We are not idealized wild things.
We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.
(The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion)
Jyn Erso is seven when her mother dies, eight when she first tells someone that she is an orphan, and twenty-two when she actually becomes one.
The first thing Saw says when he rescues her is, "You are an orphan now. You must accept this, child," because he is in the business of molding soldiers, not giving children hope. He says it like it's a choice she can make as easily as deciding to stop eating her cereal with Bantha milk in the morning. Jyn has always been willful so she sets her jaw and clenches her fists and refuses to accept that one day she was a child with a mother and a father and now—
every time she closes her eyes, she hears Lyra's body crumple to the ground as the laser slices through her, the thump reverberating in her ears until Jyn can feel it shredding through her own bones as it plays on a loop in her head like a variation of a terrible theme
— and now she is neither one of these things.
If there is one thing she can appreciate about her lonely childhood, it is that Saw taught her how to exist comfortably in the silence. After all, what is there to talk about when your entire being is supposed to be a secret?
While their stolen ship flies through the vast nothingness of space, Jyn stares at Imperial walls and only leaves her quarters when enough time has passed that someone will worry that she has died of starvation. The rest of the crew gives her a wide berth because there is nothing to say to someone who has lost everything (again). It's like traveling with a ghost, but they carry enough ghosts of their own to not be bothered with hers.
"We should say something," Bodhi proposes miserably in a hushed whisper when he doesn't realize she's outside the door.
"Don't look at me," Cassian replies even though no one is.
"Chirrut is spiritual," Baze proclaims. It sounds more like an accusation than an advantageous quality in a companion. "Obviously it should be him."
"She wants space," Chirrut says as if it is the most obvious thing in the world to want more space in space.
"We should make sure," Bodhi suggests again.
"Make sure of what?" Cassian asks.
"That she's okay."
"She's not. Talking won't change that."
By the time she is eight, Jyn can:
A) disarm a storm trooper
B) shoot a blaster with expert precision
C) distinguish between a well-meaning civilian and an Empire sympathizer when asked if she is by herself at the market
D) lie so well about being an orphan that even she believes it
In the days following Eadu (she cannot bring herself to say since Papa's death), Jyn tries to understand why it's not easier. After her mother died, Jyn had asked Saw when she would reunite with her father over and over again like it was her duty to remind him until he finally said your father is dead with a finality that felt like someone squeezing her lungs until she could no longer bring in fresh air. She has spent the fifteen years since then living like her father only existed in the past tense so why, now that it is an actual reality, can't she stop dreaming of something different?
(In her dreams, Papa knocks over the guard before he can squeeze the trigger. The blast of her mother's gun is faster than anyone else's and it hits Krennic right where his heart should be. In the aftermath, Jyn kicks up the grass and runs to her parents before they can call for her. Her father says, "I told you I would protect you, Stardust," while her mother sends a silent prayer up to the force. In another dream, her mother and father ignore the odds and flee with her. They didn't escape from the Separatists only to become split apart now. When Galen questions whether they are being selfish, Lyra reminds him that Jyn is their little girl and little girls need their parents. The cave is large enough to house the three of them comfortably until the Empire gives up and, in later years, they talk about their close call as if it was nothing more eventful than a camping trip.)
The problem with silence is that, given enough of it, people will eventually try to fill it with sound. They are four days into their journey when she opens her door to find Bodhi holding up a bottle of contraband Corellian brandy like it is the key to all of life's questions.
"Sometimes it pays to have a defector onboard," the pilot says with a weak smile. Jyn takes so long to consider whether a much needed drink is worth the displeasure of having company that by the time she opens her mouth to speak, he is already shoving the dusty bottle into her hands and mumbling, "I am sorry for your loss."
Jyn considers this for a second as she watches his retreating back. He is in the unique position of being the only person left that she knows who could say a thing like that without it being an outright lie and maybe that means something.
"Would you like a drink?" she asks, her voice hoarse from disuse. Bodhi spins so fast that there is a very real possibility of him losing balance and crashing into a wall, but he catches himself in time to nod at her with a smile. She moves away from the door so he can enter and if he's judging her unkempt bed or the empty protein wrappers on the floor, Bodhi keeps it to himself.
Bodhi seems to produce two glasses out of nowhere while Jyn cracks the seal and pours them each a rather stingy amount of brandy. She has only committed to one drink and the quicker that is done, the sooner he can leave. What she doesn't expect is to feel like her throat is closing up when he raises his glass and toasts, "To Galen."
As her eyes sting, she tells herself that it has everything to do with the amber liquid burning its way down her esophagus. She can tell that Bodhi desperately wants to talk – to ask how she's handling all of this – so Jyn takes great pains not to look him in the eyes.
"When we get back to base, they're going to try to say…" Bodhi takes a shuddering breath and starts over. "I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this, but your father was a good man."
"You don't have to say that just because he's dead," she snaps furiously. If being raised around rebels taught her anything, it was that she didn't need to canonize the fallen just because they were gone. Jyn doesn't need him to patronize her about the type of person Galen Erso was.
"I'm not," he insists defensively, a flash of anger flitting over his eyes. His voice threatens to waver when he continues, "When I turned my back on the Empire, I committed everyone I love to death. I did it because I believed in your father, Jyn."
Bodhi looks down at his hands as if he can still see blood on them. The thought enters unbidden into Jyn's mind that Galen is to blame for their deaths as much as he is responsible for her mother's. She hates herself immediately for being this disloyal and hates Bodhi even more for dredging it up. She wants to ignore the way his hand shakes when he wraps it around the tumbler in front of him. If he wants absolution, he can talk to Chirrut; Jyn has enough of her own pain to carry the burden of his too.
She wants to open her mouth to tell him it's time he left, but what comes out in a voice so small that she can barely hear herself is so much worse: "Did he ever talk about me?"
Jyn mistakenly takes his laughter to mean that he can't believe her stupidity and starts to backtrack about how of course Galen never talked about her because he barely knew her. After all, isn't it the curse of her life that people only know how to love her from afar?
"You really don't get it," Bodhi chuckles, which only causes Jyn's anger to flare.
"Enlighten me then."
"I'm here because of you," Bodhi says, entirely too earnest to belong to the same space at her.
"You backed the wrong tauntaun."
"I don't think so. Not with the way Galen talked about you – his…what did he always say? Stardust?"
And God, it's almost too much to hear, but her shaking hands pour more brandy into their glasses because she doesn't want him to stop speaking. With Saw scattered to the winds and her mother gone, Bodhi is the only remaining connection left to her father. It's the ultimate exercise in picking at a scab that has almost entirely healed over.
"For a man of science, he had so much faith in you."
"In me?" she asks incredulously. "To do what?"
"The right thing," Bodhi replies with a small smile.
"If he cared about me at all, he would have found a way to be a real father to me!" Jyn shouts. "I never asked to be a hero."
"No one asks to be a hero."
"Why did you do it then? Why did you betray everything you knew to deliver my father's message to Saw?"
"Because there was no way that a man who loved someone as much as Galen loved you could do such terrible things. He knew you were destined to do great things so he gave you the power over life and death."
"That's a gift?"
"It's all he had."
"It's not enough," Jyn replies bitterly even though she knows – she knows – that it has to be. "This beautiful revolution that you're envisioning is never going to work."
Bodhi waves her off as he finishes his drink. "If I paid attention to the odds, I'd never get into a ship again."
"You should. Just look at where being a dreamer got my father," she advises before continuing softly, "I'm sorry that you sacrificed so much for so little, but I am not who my father thought I would be."
"Yet, here you are." With a smile, Bodhi adds, "Fortunately, I believe in you enough for the both of us."
When she talks about hope, Jyn can feel Bodhi smiling behind her.