"You're going to stay this time, right, Papa?"
Galen startled from where he'd drifted off into absent thinking, looking down at his eight-year-old daughter who was currently lying on her stomach and neatly weaving lines with chalk on her colouring book, the white floor around her littered with paints, crayons and coloured things in general that smeared on the tiles. Lyra had had the foresight to invest in washable porcelain for Jyn's room; it was the only place in the house in which she was allowed to open a box of paint. Right now Jyn looked up at him with her big green-brown eyes that had small flecks of gold, an unusual feature he found endearing, a little detail that had caught his attention the first time he'd laid eyes on her. His stardust, he thought fondly.
"Papa," prompted Jyn, nudging his foot. He sat on her bed with his laptop and two folders of documents from work. "You're going to stay, right?"
Galen schooled his features so they didn't reveal the pang in his heart at the question.
"I can't stay, Stardust," he smiled gently. "But I can visit more often than last year. I'll get to be home a couple of times a month."
Jyn stopped her colouring and sat up. "A month?"
In the best case, thought Galen, but out loud he said with a cheery disposition, leaning forward on his knees, "How long is a month, Jyn?"
"Thirty one days," replied the girl automatically. "Or thirty. February has twenty eight."
Galen beamed. "Clever girl! You know, a couple of times a month is almost..." He leaned in conspiratorially, lowering his voice like he was disclosing a secret. "Once a week."
Jyn didn't look as happy about this revelation as he'd expected.
Well of course, Galen, damn you. A child's not supposed to her father only once a week. It's better than last year, but it's not right to think she'll like it.
The previous year had been busy and, in all honesty, groundbreaking for him. The previous year InGen had hired him. Almost the entirety of the previous year had been spent on research and experiments he couldn't do at home, or anywhere remotely close to home. A project that had been ten years in the making, although he'd joined at the last stretch, the results of which would be officially declared open to the public in another two years. Lyra still wasn't sure, but she was sworn to secrecy. In his excitement Galen had dropped a couple of hints for his daughter as well, like the big Dinosaur colouring book she passionately filled up now.
Seeing his daughter like this, however, lips turned downwards and upset, it felt like not even the biggest, most hard-fought achievement of his engineering career was worth it. But pulling out of InGen was out of the question; his contract was so strict and inflexible it may as well have been imprinted on his skin.
Whatever pathetic half-assurance he'd been about to give his daughter died down on his tongue when he heard the doorbell ring from downstairs. He sat up straight, mind focused in an entirely different direction. He only affectionately ruffled his daughter's long hair, which was half-tied and unruly, before adjusting the collar of his shirt and leaving the room.
Galen had been mildly sceptical it was not a joke when Krennic had called earlier and said he'd like to drop by. Now after a long exchange of pleasantries at the front door, which Lyra had opened, Galen invited the lead Project Director into his living room for the discussion about the Park's opening, its sponsors, its order of operation.
At some point, Jyn padded down the stairs quietly, a paintbrush and a muddy-looking cup of water in hand, pausing just a moment to regard the stranger who sat with his back to her.
Galen was too absorbed in a written contract to notice. Krennic, who sipped a welcome drink while he worked, glanced over his shoulder to the stairs.
He offered a slight smile, and Jyn bolted back the way she'd come.
"We have two more days of Shit-Lord to go through before we're on a flight to fabulous Las Vegas," Bodhi sounded just too cheery for her liking as he handed her a catalogue of hair products. "Hey, see anything you like?"
Jyn took the catalogue from his hand with an eyebrow that touched her hairline. "Hair products."
"Of course," Bodhi pulled himself up to sit on her desk. "People are always asking me how I get my luscious locks-"
Jyn snorted very loudly.
Bodhi poked her shoulder. "And seeing as my best friend is contemplating chopping all of her perfectly fine hair off, I decided to do something about it."
"Shouldn't you be the one recommending products, then?"
Bodhi sputtered. "Well, look, I- that's not the point! You should just learn to take care of it like any normal person."
"It's high maintenence, I don't have time for that, I'm cutting it like Chirrut's," said Jyn conclusively. "Anyway, what were you saying about LA?"
Bodhi ducked his head sheepishly. "We, uh. We're not going to LA, exactly, because...you know, it's expensive and stuff. But we're definitely going somewhere."
Jyn leaned back in her chair. "Spill it."
It was Bodhi's turn to snort. "What, and ruin your birthday surprise? Baze would murder me."
Jyn groaned. "My birthday's on the last day of our holiday. I still don't get why this thing must be wrapped up as my birthday present rather than our, you know, normal trip at this time of every year?"
"Doesn't always fall on your birthday," Bodhi pointed out.
"Look, you have to tell me something! How will I know what clothes to pack or...or what to tell my mother?"
"Firstly," Bodhi took out his phone like they'd had this conversation so many times before that he didn't even feel obligated to look at her face when he spoke. "Your mom already knows. Secondly," and here he started texting someone. "You knowing won't make a difference because you wear the same clothes for everything."
Jyn scowled. "I don't."
"Yes you do. That peach sweater is on two different Christmas albums, your famous brown boots are probably expired, your Avengers t-shirt can be seen in every fourth picture on my phone-" He abruptly stopped texting, and peered at the screen in surprise. For the longest time he said nothing. Then a slow grin broke out on his face. "And thirdly, Cassian freakin' Andor is joining us on the trip. You're welcome."
Jyn had been about to say something significantly scathing like At least I don't have five Spiderman pajamas before this delivery. Her jaw dropped open almost comically.
"I'm telling him you're excited to have him on board," Bodhi went back to his phone.
"W-Wait!" exclaimed Jyn, sitting bolt upright. "What did you- Cassian?"
Her friend wore a terribly indulgent smirk. "Well, I thought he should be a surprise, but he insisted you had to approve first. As if you wouldn't."
Cassian knew she'd always approve - they were good friends, close, and they knew each other's stories and had been there for each other whenever it was called for, the past three years. They'd met at an advanced programming course and stuck together because everyone else had either been hostile or weird. If Cassian was doubting she'd be happy to see him, it probably meant something else was coming with him.
Jyn massaged her temples in, suddenly feeling very tired. "Kay's on board as well, isn't he?"
Bodhi reached out to pat her reassuringly on the shoulder. "There there. Don't worry, I'll keep him distracted if you guys need to make out or anything."
"What is wrong with-" started Jyn furiously, but she swallowed her words the moment Bodhi hurriedly jumped off her desk and scrambled to hide himself behind it. She spun around and, sure enough, Dirk Vader stood in her cubicle, looking like he had another assignment and was really not amused.
"Sir," Jyn got to her feet respectfully, trying to suppress all thoughts of her friend hiding behind her desk.
"Erso," he stiffly held out a thick file. "Mandalorian Exchange insists they found several issues with the software we developed for their marketplace initiative. You were in charge of the team that finalised what we gave them. I want to see these issues confirmed and notified to everyone concerned by tomorrow."
Jyn took the file from him, slowly. This many flaws in the software couldn't be possible. It just couldn't. And if she had only one day to go through it- one day before she went on painfully fought-for leave -
Her boss was already outside when he called to her in his usual mechanical voice. "Have you seen Rook recently?"
Jyn shook her head.
"Tell him he has three weeks to deliver on the Scarif project. He cannot fail me this time."
Pressing her lips tight together, Jyn managed a small nod.
She only released her breath when his retreating footsteps had completely faded from earshot.
Jyn may have landed a decent job thanks to her decent enough education that her mother had wholeheartedly tired for and her father had sponsored from...wherever he'd been, but she was still young, and like most young people didn't earn nearly as much as she needed for many comforts in her life. Her job had required moving to a different state and thus forgoing her parents' nice, comfortable house. For three and a half years she'd learnt even more self-reliance than before (she hadn't got to stay at home during her brief term in college either) and maintained an adequate (to put it generously) apartment which she shared with her colleague and best friend Bodhi.
Her colleague and best friend who was being a bit of an ass at the moment, unfortunately.
"I need the bathroom, dammit!"
"No you don't," hummed Bodhi from inside her room, which he'd locked her out of. "What you need is to watch something on TV until I'm done here."
Jyn wrang the doorknob in frustration. "For the last time, I can bloody well pack my own luggage!"
"Not if Casanova is coming on the trip."
Jyn swore vicariously. "Will you stop calling him that? It's honestly ridiculous!"
Bodhi started singing the song from Wreck It Ralph instead of facilitating that with a reply.
Jyn cursed under her breath for what she was sure was the ninth or tenth time since they'd arrived home, before resigning herself to the couch and pulling out her phone. Leia had texted a minute ago.
Leia(QUEEN<3): Got off from work?
Leia herself had been the one to save her contact details. Jyn languidly typed in a reply. Damn it, trying to break the door down had sapped her of her energy.
Yes just now. U still there?
Leia's response-time was record-breaking for a long message.
Leia(QUEEN <3): Dirk made me wait and look into this mandalorian thing?? U should see the size of this file. I think they're just shitting us. That software was prefect.
Leia(QUEEN <3): well who cares about that shit anyway when we're going on leave in one more day. I can't wait
Jyn keyed in an annoyed reply.
Bodhi that jerk won't tell me where we're going.
Leia(QUEEN <3): I know. I told him not to.
Leia(QUEEN <3): It's your birthday present, jyn, and people don't normally say what's in the box when they give it, now do they?
Another message notification peeped into the corner of her screen.
Jyn didn't question where the heart had come from. Bodhi had a habit of snatching her phone whenever he found it unlocked. She clicked the notification window before it could close.
Hi, heard you're coming on the trip?
She got a reply in two seconds.
Cass♡: Yeah, it was nice of Bodhi to call me. Small problem though.
Jyn rolled her eyes.
I can guess.
She pictured Cassian looking a tad sheepish.
Cass♡: Yeah... Kay's coming.
I thought he couldn't stand me? Can't believe he wants to come.
Cass♡: No you're right, he can't stand you
Cass♡: he wants to come because of the place actually. which I'm not supposed to tell you abt.
The heart symbol was really grating on her nerves. It somehow made replying to this perfectly normal stream of messages difficult.
Leia(QUEEN<3): jYn aRE yOU evEn tHEre aNyMoRE
Jyn sighed, long and suffering. She didn't have the mental energy to deal with two conversations at the same time now.
Leia(QUEEN<3): you liar
Leia(QUEEN<3): you were hogging the good charging port the whole evening there's no way you're running out
Or to deal with Leia's smartassery.
Cass♡: Jyn, are you ok with with him coming?
Right, right, Cassian was starting to come off as guilty. She probably should deal with that.
No its fine, he can come as long as he lets us have one conversation in peace
Cass♡: Jyn it's fine if it's not ok with you. I can ask him to go some other time.
Don't sweat. It'll be fun to have him around actually
Cass♡: Thank you :)
She was about to reply with an effortless no problem when the door of her bedroom suddenly wooshed open.
She got off the couch, remembering she was angry at Bodhi.
He held up his palms. "Now before you say you're going to re-pack anyway, I want you to take careful consideration about what I've chosen. I know where we're going and the best kind of clothes for there as well. And you'll finally be wearing the nice things Lyra sends you."
Jyn stalked past him into her room, raising a choice finger as she did.
Bodhi laughed, but hung back in the doorway all the same to make sure she didn't shuck out the patterned shirts, floral skirts and shorts that he'd neatly folded into one half of her suitcase. The rest he'd left for stuff he couldn't pack.
If there was any reason she didn't start shucking items out of it after eyeing the suitcase wearily for about half a minute, it was because Bodhi had done a neat job which she wouldn't be able to replicate on her own.
"This mystery destination had better be worth it," she grumbled.
Two months previously
There was nothing he'd like better, Galen decided, than to get off this miserable island, go home to his own bed and family, and relax out the rest of his days.
It had been a fantasy for a long time. It was never going to happen.
Krennic had just hosted his team of engineers for dinner in his luxury apartment and read out a letter from the pleased investors of this project in particular.
Galen had wanted to throw up.
In his own residential quarters, he tried not think about any of it. The abomination of nature they had spent the past six years and twenty six million dollars designing. The...thing that nature had never created, that just wasn't supposed to be here, that he'd helped bring to this world...
God, he must be going mad.
He sat down heavily on his bed and tried not to do the thing he was best at. Thinking.
The insistent buzz of an iPhone forced him out of his non-thoughts. Feeling disoriented, he stood up, staggering over to his dresser. Cell reception was good today. Good. They were paying a fortune for it.
He answered the call, expecting it to be a colleague whose number he hadn't bothered saving.
The person on the other end sounded decidedly nervous. "Um, is this...is this Galen? Erso?"
Galen sighed. It had been a long, draining day. "Speaking. Who is this?"
"Um, give me a minute, patching you through to Lyra now-"
He stilled. Lyra?
"Hold on, who the-"
"Hi," came a quiet and familiar voice from the speaker. His autonomic nervous system was caught between dropping the phone and gripping it tighter.
"Hey," he managed to say instead.
A raspy laugh. "How's work?"
He hated work. He didn't want to talk about work.
"I wish I could come home," he said, honestly, quietly. "I wish I could, but..."
It pained him to picture Lyra rolling her eyes. "Work?"
He smiled self-deprecatingly. "Yeah. Work."
To his relief and confusion, Lyra was dismissing the topic when she spoke. "It's...fine, not now. I called to ask you a favour, actually."
Galen walked backwards to his bed, sat down again. "What is it, love?"
"Jyn hasn't seen you in six months."
He drew in a shuddering breath. "I know, Lyra, I know, but I can't- not at this point."
"I'm not asking you to leave your work."
Galen frowned, because the gears in his head had started to work and were already screaming where Lyra was going with this.
"What are you asking?"
Lyra had steel in her voice when she spoke and he'd never been able to argue with that steel. "Our daughter needs to see you whether or not Krennic says she can. You know what I'm asking, Galen. Either she comes to you or you come home."
Cold dread gripped his insides at the thought of...no, he was being irrational. People enjoyed the Park. People loved it. He may be questioning some of his deeds, but others didn't, others looked at this from a different angle-
Jyn had never been to the Park and she'd always hated it.
Because it had taken her father away from her. Because it was...like she'd said when she was fourteen, cruel and disgusting.
People loved it. Kids loved it. Galen didn't, and neither did his daughter.
At least we're similar in that sense, he thought dryly.
"I can't come home, Lyra. Not yet."
His wife cut straight to the chase. This was the way she spoke in her profession as a lawyer.
"Jyn's birthday is coming up in two months and her friends want to take her somewhere special. That was Bodhi on the phone before. This was his idea, and he should know, Galen. He wouldn't have thought of this if she didn't miss you."
"Bodhi?" He repeated.
"Her best friend."
Right. He was being ridiculous. Still, though...
"Does...uh, does Jyn have a boyfriend?"
There was a moment of silence on Lyra's end before she started laughing.
"You two have some catching up to do," she said softly, a trace of sadness in her voice. He tried not to dwell on it.
"I know," he murmured, sitting back on the bed heavily. "I know."
Despite all of Bodhi's efforts, Jyn wore her Avengers t-shirt for the drive to the airport, where they met Leia, Luke, Cassian and Kay- all of who had been explicitly told by Bodhi to not let Jyn get a glimpse of their tickets, because she tried soon after greeting them.
Luke and Bodhi did their weird handshake thing and hugged, then against her will Leia pulled her into a hug. However she and Cassian embraced warmly and she'd just drawn back when Kay cleared his throat pointedly.
"That's the last call for our flight," he informed them.
Outwardly Jyn glowered at him, but internally she struggled with the question how the flight's serial number had been called without mentioning its destination.
"Domestic flight," Bodhi said cheerfully as if he read her confusion, steering her forward by the shoulders.
"I'm pretty sure they're still supposed to say where it's going," she said with a doubtful expression.
"They are," said Kay blandly, walking beside Cassian, who fell into stride with her and Bodhi while Leia brought up the rear as if herding the rest of them. They were, as Kay pointed out somewhere between Terminal 2 and 3, very late, and the small departure lounge had nearly emptied by the time they cleared security.
It was a ridiculous assertion that the plane would just up and leave before they could make it, but Bodhi took over from Leia and spurred them onwards with admirable speed and efficiency. Soon enough they found themselves in their respective seats, Jyn calling dibs on the window while Bodhi resigned himself to the adjoining aisle-seat, Kay taking the aisle-seat in front of Bodhi and leaving Cassian to squirm and skip over him to the window one, and because Luke hadn't been able to book himself the seat next to hers, Leia sat across the aisle from Kay elbow-to-elbow with a droopy-eyed man who unsuccessfully hid a box of cigarettes in the fold of his jacket while Luke's situation was even worse because he was out of their sights completely.
Bodhi nudged Jyn in the side with a growing grin on his face. "Excited?"
His flatmate rolled her eyes and looked out the window, but there was no missing the small smile tugging on the corner of her lips.
He hoped this was what she wanted. He hoped this birthday present wouldn't turn out to be a grossly miscalculated guess on his part.
Chirrut and Baze were looking decidedly tropical when they greeted them at the airport.
"I see everyone is in high spirits," noted Chirrut cheerily, hands folded on the outstretched handle of his Hawaiian suitcase. He was also wearing a Hawaiian shirt, a pair of shorts, flip-flops and a straw hat. He looked much younger than his actual age of fifty-five while Baze, his longtime colleague and friend, looked disgruntled about the similar, though darker-hued getup he was in. They were both experienced doctors in a government hospital not far from Jyn, Leia and Bodhi's place of work, and had flown in here a couple of days ago on the pretext of having their own pre-vacation holiday (and making Bodhi jealous of their extra time off).
Baze looked around with a frown while Chirrut introduced himself to Cassian and Kay. He cleared his throat roughly.
"Where is Jyn?"
Everyone looked up with startled expressions.
"Shit," breathed Bodhi at once, entire frame going rigid with fear. No, no, no. How could he be this stupid?
There was one main reason this airport got crowded in the first place. It was in close proximity to the harbour that ran cruise lines to Isla Sonar, and naturally-
Naturally the place had huge banners advertising Jurassic World all over the place.
And Jyn had figured out exactly where they were going.
And she hadn't taken it well.
Cassian grabbed his shoulder tight. "We have to find her."
Luke looked bewildered. "Well, count me in."
Leaving a still-somehow-smiling Chirrut, a suffering-looking Baze and a slightly unconcerned Kay, Bodhi, Luke, Leia and Cassian were deciding to split up and go looking for Jyn just as a door on the wall behind Chirrut pulled open and she stepped out of it.
She received their shocked stares with a raised eyebrow. "What? Something on my face? I just went to the bathroom."
"Oh my God, you-" started Bodhi in disbelief.
"I should've known," muttered Cassian, giving the cheery doctor a weary look.
"Hey," snapped Jyn, calling their attention again. She had her hands on her hips and treated them all to narrowed eyes and a pensive expression. "We're going to the Park. Aren't we?"
Bodhi silently resigned himself to his fate, and hoped Jyn would forgive him after she killed him. "Yeah. Yeah, we are. Um...I'm sorry, I...I shouldn't have- look, I'm sorry if I crossed a line and, uh..."
"It's fine," said Jyn, surprising him.
"Jyn-" started Cassian, but she cut him off.
"It's really fine, guys," she waved a hand dismissively. "I'm not mad. I mean, yeah, I am, but not at you."
Bodhi took a deep breath to say something nice, anything, but Jyn brushed past him and caught her suitcase which she'd left standing on the floor. "Let's go," she started to step back with it. "Come on. I don't want to be waiting in line."
It took some effort, but Jyn managed to needle it out of Luke - because Bodhi was spilling nothing- that the cruise for them had, indeed, been sponsored by her father, and that was why they were in first-class cabins on the upper deck rather than...actually, Chirrut and Baze, and maybe Kay, who was rich enough to pay two-thirds of the rent for the flat he shared with Cassian, were the only ones who could afford this trip at all.
Three days into the journey, Bodhi and Luke were playing volleyball with a bunch of adoring girls, Baze had confined himself to his room and was relaxing, Leia was teaching Chirrut how to play HALO 4 in the game lounge and Jyn was...well, she was staring out at the open sea from the top deck wondering what the hell she would say to the father she hadn't seen or heard from in the past six months.
"Hey," said Cassian, leaning on the rail next to her.
Jyn gestured at the deck below, where the game of volleyball had got noisy and energetic. "Why don't you join in?"
He seemed to consider this for a moment, looking contemplatively down at the event. "I don't know how to play, and if I tried, it would look pretty embarrassing next to how well Luke is doing."
Jyn snorted. "They're such show-offs."
Cassian's lips quirked upwards in the maximum magnitude of the smile she normally got from him. "Kay could give them a tough time, though."
Jyn gawked at him, completely incredulous. "Kay?"
"He used to be on the school team, and he's good. Gets competitive too."
Jyn laughed. "I need to see this sometime."
Cassian leaned in closer, dropping his voice so no one else would hear them. "I've accessed his hard drive before. He has all his old videos stored in there, so maybe next time you come over and he's not at home..."
"There you are," said Kay from behind them with loud disdain. "What are you doing?"
His unexpected input made them both jump apart, but Cassian recovered soon enough to respond scathingly, "I'm talking to Jyn, what does it look like?"
"Pretty sure Jyn's not hard of hearing for you to have to get so close," scoffed Kay. "And Jyn, I'm going to have to borrow Cassian for a while."
Jyn guffawed. "Oh, you're informing now?"
"It's the polite thing to do."
"The polite thing to do is ask, you dip-"
"Guys, come on," said Cassian tiredly.
"Well, there's something I need to show you anyway," said Kay, completely unfazed, grabbing his wrist. He gave Jyn an apologetic/exasperated look as he was dragged away, and Jyn had just turned back to the sea again, when a horn blared from the lowest of the ship's decks.
A large, dark green landmass came into view over the horizon, and both lower decks were suddenly crammed with people trying to take a look at the approaching island. Kay and Cassian appeared at her either sides at about the same time a handful of others filled the front of their first-class deck.
Everyone was here to see genetically engineered, recreated extinct creatures of a bygone era, and that gripped the crowd with excitement, filling the air with waves of applause and thrilled hoots.
Jyn wasn't sure she was ready to forgive her father for choosing a damned island over her.