She dies on the beach, in his arms.
It isn’t the first time. It isn’t even the second.
“We’re trapped,” she tells him, blood bubbling up between her lips. His fingers spasm on her wound and he shushes her, his voice shaking. She draws a shuddering breath that rattles in her lungs. “It’s my turn, but it’ll be yours, next. We’re trapped here.”
He looks at her with pity.
The dying woman spouting nonsense.
“Stay with me,” she says.
And he could make it, she thinks. If he left. It wouldn’t matter. They would reset anyway. But it might be nice one time to die watching him escape.
He nods his head. He doesn’t look up to watch the fire and wave approaching. He never does.
And he never, ever leaves.
She opens her eyes, the ship jolting under her as it comes out of hyperspace.
And Scarif looms ahead of them.
The first time she led him to the beach, she assumed it would be the last time. His strength was fading. Hers was spent. Better to die with someone than alone, and so they held each other.
Then they woke up, and he didn’t remember. No one did.
And then it happened again.
Jyn has seen Cassian die a hundred times. She has died with him a hundred more. She has fallen from the top of the tower twelve times. She has fallen from the data banks thirty-seven times. She has gone down under Imperial fire more than she cares to count.
She has heard Cassian’s voice call her name in the last seconds of her life thirty-four times. Pain. Anguish. Fear. Loss. Thirty-four times.
She has lost him and he has lost her, but she’s the one who has to remember it.
And in all those chances spent, he has never left her when he could.
Jyn has kissed Cassian twice. He has kissed her forty-seven times.
Statistically, K2SO would say, there’s a high chance of Cassian kissing her if they ever manage to get off this rock alive.
If she wanted, she thinks she could probably get off Scarif. That might be enough to stop this day from resetting. But once she figured out the secret – if she dies, she resets, and no one remembers – it got easier and easier to just start letting go. Watch him fall and then stand up from behind cover. Throw herself from the tower. Shoot until she’s shot back.
They’re getting off Scarif together or not at all.
She has already worked out how to save Bodhi. Chirrut and Baze, too. K2SO is harder, but she figures it out on the eighty-sixth time through.
Cassian, though, always dies, or she dies trying to prevent it.
A shot to the gut, early in the run, and she watches Cassian’s face melt into an expression of horror as she brings the blaster to her temple and pulls the trigger.
She gives them away when she’s trying to check out a utility closet she’s never explored before, and Cassian jumps in front of her, trying to block her from blaster bolts that hit her anyway, and they lie dying beside each other on the floor, and Jyn wants to tell him, wants to apologize, wants to explain I’m just trying to save us all, while he looks at her with eyes that ask why.
He dies, bleeding out from a shrapnel wound, as she kisses him.
She dies, bleeding out from a shrapnel wound, as he kisses her.
“We just need more time,” she says to him, in the elevator on the way down. Bodhi and Chirrut and Baze are gone. They’ve survived every run since the sixty-second. K2SO is probably with them, but she hasn’t made it this far in a while. It’s possible she messed something up.
Cassian’s breath is ragged. It pushes the loose hair around her face.
“How did you know?” he asks her. He means the tower. She tried to warn him.
She presses her forehead to his and closes her eyes.
“You’ll bleed out in this elevator,” she tells him. “Krennic hit you too high up this time. My fault. I wasn’t moving fast enough.”
“How did you…?” he trails off, breathing shallow, and she can feel the strength as it leaves him in increments, and she doesn’t open her eyes, because she has watched the light leave them thirteen times. Once was enough, and twice was too many, and fourteen might drive her mad entirely.
“We’ve been here before. We’ve done this before,” she whispers. “And last time, we did this.”
She presses her lips to his, and she feels him kiss her back as much as he’s able.
She waits until he sags against her, knees buckling, pulse slowing, before she takes the blaster from his holster and ends it, their foreheads still touching.
He’s dangling from the databanks, but she manages to hold on to his hand. He manages to shoot Krennic, and his wound is to the calf this time.
“Not bad,” she says aloud.
“How did you know?” he asks.
He asks this maybe forty percent of the time.
“We’ve done this before,” she says.
Sometimes, she lets it play out. She stumbles away from his cooling body, away from his wide, unseeing eyes and the grip of his fingers, and she staggers off to explore something, or watch something happen. She knows she has to do it, because the more she memorizes about the trillion moving pieces that make up her prison, the more she can navigate them, but every step she takes towards survival without him feels like wasted effort.
Together or not at all.
They run together across the beach, and the AT-ATs loom large before them, and she hears him cry out, and she sees him fall, and seconds later she joins him, her head landing hard on his chest, and she hears him whisper something as his arm comes up around her.
“We’ve been here…” he says, before the explosion.
But she wakes up. And he doesn’t remember.
She’s crying in the ship, and Chirrut squeezes her hand.
“You’ll figure it out,” he tells her. She isn’t even surprised that he knows. She just shakes her head.
“One of us has to die,” she tells him.
“You would have given up long ago if you believed that was true.”
She has watched Cassian die more times than minutes she had known him before Scarif. And yet, and yet, it’s impossible to imagine abandoning him.
It’s the thousand smiles and kisses and exchanged glances. It’s the jokes he makes, unexpectedly, on some of these runs, and she laughs every time, because they’re such a surprise against the neverending march of misery.
It’s “I’m with you” and “I’m here” and it’s the fact that he never, ever leaves her. Not when her arm is blown off, when her legs don’t work, and the death troopers are coming. Cassian’s kneeling behind her in the sand, still holding onto her and firing at them as they approach. K2SO is dead by their feet, and Jyn is begging him to kill her, just kill her, just leave her, but he won’t. He doesn’t even hear her. He just grits his teeth and keeps firing until they kill him, too.
It’s the fact that every time they go down together, he’s reaching out with the last of his strength to touch her.
It’s the fact that after living this day a thousand times, she still finds things about him to admire, to care for, to love.
(He has known her only a short time. If they ever survive, if she ever figures it out, she will know him so much better than he knows her.)
It’s the fact that he kisses her so often when he thinks there’s no hope left, and she wonders how long he’s been waiting to do that.
She can’t just leave him.
“I’ll figure it out,” she promises him, again in the elevator. But Cassian can’t even stand this time, and so she’s leaning over him, crouched between his sprawled legs, and she kisses him. (She has kissed him three times. He has kissed her eighty-seven). And he brushes his thumb over the tears on her cheeks.
“You could make it,” he says as the elevator doors ding open.
“Not without you,” she says. “It doesn’t matter anyway. You die, and then I die, and then I wake up, and you won’t remember. We’ve done this before.”
It’s a mantra. It’s repeated. In her head. Out loud.
“You’ll figure it out,” Chirrut says.
He has said this to her three hundred and forty-two times now, but she doesn’t have the heart to tell him that.
They make it to the beach again.
They just need more time. The pieces always fall into place just a little too late.
But Jyn is losing hope, is losing ambition.
There was a string of five runs where she shot herself before she could even leave the ship, just because she was so tired.
There was a run where she left the ship on her own, sprinted as far as she could onto the beach, and kept running until someone killed her.
For the past three runs, she has kissed Cassian early and often, as if the power of her desperation can keep him alive.
They have kissed now more times than words than they had spoken before Scarif. Before this hellish loop.
“I can’t save you,” she says to him, wrapping her arms around him as he’s dying. The sobs are trapped in her throat. She’s too tired even to cry. “I just need more time. I just need…”
“We’ve been here before,” Cassian whispers, and she freezes, her arms tight around him, her eyes forward, facing the explosion. For the first time in thirty-seven runs, she feels a smile lighting on her face. “We’ve done this before.”
She pulls back to see him, and he’s wearing an expression that looks like a revelation.
“We have,” she whispers. And his eyes, dimming, light fading, meet hers for the last time, and he surges forward with his last strength, and he kisses her.
“And last time, we did this,” he says into her ear, and she can’t tell if it’s sobs or laughter that escape her as the light reaches them.
She wakes up. Scarif looms ahead.
Cassian puts his hand on her shoulder.
He has done this zero other times.