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Calm Before the Storm

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On Lyra’s fifth birthday they walk into the centre of Echo for the market. Echo is a stupid name for a suburb - Jyn has always thought that and will always think that, and having lived on the original Echo Base gives her the right to say it out loud - but not as stupid as Liberty City, which is what the city itself is called. She sometimes wonders who the hell names these places.

It’s a good place to raise a kid, anyway, with the greenery and the schools and the speed limits and the friendly neighbours who all know Lyra well by sight and are very aware of just how good Jyn and Cassian are at eviscerating things. There are friends round the corner and a small spaceport not far off where Bodhi’s ships have a permanent berth, and the communications links are good enough that if they can’t get hold of Baze and Chirrut it’s not their fault. They have a garden, not that either of them is really clear on how to maintain it. There’s a decent clinic and a garage Kaytoo deigns to be satisfied with, a library and a safe swimming beach. There’s good transport into the city itself and across Yavin IV, plenty of easy ways to get off-planet - and of course they often do, for work.

This is why Lyra is rather better at Binary and finding her way round the Senate than she is at the standard alphabet, which - Jyn is sure - will become a problem, at some point in the near future.

Right now, Lyra is skipping down the street and counting her steps in Binary, somewhat ahead of Jyn and Cassian, but as they reach the market and the number of people in their immediate vicinity increases, Jyn calls her back and she comes. Cassian picks her up and puts her on his shoulders, since Lyra is a runner when anything interests her, and they’ve learned not to take chances; if Kaytoo himself isn’t watching her, no surveillance is sufficient. Jyn has occasionally considered a microchip.

The market’s loud and bustling. Kes must have grounded Poe again, because he isn’t playing in the market; he’s stuck behind a stall full of melons, pulling faces at his classmates and foisting slices on all and sundry. He has a bright smile and a free handful of sweet, juicy just-peeled chunks of fruit for Lyra, and Jyn buys her own slice to share with Cassian. There are robotics Cassian’s interested in, and textiles Jyn wants because they feel delicious even under her roughened fingertips and scarred palms, and pastries that stop Lyra’s complaining when she gets bored and kicks Cassian’s chest to be let down. Since she insisted on wearing her birthday boots - solid things made too big on purpose and currently worn with thick purple socks, black with pale blue and silver crystal shapes on them, because their daughter is a peacock and definitely gets that from Cassian - her kicks are fairly forceful.

Cassian now has crumbs in his hair and melon juice where Lyra patted his face with a sticky little starfish of a hand. Jyn snorts with laughter, first at the crumbs and then at Cassian’s half-hearted glare, and gets a cheap holo made up at the stall next to them. Lyra, of course, is somewhat blurred, because it’s a very cheap holo and Force forbid their daughter sit still.

Lyra pats the remainder of her well-chewed pastry into Jyn’s hair, lovingly, like a present. Cassian sniggers, and Lyra giggles like she knows exactly what she’s done.

Your daughter,” Jyn says meaningfully, picking pastry out of her hair, and Cassian laughs.

“¡Buenos días com’estás!” Lyra announces cheerfully, in her Yavin-accented Alderaanian, and springboards backwards off Cassian’s shoulders.

Jyn’s lungs swallow into nothing, her heart squeezes into something the size of a walnut, Cassian lets out a shout, and there’s an extremely awkward panicked yelp and a thump from directly behind them.

When they whirl around, Ben Solo Organa is flat on his back on the dusty floor with Lyra clutched to his chest, looking traumatised. It’s hard to say whether this is because Lyra is a solid little girl and has just flattened his ribs, or because a large number of people witnessed his heroics, and now they are laughing and applauding. Ben is a patchy shade of red, which could be explained by either, and in this moment he resembles his father so strongly Jyn nearly calls him Han by accident.

“You fell over!” Lyra reproaches Ben, sitting up and climbing off him. Ben gets a boot in the stomach, and emits a wheeze which Jyn can only sympathise with. “You weren’t supposed to fall over!”

“You weren’t supposed to jump off your dad’s shoulders!” Ben croaks, sitting upright gingerly. Cassian grabs the boy by one hand and helps him lever himself off the floor; Jyn has already scooped Lyra up and is checking her for injuries, which makes the little girl squirm and complain, but Jyn clutches her close regardless, knowing her grip is too tight and her panic is too obvious, powerless to change either.

“Never do that again,” she says, shakily, “escúchame, Lyra, never, do you hear me?”

“Okay,” Lyra says, sulkily. “Nothing happened.”

Jyn squeezes her daughter very tightly. By the time she herself was five, she already knew what could have happened; she already knew how far she was allowed to go, and what she must and must not do to stay alive. Lyra has grown up in a very different time - a very different home - with parents who have no need to fear being murdered by Imperials any more, and she does not keep close to home without serious inducements. Cassian once searched the Senate for her in a panic and eventually found her playing with a model X-wing off Wedge Antilles’ desk on Luke Skywalker’s lap as he gave evidence to a committee. The only reason Lyra didn’t swallow the tiny removable pilot was that Admiral Ackbar had insisted that it be taken out before she was allowed to play with the toy.

A non-exhaustive list of other places Lyra has been found includes sleeping under Leia Organa’s desk, taking tea with the guards outside the Senate Leader’s ceremonial residence, chatting with Bodhi’s astromechs in a garage half a mile from home, and playing hide and seek with Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon. Lyra clearly takes after her grandmother in her fearlessness. Jyn and Cassian are both delighted and terrified - currently mostly terrified.

Jyn is trembling; she thinks the last time this much adrenaline went through her was probably the Battle of Endor, or possibly the day she found out she was pregnant with Lyra. She passes her daughter to Cassian, who has finished thanking Ben fervently - the boy’s ears are very red under his over-long black hair - and is holding out his arms for her. Lyra complains even more vociferously as her father cuddles her close, one hand shaking slightly as it runs over her messy dark hair.

“Thank you,” Jyn tells Ben, still trying to catch her breath, and Ben shuffles his feet.

“I… saw her,” he volunteers, and shrugs his shoulders illustratively. “You know.”

“Force visions?” Jyn asks.

Ben nods reluctantly. He’s always been a strange child, and Jyn thinks he’d be easier to deal with if he weren’t obliged to be strange under the eyes of an entire galaxy: if this had happened anywhere but Echo it would have been filmed and beamed through holochannels from here to Dantooine. He has regular night terrors and a great deal of awkwardness, most of which comes straight from Han, and even more pride, which is mostly Leia. It’s an unfortunate combination, especially considering Force sensitivity and puberty. Ben is at least three inches taller than when Jyn last saw him - and that’s the kind of abrupt growth in height that hurts.

He also has some kind of problem which is to do with the Force, and which Jyn and Cassian will not be able to investigate if Leia and Luke don’t tell them more. Whatever Luke is doing isn’t working; Ben’s regular flashes of temper and cruelty, his tendency to isolate himself, his sleeplessness and the obvious pain he’s in much of the time, are getting worse, not better. Lately, every time Ben sees them he seems to be trying to tell one of them something - but he hasn’t been able to get it out yet, and every time he tries there’s panic in those narrow brown eyes.

“I have them sometimes,” Ben says, in several octaves. “Quite a lot.” He winces at the sound of his own voice.

“Thirteen is a terrible age,” Jyn says. “Trust me.” She killed her first man when she was thirteen, and she hopes devoutly that neither Ben nor Lyra will ever have that experience, but she also had an incredible number of spots, and hormonal sufferings are inevitable. “It does get better. Where are your parents?”

“They stopped to talk to Mr Dameron,” Ben says, “I was supposed to wait, but I saw Lyra -“ He lifts one hand and makes a small gesture, then lets it drop limply. It’s Jyn’s turn to flinch. “They’re probably not far.”

Jyn looks over his shoulder, which is harder than it used to be. Sure enough, Han Solo is forging through the crowd, and going by the way it parts before him Leia is immediately in front of him.

“No, don’t want Papá, I want Ben,” Lyra says very loudly, wriggling like a tiny demon in white leggings and a fluffy blue dress. Going by Cassian’s expression she has already kicked him several times.

“Ben Solo Organa!” says Leia, in a voice that can be heard over battlefields.

Ben lets out a small and entirely justified whimper, and plumps for the safest option available: holding his arms out for Lyra to launch herself into. By the time Leia and Han arrive, Lyra is sitting on Ben’s shoulders with her hands wound tightly into his hair and Ben’s hands locked around her ankles.

Leia takes this in with some astonishment. Jyn can see it by the way her face goes blank; Jyn lets out a snort, and turns her own face into Cassian’s shoulder.

“I had a vision,” Ben explains, which does not help.

Han rubs a hand over his mouth, apparently reduced to silence.

“It’s true!” Ben protests. “I saw Lyra fall!”

“She jumped off my shoulders,” Cassian puts in, while Leia and Han are still goggling. “Ben caught her. If he hadn’t…”

Leia closes her eyes involuntarily, and murmurs something that sounds like Fuerza. Han looks shaken.

“Well done, kid,” he tells Ben gruffly, and reaches out to ruffle Lyra’s hair. “And you, missy. Stop terrifying your parents. You’re worse than an entire legion of bucketheads.”

Lyra sticks her tongue out at him with emphasis, and Han chuckles; she lets go of Ben’s hair, where she’d been yanking on a short braid which is definitely not a padawan braid and looks kind of Alderaanian to Jyn’s inexpert eyes, and holds her arms out imperatively. Han lifts her off his son’s shoulders and throws her very high in the air, so high that Jyn’s breath hitches and Cassian’s hands curl into worried fists. But Han catches her, and the next time he throws her up he doesn’t throw her so high.

Leia is watching Cassian’s face. “Parenting,” she says. “Scarier than Death Stars.”

Cassian lets out a long breath. “Easily.”

They wander through the market together, buying breakfast and chatting. This is possibly the only place in the galaxy right now where people don’t turn to watch Leia and Han pass, where their son is treated the same as any other young boy, and Jyn can see it in the way they relax. It’s weird for her, too: people stop her and Cassian to talk as often as they do Han or Leia, more people than would have made a point of talking to them during the war, and realising that they have roots here now leaves a strange but not unpleasant taste in Jyn’s mouth.

The kids are a little ahead. Lyra keeps steering Ben by yanking on his ears, but he’s laughing. Ben has a large doughy wrap full of hot fruit and chocolate in his hands, and he keeps passing bits up to Lyra; her face is covered in smears of chocolate and fruit juice, as is Ben’s. Jyn finds a cloth in one pocket - a little stained, but not bad - and goes over to do something about that. She’d rather Lyra didn’t get chocolate on her dress, or on Ben’s shirt, which looks new.

When she gets close to where the kids are peering into an enormous tank full of colourful fish, she can hear Lyra saying: “My mamá and papá can find out anything.”

“I hope they can,” Ben says. He’s finished the wrap and is now holding her ankles again, the better to avoid dropping her into the tank. None of the fish are big enough to eat Lyra or seriously hurt her, and she’s a strong swimmer for her age, but still. “I hope they can find someone for me. And make him go away.

He jerks and twists when Jyn gets a little closer, panic on his face, but he’s holding on to Lyra’s ankles tightly; she barely even twitches, too fixated on the fish. Jyn lifts Lyra down and cleans off her daughter’s face and hands, and then distracts her with the promise of choosing a cake for her birthday, which makes Lyra run straight back to Cassian.

Ben is staring very hard at the fish. The look on his face right now is Leia trying to pretend something’s not happening and that it doesn’t scare her anyway: eyes wide, jaw set, mouth fixed.

All Jyn says in the end is “You know where to find us,” and all Ben says in reply is “Yeah.”

He’s half a Skywalker, so whatever frightens him might be enough to bring down the galaxy.

Jyn looks back at Lyra, and Cassian swinging their daughter up into his arms and mock-arguing with her about cake, and hopes that it won’t.