Explosives rocked the landed ship, debris screeched against the hull and the entirety of it tethered on the brink of collapse. Another explosion brought it back to its right position. Bodhi didn't dare release the breath he was holding.
A frightening rush of static from Cassian's end of the line. It was only two hours ago that everything was going right. How had his world gone incoherent in the space of just two hours?
Chirrut had risked both his neck and his life to get to the lever that had to be pulled. He was one with the Force. The Force was, invariably, with him as well, because the Kyber temple guardian had fulfilled a task they'd all thought impossible. Bodhi had watched from inside the ship as the guardian fell. One life gone. Baze had been there for his longtime friend, though. He supposed that was a good thing. Two lives gone.
And now static over Cassian's line. Had Chirrut's sacrifice meant anything? Had the effort gone to waste, were they back where they started? He would probably never know. But he liked to believe that at least this part of the mission was accomplished.
Wait at the ship, the pilot kept telling himself, playing and replaying Captain Andor's order. Wait at the ship. He was the one and only chance they had of making it out of this hellhole alive, and he was going to do the most he could for Rogue One. He was going to crawl to the cockpit, fire up the engines, and start rounding up as many rebels as possible. It would help to keep a wary eye out for blaster fire and grenades, and the ship would be better off in the air rather than as a sitting target.
An explosion from in between the trees. Too close for comfort.
He heard footsteps thunder behind him and turned over his shoulder, startled. Not Imperial troopers. Whatever that was left of the squadron that had set to work just outside the data tower's entrance. He counted four men.
"The Imperials are withdrawing."
"The weapon. They're about to fire the weapon."
It was suddenly too real to him. Jedha city had been a close call. He had been taken care of, because he was disoriented, and he didn't have the mental capacity to so much as stand on his own two feet. Captain Andor, Jyn, the droid and the two guardians had essentially saved his life. But right now on Scarif he was the one holding other lives in his hands. And if what had happened to Jedha was going to happen to Scarif–
"We can't leave without Jyn and Cassian," he declared, shakily, feeling the full weight of the depth of gratitude he owed them for the previous time.
There was no one to argue. Their depth of gratitude ran deep, too.
The pilot snapped the hull closed and maneuvered in the direction of the tower, several significant inches closer to the Death Star's actual target.
The knowledge that this mission, this critical moment in which they were prepared to give their lives, would save millions more from the Empire's weapon, it was enough to die with. Knowledge that their lives and, indeed, their deaths were tied to greater purpose. They leaned against the elevator walls for support as it jittered all the way down, paying no visual attention to the weapon that loomed over the atmosphere like a phantom harbinger of death. In both their hearts they felt it, terror, but this feeling was forcibly submerged. Cassian reached for her and Jyn grasped his forearms like a lifeline. Even in the sordid darkness they managed to find comfort in each other's eyes, in the silhouettes of each other's faces. Their foreheads touched. They both knew they could wait like this forever, or at least for the short bit of time they had left.
The elevator shuddered to a halt at the foot of the tower. Pulling away, Jyn kicked at the door to throw it open before hooking an arm under his and helping him out of the dark space. She couldn't figure out how he had managed it. A fall from that height onto steel beams. Climbing back up that height again. Putting a bullet through the man who had ruined her life and set it into a motion it could have avoided.
Did she really mind that anymore? Her last moments were tied to a purpose her father had believed in, a purpose she now fought for. She had been a part of a rebellion against the very enemy who had taken away everything she held dear, and she had triumphed in the end.
She carried his weight as far away from the tower as she could, paying no attention to the sudden golden colour of the sky. They fell to their knees on the sand. Cassian looked towards the explosion, the Death Star's blast that was spreading, and looked back her way. He was smiling. She returned the smile. There were no words that needed to be exchanged as they embraced, and Jyn allowed the realization that she was clutching onto everything she had left. Her purpose. The Rebellion. The cause she was dying for.
Cassian held on because, similarly, Jyn Erso represented everything he had lived for. The Rebellion. The dream.
The tower had already been taken over by the blinding light and the beach was being consumed, too. This was how they would go down. Destroyed by the weapon that their efforts would soon destroy.
Over the shoulder she fiercely held onto, Jyn managed to make out a shape that was rushing for them. A ship. The hatch was open. Urgent arms reached out for them as the pilot went into a steep upward curve.
The explosion spread, and her world erupted. Shards of gold and blinding light. Even that faded, and nothing remained.