she hits Jim. Below, a battle rages: Jim hides behind a boulder against the three coming men, large phasers up and fingers poised about the triggers. She and Jim had stolen phasers half the size of the ones they have now. There are two bodies on the ground, one bleeding from the chest, eyes fluttering to a near end. The other has no face, replaced by an intricate mesh of veins and flesh. She descends, running away from Jim's position to a large tree. She knows he'll cover her as she dodges phaser fire: she hears a scream and a groan, the thud as the body falls as she reaches the fat trunk. Two left, and her mouth twitches: divide and conquer.
Her soldier clucks with his tongue and whistles. "Girlie, girlie, girlie….where are you?"
She can hear the steps near her, the whistling louder. She clamps her hand around her mouth-when has she ever breathed so loudly?
The tip of a phaser inches forward, centimeters away from the left side of her face. Closer, she begs. Come closer.
Unwittingly, he obeys. The phaser is close enough to touch, to grasp and push into his face.
The ugly man with beady snake's eyes and gaping mouth is prepared. He bares his teeth and pushes back, older and stronger than her. "Found ya," he laughs, and throws uses her shock to move her weight off the phaser, swinging it to the side and by causation, flinging her body into the mud. She lands with a groan, rolls over just in time to avoid being hit by a blast. She welcomes the sound of the man attempting to fire but silence following: his phaser has run out of energy to kill.
She scrambles up and reaches for his eyes, ready to jam her thumbs inside the sockets; he leans back and slams his foot into her side. She rolls away, clutching the area, but puts her fists up in defiance. The amused glint in his eyes angers her to no end, so she moves first. Growling, she lunges, throwing an upper hook up into his nose just as he jams his knee into her middle. She can't breathe suddenly, but she is rewarded with the sight of blood running down his nose. He curses her loudly and jabs into her cheek; there's nothing she can do while recovering from the previous hit. She groans, and lifting her face up again becomes difficult. Instead, she rams the side of her body into his, shoulder digging into his chest and pushing him down. She falls on top of him as he groans in response to the bony attack; her knees come around his neck and squeeze.
She can feel him struggling beneath her, hands clawing and scratching at her torn jeans, nails leaving emerald, angry marks as he panics, losing oxygen.
She closes her eyes. ("Please." A wheezing sound. "Plea…") And twists her knees sharply. She hears the crack of his spine. Feels it beneath her skin.
Jyn's hands shake as she lets out a breath, laying in the middle of the mud with a dead mind beneath her feet. She decides to focus on Jim. She needs to get to Jim.
She crawls up, hands struggling to support her weight, and looks from behind the tree trunk where she and the man (Kodos's man, she reminds herself) struggled. She wants to vomit when she sees him-Jim is standing above a man, having just fired his phaser into his heart, the weapon hovering over the area. She can tell the man died only a few seconds ago because Jim rarely misses, shoots kill shots by instinct, and blood splatters color all over his face, mixing with the brown of the mud.
It's his eyes-the blue is so bright and livid, she swears he's turned mad. That he has finally left Jim Kirk and become JT-cold, calculating, hating.
She whispers, yells his name to get his attention; he flinches and snaps his head toward her, as if she's another threat, another soldier to take on. It takes a moment for his eyes to clear-her heart pounds with fear of losing him, of him leaving her like everyone else-
But Jim, honest, kind, hurt Jim is there with his clear blue eyes of the sky, and he whispers her name, mouth open.
Then his eyes widen and she turns around instinctively, the hairs on the back of her neck straightening rapidly, the vein in her forehead pulsing like a drum, beating against her brain in panic.
When she sees him, everything freezes-her heart stops and her jaw is slack; her hands are stuck in the defensive gesture she positioned them in.
He staggers toward her and gasps her name, blood evident across his side, the wound festered and yellow inside in large clumps of infectious material, crowding within his abdomen. Strapped to his chest is a timer atop liquid encased in two adjacent tubes, held together by some sort of wiring-a bomb?
His dark eyes are dark with despair, haunted with hallucinations, she assumes; his breathing is more of a dying wheeze.
"Jyn," he whispers, saying her name again for good measure-he's walking as if suspended in water, dragging his legs behind him, and she scrambles back.
Suddenly the pain of his betrayal is real, the graying curls of hair atop the ebony head too familiar for her (I'm a dangerous man, Jyn Erso.). Anger, hot frustration at everything fuels her, floods her every thought and action, tears prickling the corners of her vision, her cheeks heated and flushed. "You dumped me," she hears herself saying. "You left me!"
"Jyn," Saw breathes out once more, breath painful, nearing the end. "Please, Jyn. I have to-the governor-"
He collapses, a heap of blood, infection, and danger dressed in mud and insects. The bomb ticks as he rolls onto his back with a groan, reaching out with his hand-he is so close, like she could wake up with him back to back what felt like years ago, but was only at most five weeks ago. She takes it by instinct, a part of her cursing herself even as she does it, questioning her need and craving for Saw to stay alive and comfort her and teach her everything she needs to know, but somewhere else, perhaps where her mother resides (her finger traces the outline of the Kyber crystal over her heart), she tells herself that Saw is her second father, someone who helped her survive and saved her life multiple times. But she is still angry, nonetheless.
"You left me to fend for myself in the middle of a planetwide famine and genocide," she accuses, words bitter and hard on her tongue, a distasteful feeling of remorse and temptation lingering after she says it.
"I'm sorry," he apologizes ever so small, so simply, so softly, the breaths wasting away as he struggles to breathe. "Jyn, it's your father...he's alive."
Her lip quivers before she can reign in her emotions. (He's alive, Galen Erso lives; she'll see him again and he'll call her Stardust and swing her across his shoulders like she's eight.) Her green blood rises, heart beating with unfair hope, with pain, with worry-Kodos, what has he done with him? (He's alive, but for how long?)
"What about him?" she asks, desperate for more information-how, though? What has Saw been doing?
"Kodos has him, using him for a weapon-there's a weapon, and you have to stop it...you have to-" Saw's eyes shift and shake with every word, mad as a quivering dog, and her heart drops: it's a result of the hallucinations, a side effect of the obvious, fatal wound. There's no hope, not for Saw and not for her. There's no reason to hope.
Saw must see the disbelief, or perhaps he smells it reeking out of her, because his dark eyes grow wilder and he grasps her hand, clenching it with all his might that she yelps as a reflex, trying to pry his fingers (even dying, his grip is strong) off hers to no avail. "Jyn, you must believe me-I have proof-I-"
He cuts himself off, still holding onto her as his breaths grow more shallow still, and rummages about his clothing, searching until his fingers find and extract a small datapad, handing it to her, screen smeared with blood and his yellow pus, staining it a dark maroon and orange hue. She wants to throw up as she accepts it-she has no other choice; he's shoving it in her face and his eyes plead with her so sharply that she feels his gaze cut her, a blade piercing through the walls she's fought to build and take down and rebuild, and she thinks to herself, is this what I looked like when he left me? "I failed, Jyn, I failed…" Saw gasps, and she believes in his remorse, that he had cared for her, that he saw how horrible he was for abandoning her.
"I know, it's alright," she lies through her teeth, attempting to comfort the dying man. (It's not alright. She never wants to think about the days alone, trudging in enemy territory, with just her mind and her anger and her hatred. The first time she tried to meditate in the woods, the cannibal had attacked her-her first kill without Saw.) She knows it doesn't work: Saw is wise enough to know the end has come, and he talks over her as if she had said nothing.
"Save it...Save the dream...Tarsus IV-it isn't what it was meant to be," he's rambling, and she has no idea what he means, the hoarseness of his voice eliminating any trace of sanity.
The datapad is slimy around the edges, and smooth where her fingers reach long enough to hold onto. The cold surface grounds her to the moment, yet at the same time, she drowns once more in the green that no longer exists; she watches the man she trusted like a father or an uncle fade away, eyes begging her to believe a lie wrapped around a truth, mouthing at her to run (Whatever happens, Jyn, you run) like Galen Erso did so many days ago (she's never been one to follow orders). Vaguely, she hears him: "Run, Jyn...Jyn, this vest is the weapon, you must leave now…"
And somehow Jim is there, unwrapping Saw's strong fingers off hers; and somehow, she is not, but she is kneeling in a brown-yellow field of famine and destruction and murder, and she has blood on her hands, but she doesn't know whose it is-Saw's or a soldier's or even hers; and somehow Jim is there, cradling her torso as he pulls her up, slinging half of her weight onto his shoulders and pushing half of his weight onto hers, exhaustion lining his body.
"We have to go, Jyn," he says (yells) into her ear, pressed against her as they struggle up the hill. It's only then she realizes she's been staring at the body as the timer ticks down by the second-his voice wakes her up, a wave crashing into the shore, rushing onto her feet, cold and startling and stinging. She needs it.
Jyn nods, and works with him to get them to the top. The silence cushions their shock (her shock) until the planet rocks about them, and fire eats up the wilderness mercilessly, spreading and rushing to kill whatever lies in its wake. At the top, she and Jim survey the destruction that ravages the fields she used to dream of, the ones her eyes lived in and saw through-gone. The smell of charred life and raging death wafts through her senses, and she gags at the thought of Saw's body, how there's nothing left of it. Whatever weapon her father was a part of, that weapon has destroyed everything she can see, smoke rising from the depths of the treetops a long ways forward, hot anger pulsing from the east to the west. It seems to never stop-a flame licks dangerously close, and Jim and Jyn pull each other away, dragging themselves down the hill away from the worst of the fire, towards the south. But-their kids-Kay?
"Go back," Jim says-he's referring to their previous location, and she nods helplessly. She can only hope the others ran in this direction, and not haphazardly about the region the monstrous fire now engulfs. There's that word again-hope. Jyn knows there's no such thing, not anymore. No one is coming-Starfleet, the Jedi, the Force. Saw was right. Just an old bedtime story. (In reality, Jyn digs her fingers into her chest cradling the talisman close to her heart, thinking of her mother and of Saw and of her father; in reality, this is a war within-one part corrupted by Saw's betrayal and the scars of her soul, the other, someone who fell in love with a blue-eyed boy who gives her hope and a sense of familiarity; in reality, she is losing just as Jim is against JT, the fearless, immaculate leader who kills without mercy, from the moment she touched the blood-encompassed hatchet to now. When she and Jim made the unspoken agreement to protect the others, they bound themselves to a battle of murder and the loss of their morality; they became sin-eaters so that the others would not know the experience of taking a life with their own hands. And they are both losing the war.)
There is no greater relief when the two of them stumble onto the others, huddled behind a lone tree in the middle of a barren field, waiting for them-Bodhi has tears in his eyes, and Chirrut waits patiently, hands on his stick. Under his breath, he chants a prayer over and over again: "I am one with the Force, the Force is with me." Baze stands next to him, hand on his shoulder, a silent tower of comfort. Kay's look of surprise is folded into irritance (she can read Vulcans like the back of her hand, fingers near her heart once again, never leaving) as he remarks, "That's a lot of explosions for two people trying to survive."
Jim shrugs and commands, "We have to go back. There's nothing left-the field has been decimated. It's no use going this way."
"Will you not even tell us-"
"There was a bomb, a weapon," she hears herself snapping, trying not to let the weariness in her bones seep through (she's sure she fails). "We are not sure what it was, but we will inform you the details once we relocate to somewhere safe." Kay, for once, understands her desire for silence, drawing his mouth closed like a drawbridge to a castle of the Vulcan brain, logical and making no room for any other thinking.
As they trudge back to the cabin they left only half a day ago, she walks shoulder to shoulder with Jim, letting no weakness present themselves in their manners, spine straight and mouth grim. They pass through the dead fields and she wants to close her eyes and drown in the color of Tarsus IV's green dreams again, wants to live inside herself, wants to react the way she did when the governor first came to their town and murdered her mother and took her father away from her-sprawled under her mother's protective body, letting her close her eyes and ignore the phaser fire raging over her.
She doesn't let grief or guilt or anger rage through and consume her. It's then she understands the Vulcan strive for the control of emotions-control, not expulsion. She feels pain, becomes familiar with its shape and voice and grating injuries; she feels it, but she does not let it leave her mind and block her thinking. Controlling the pain of grief allows her to work, to survive another day-she cannot lose to herself, not when she has cheated death one too many times.
The release of tears will do nothing to help her, so she does not indulge herself, not even when they reach the log construction in the woods at the dead of night, sitting down crossed-legged across the small living space, and Jim tells the others what happened in the field, about the holopad Saw gave her. When she hands it to Jim, she feels nothing (shock, her brain tells her, registers into some dark recess of her mind that she never wants to look at), says nothing, does nothing but stare into the blue eyes that stole away her breath with shock and surprise, mixing awe and fear of the rawness in his gaze, ripping every part of her, bit by bit. His fire burns blue, at war with her green in a conversation carried across two milliseconds the others cannot possibly bear to understand.
"Stardust," the screen starts, showing Papa, dressed in dark grey garments, as if a prison outfit, and his light grey eyes, usually full of joy, are tired and weary; she almost falls in relief, exhaustion filling her veins in its poisonous lies-she is not safe yet; her father is still in the hands of a mass murderer. "Jyn, my beloved…"
He apologizes for leaving her, for not being able to save her mother; she wants to take away the holopad, yell at them all, tell them this is private, and for her only. She misses every other word because of her misdirected anger. (Wrong-she memorizes every single word, drinking up the silk love of his voice, the hesitant fear in it, how very much alive it is. It grounds her.)
It's too late-they know everything now, and she turns green, sick and embarrassed and angry; Jim stiffens beside her, coaxing her palm into his. It doesn't comfort her at all. (It does, on some level. But Jyn refuses to believe it.)
"They're forcing me to build a weapon. They call it the Death Star." Papa shakes his head. "There's no better name. And the day is coming soon, when it will be unleashed."
She flinches (Saw's body, burned bones without a trace of attached flesh, the whites of his skeleton black and scarred with the licks of the flames), because her father may not know that it has already been unleashed.
"I hope our friend Saw will be alive when you receive this. The treatment he has received has been...unkind. Kodos keeps him alive to show the others obedience-rather, the punishment for disobedience. However, he will escape and give you this, no matter what-how, you need not know.
"But what you need to know is this-there is a place, not five miles east of the town we lived in. It is a military base-they call it Scarif. That is the only place where signals come in and out-Kodos has been repressing us here, telling us he has been searching for help. This is a lie: his guards hold this base together to stop any Starfleet officers from discovering what has happened here.
"I have asked Saw and his friends to send a signal to Starfleet and take care of this-"
Here, he closes his eyes in despair, and she knows what Papa will say. He needs her-he needs them. Considering the amount of raids they conducted and the men sent to kill them, she should have known (Jim most likely knew-he is Jim, after all) they knew of their band of children, fighting and killing to survive. (Monsters turning children into monsters; circumstances pushing them all to their roots of savagery and desperation.)
"But in the chance he fails, Stardust… you and your friends-you must do this. To save us all." (Suddenly, Saw's words make sense, and she tastes the bitterness of rejection: Saw had told her he failed her father, not her, not by leaving her alone. She wonders if he ever told Papa, and what he would say about it.)
When he opens his eyes, they are glass orbs of grief. "Your mother and I will always love you, Jyn. No matter what."
There is pain and grief and anger and disbelief in her heart, trapping her in a vicious cycle of abandonment and longing-he's leaving her again (the video will end soon-this is his goodbye, possibly forever, depending on what Governor Kodos decides). How many has the weapon killed? How many has he killed?
Saw was telling her the complete, absolute truth-this war of theirs, waged by famine and power and greed and inhumanity, darkens with every second the raging fire lives.
Then Papa's eyes soften, and his mouth wears the ghost of a sad smile. She can still see her mother's lips on his, smiling softly as she plays in the green fields of her home-stolen away, swept up by a monster in a white cape, the false face of glory and righteousness, an elected, trusted governor. "Jyn, I love you. Please remember that everything I do, I do to protect you. Someday," he starts, and his voice wavers and shatters her heart, and her breath hitches in an almost-sob (Don't, Jyn, the children-) as he whispers, "We will see each other again."
The screen stops abruptly, footsteps echoing in the background as the sound cuts off, and Jim dismisses the others (scrambling off to bed, sleeping in their desired corners with each other, huddled to preserve warmth) as she stares at the holopad, blank. Empty. Nothing. A void of unforgiving oblivion, the darkness of a black hole, wrapping its vine of thorns and beauty around her, pulling her into its inconceivable grasp and cutting her deeply with its blades.
A cool hand rests on her shoulder, pulling her into reality, a tug-of-war, of sorts-she turns, and she meets empty yet calming blue eyes. Chirrut moves his hand from her shoulder to her Kyber crystal. It's only then she realizes she was clenching it in her palm, blood dripping down from where it cut through her skin. She cannot think of anything to say as he releases her grip, slipping his hand into it instead of a jagged crystal of comfort and pain, and leans down, putting his mouth over her ear. He chants his prayer until she mouths them back with a thank you, and she finds the phrase I am one with the Force, the Force is with me replaying in her mind as Jim takes her hand and she follows blindly.
Jim sits next to her in the dark outside, breaths matching in the hot, terrifying air of misery. He's given her all of the blanket they stole days (weeks?) ago.
Because Jim is a man of action, not merely words, the boy reaches down and strokes her palm before intertwining his fingers into hers, threading his fears, anger, frustration, guilt, and grief into hers, sharing her pain as he squeezes in reassurance (he has his own share of fatherly problems; he understands).
She swallows. "I'm not used to people staying around when things go bad," she whispers (because he knows everything now, he knows who that was-no, who Saw Gerrera was to her; now she will never know who he truly was).
Her head fits perfectly in his shoulder; he turns his face down to see her hidden in his neck, approaching unconsciousness rapidly. "Welcome home."
Jyn opens her eyes-the sky is blue, a cerulean color, soft and hopeful; the field around her is emerald, grassy, beautiful. She hears her father call her name, and she turns around with a smile. "Papa?" she yells out-only to notice her surroundings have changed. A black sky, stars and galaxies and black holes and everything in the universe. It's beautiful, achingly and startlingly gorgeous.
It's terrifying-to not know the depths of her surroundings, the dangers lurking in the emptiness and vast serenity of space, even if this is where she belongs. She yells out for her Papa, hoping for an answer, for something. There's nothing.
Blinding panic and fear and adrenaline rushes into her veins-she needs to move, now, run-and her legs are locked in place, chained to the lavender-sea green gaseous space beneath her, wrapping around her legs like grapevines. It feels like there are edges of swords protruding from the mesmerising peacefulness of the cloudy matter, slicing her skin and letting blood drain and stain the skies a dark olive. It stings and aches and eats her alive; she thinks she screams as she feels her body forced down, violently yanked into a freezing, black vacuum pressing her down on all sides, suffocating and poisoning and killing her slowly-
Trust the Force, Jyn-
Save the rebellion, save the dream…
(A crumbling city, fallen on her knees, and a warm hand-Jim?-that pulls her up and cradles her in his shoulders-she's leaving Saw, Saw dies and dies again…)
I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with…
Stardust, it must be destroyed, it must
(A stormy platform. Blood on her hands.)
We will, we will, I promise, I
(Even now, she knows, an impossible promise.
A wet, callused hand wrapping around her arm, pulling up and away, again...)
Whatever I do, Jyn, Stardust, I do it to protect you. Remember that.
(A small stormtrooper toy lost in the grass, a small hole in the ground-dark, moist, unbearable; she'll never see her mother again, her Mama, the blaster-phaser?-fired into her heart, falling into the soil, and she runs and runs and runs...)
I am one with the Force, the Force is with me. I am one with the Force…Little sister.
I'll be there for you, Jyn. Cassian said I had to.
(The time to fight is now!)
(Brown eyes, soft and pleading and desperate and strong, yet striking and bold like Jim's; brown leather jacket and the nature of a chameleon, slipping in and out of the crowd, an expert spy-Captain. His touch lingers even though his eyes only met hers for a moment.
She hears the crack of vertebrae and a blaster and she's screaming; why, who, what-)
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See you on the next update!~