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Growing Pains

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Saw Gerrera detested ignorance. Be it in a new recruit, an experienced colleague or a borrowed soldier from another cell. He hated it. Worst of all though, he loathed it within himself.

 

It didn’t matter if it was not knowing where an Imperial blockade was going to be, if he would have enough hands on a mission or if one day, they would just run out of luck. All those things, however, Saw had some experience in. If a blockade popped up, there was always a way around it. If he didn’t have enough hands on a mission, Saw would make do; he always did. If they ran out of luck… Well, they would make more or simply, go without and muddle through on determination alone.

 

The one thing that did stump him, was Jyn Erso.

 

Jyn had been quiet, moody and brooding from the very moment Saw picked her up from Lah’mu; trauma, he assumed and it wasn’t an unfair assumption to make. Being orphaned (more or less) at eight, witnessing her mother’s slaughter and being whisked away to the isolation of Wrea by a man she didn’t really know would do that to a child. She came out of herself eventually; through training, drills, the occasional mission and her cherished code replicator.

 

When Jyn teetered between the ages of thirteen and fourteen, she became quiet, moody and brooding for a different reason and Saw could not fathom how to broach it. Women had always baffled him and now, the one he lived with and had watched grow, often reduced him to shaking his head in pure bewilderment.

 

Being around her was like being on a constant knife’s edge; the sudden snaps for a simple comment or observation were not reserved just for Saw. She became overly aggressive in her handling of Reece, whether he deserved it or not and the vicious asides weren’t just for the sparring arena. She was volatile and Saw could never be sure if she was armed or not to make a situation worse.

 

But in the times that Jyn was neutral and not picking a fight, Saw noticed how she took special care to ensure she had the baggiest coverings of her chest; as if to cover something or not draw attention to it. The greasier-than-usual hair and noticeable facial blemishes; not to mention, the increased appetite were also a root for confused concern.

 

It came to a head with a routine sparring session, when Jyn stalked away to compose herself after a messy (and rare) defeat; that should have been enough to tell Saw she was preoccupied. Instead, it took something physical, like the fresh staining on the inside of her thigh; just visible against the khaki of her cargo pants in whatever way she moved.

 

Apprehensive of an injury, Saw swooped and grabbed the closest thing he had to a daughter to inspect her face and her arms; only to find her mostly unharmed. Impatiently, he was swatted away in favour of a clean swing at Reece.

 

Discomfort prickled in the extremist; a sensation he was not all too accustomed to. He watched as the fresh bout of hostility erupted on Jyn’s domestic nemesis, as the blood mingled with the soil and the jumbled moans of agony were almost drowned out by the teen’s flurry of triumphant abuse and profanities. That wasn’t like her. She usually won well; silent and dignified with a subtle incline of her chin, as if bored by yet another victory, and refused to dip to the level of the males she trained with. Not this time. Something had changed and he would be damned if he didn’t find out what.

 

Saw was more forceful the second time she goadingly ambled anywhere close to him; seizing her arm, twisting it behind her back and marching her back towards their home. It may have been embarrassing but probably not as embarrassing as Reece spotting what Saw had and taunting her relentlessly for it. Re-enforced by the struggling and the protesting all the way back, Saw was iron-clad in his resolve that something had to be done.

 

There was one thing Saw Gerrera detested more than ignorance (save for the Empire), and that was asking for help. It was not in his nature to allow such vulnerability or helplessness to surface and become apparent that help might even be offered. After all, how much had he achieved without extending a pleading word to anyone? If he couldn’t survive on his own, what business did he have surviving at all? And sympathy? Don’t get him started on sympathy.

 

“What the hell?!” Jyn exploded, having been shoved over the threshold of her bedroom and stumbling as a result. She recovered quickly, she’d learned that as a basic. Fuming and incredulous, he’d discovered a new peak in her mood swings, prompted by a seemingly unprovoked action. “I almost had him, why did you stop me?!”

 

“You did have him.” Saw countered calmly, letting the door edge closed behind him and breezing forward with the confident steps that he’d figured she didn’t react so badly to. Jyn watched him, pure incensement ironed into her blotchy features and waited for an explanation, but her patience was thin. “You went into over-kill.” Saw stopped a few feet shy of his “daughter”; a protective distance and eyeballed her. “That’s not like you.”

 

Jyn didn’t answer; she didn’t have an answer to give. Instead, she pouted, folded her lips into a thin line and blatantly averted her gaze; all signs of when something was close to the bone.

 

But Saw was patient; his most invasive move was swaying to one side to place himself in her eyeline.

 

“Jyn?” He pressed after a few moments of sulking silence; the words came slow while he found the right ones. “I know…. I’m not very good at talking…. But you know I’ll always try.” She had to be fair and give him that; he would always try. But they didn’t talk. They never talked. Talking, Saw said, was what the other rebels did, what the senators did and all it did was prove cowardice and weakness. Saw’s group took action and got results; never talking. Now though… The raw plea in the veteran’s scarred face made her gut twist. And Jyn could never remember a time when Saw hadn’t done what he felt was best for her.

 

“I don’t….” In an instant, a switch was flipped and gall had morphed into ashen-faced vulnerability; Saw felt an unfurl of relief in his chest but it was only the beginning. “The blood…. I dunno….” Saw’s expression melted from curious concern into a sympathetic grimace before he half gestured to the staining on the inside of her thigh. She followed and immediately, her posture slumped in defeat; understanding now why he hauled her inside. “Yeah, that’s…. That happens….”

 

“I can’t really help you on that front, Jyn.” In recent years, Saw was rarely gentle. She remembered him being tender and gruff when he brought her and her parents to Lah’mu but she never saw that Saw again. Upon rescuing her, he was hardened by the worsening state of the galaxy and the imposing of the Empire; he didn’t have time for gentility. That day, in that room, faced with this problem: he was the Saw who had smuggled them from Coruscant to the safety of Lah’mu. “But I know someone who can.”

 


 

 

“Thanks for coming….” Saw was hushed, voice dropped to greet the early morning visitor, less than a standard day cycle after promising Jyn. “She’s uhh…. Still asleep but she should be up soon.”

 

“We knew this was going to happen sooner or later, Saw.” Idryssa reasoned, sauntering the entrance hallway she knew too well in Saw’s wake towards the kitchen. “I’m just glad you commed me and didn’t try to deal with it yourself.”

 

“I’m brave.” The male retorted, once they’d reached dingy excuse of a kitchen to a bare offering of breakfast; the least he could do. “I’m not stupid.”

 

Idryssa Barruck, a human female and one of Saw’s most trusted allies. Dark skinned, dark haired and easily one of the most beautiful women to ever cross any man’s path, Idryssa had an advantage in that she didn’t look like a warrior; she had that element of surprise.

 

“Think she’ll remember me?” Saw clicked his tongue, not knowing. “We had the basic chat when she arrived but…. This is a lil different.”

 

“Did you mention this in those chats?” Idryssa surveyed the platter for something edible and selected the best of the bad lot.

 

“I alluded to it but I didn’t wanna scare her by going into so much detail, so young. I mean, she was, what? Eight?”

 

“Mmm….” Idryssa’s conclusion was fair and even if it wasn’t, Saw wouldn’t have known how to approach it anyway. Saw’s eyes heightened; his aging ears still well in tune to a seemingly insignificant noise. That noise happened to be someone padding down the hallway towards the refresher. “She’s up.”

 


 

 

Jyn arrived for breakfast, expecting fully to have to make something for herself in the basic, menial supplies Saw kept. Another can of nutritive milk, she assumed. What she didn’t expect, however, was for there to be food waiting. Or for a long-lost acquaintance (there were no “friends” on Wrea) to be leaning against the counter and already watching her with a tilted head and a mild expression. Idryssa noted the baggy top to hide development, the greasy mousy strands and the blemishes claiming her otherwise porcelain skin. Just like Saw said.

 

“Hey Jyn.” Friendly but subdued to re-inspire trust; Jyn just stared. “You remember me, don’t you?”

 

“Idryssa.” The younger female stoically stated the name as opposed to the affirmative “yes”. Typical of Jyn’s trademark to betray nothing, anyone else would have been uncomfortable under that intense and unwavering stare; even Saw shifted and grimaced. Idryssa, however, never faltered in looking back. Jyn had seen her twice before and twice, she had worn make up with a sparkling effect. Once had been blue, the other green and they had reminded a younger Jyn of spellbindingly beautiful women in the stories her mother had told her. This time was silver.

 

“I’m gonna….” Saw excused himself, puttering past Jyn; she broke her focus on Idryssa to watch him as he did. Once alone, the purpose of the visit became apparent; to Jyn, at least.

 

“Saw set out some breakfast but I ate before I came.” A lie, Jyn could sense them a mile off but said nothing and accepted the roundabout invitation to food in her own home; she was less choosy about the contents on the plate. Idryssa surveyed her while she ate; sitting huddled over her food, as if territorial or expectant that someone might try and take it from her. Biting in snatches and chewing fervently, she’d been raised (in necessity) by a man and so, behaved like one. Except for this one, little thing.

 

“Saw told me what happened yesterday.” The chewing slowed but her posture remained protective. “I know it’s not comfortable, but it does happen without the right preparation.” Jyn recognised the barest twinge of sympathy; small enough to be barely noticed but just enough to be found and appreciated.

 

“I dunno…. D’you remember the chat we had? When you first arrived? About hygiene and whatnot?” Still trained on her meal, Jyn said nothing and Idryssa had already resigned herself to doing most (if not all) of the talking over the crunching of stale pastry.

 

“It’s something that happens when you hit a certain age, it varies from person to person.” She explained patiently, still leaning on the counter with her elbows pointed towards her torso. “They say, it’s you becoming a woman, when your body is ready to have children but…. No one’s worth should be measured on if they’re able to have children or not.” Idryssa didn’t; with her commitment to the partisans, it would have been dangerous and irresponsible. “With me so far?” The first marker of Jyn’s bare participation in the conversation came with a brisk nod.

 

“So… It’s called a menstrual cycle.” No obvious reaction so Idryssa continued cagily, should Jyn need to interrupt for a query. “It happens every month. It starts with…. Where you are now, with bleeding. Okay? That’s the shedding of the lining of your womb, which is why it might be a bit thick and gooey sometimes.” Jyn’s gaze flickered to the side as familiarity struck. “When that stops, the lining starts building itself up again, preparing for an egg to embed itself.”

 

Food finished, Jyn pushed away the empty plate and left the counter to find something else; refusing to admit, even to herself, that she had been looking forward to the can of nutritive milk. Idryssa, knowing the younger female’s form, kept talking; knowing she was listening.

 

“The egg’s released and waits ‘round for a lil bit, waiting to be fertilized. If it’s not, the lining starts to break down and your cycle starts all over again; that’s the basics of it.” Idryssa reshuffled herself and straightened to relieve her back but Jyn still eyeballed her over the rim of her can.

 

“There’s a bit more to it than that.” Idryssa confessed, deciding to deviate from the basics to probe. “Have you noticed any…. mood swings? Getting angry, sad or flustered randomly?”

 

“Saw says I have.” Finally, Idryssa received the first substantial indication that she wasn’t the only one in this conversation; even if she got the impression Jyn didn’t particularly want to be involved. Aside from her name, the younger female hadn’t been very forthcoming with her contributions.  

 

“And you? What have you noticed?”

 

“Nothing strange.” Jyn dismissed with a shrug and an air of utter indifference; as if to brush off the implications this specific topic would have on her and her life as a whole. “I react as I always do.”

 

“Do you always kick seven shades of shit out of Reece?”

 

“Whenever I get a chance.” Jyn replied with a bite of haughtiness and an almost aggressive curl of her lip; she answered Idryssa’s question without realizing it. Volatility: another classic symptom. Jyn clearly did not want to commit to this exchange and had no issue in displaying her disinterest; eyes roving, jaw mis-aligned, arms folded.

 

“Remember when we talked about hygiene?” More pointed in her approach now and her patience whittling fast, Idryssa opted to match Jyn’s demeanour. Why should she waste her time in talking to someone who didn’t want to listen and thought they knew better? It was like talking to Saw.

 

Jyn’s jaw snapped clenched, recognizing the passive dig for what it was and as much as the temptation itched, she refused to brush the greasy strand from her face. Her seething gaze hit Idryssa hard but the older female casually returned it, unfazed.

 

“I know you’re very active.” Idryssa went on, as if there wasn’t any tension and Jyn began to saunter, swinging her arms, in a bid to reroute her irritation. “But all the more reason to take care of yourself. You live in close quarters here, the last thing you want is them teasing you. I know.” Jyn whipped on her heel to protest but her older counterpart shut her down pre-emptively with rejuvenating patience. “I know they shouldn’t and I know what you’d do if they did but trust me, it’s just easier and you’ll feel better in yourself.” Maybe that point wasn’t to be argued with so Jyn just tutted and waited for the next nugget of information.

 

“Cramps?” She pressed, focused on the incredibly awkward teen before her. “Fatigue? Discomfort? Get those?”

 

“Little bit.” Jyn admitted; with the flicker of subtly deceiving eyes, Idryssa could assume it was more than a little bit; if her other reactions were anything to go by.

 

“Right….” She didn’t take the opportunity to add anything more like Idryssa hoped she might have; in that resolve, the silence did not have a chance to stagnate too much. The eldest of the two could grasp Jyn’s fear of vulnerability; growing up around Saw Gerrera, it was a given and therefore, natural that she would want to minimize the attention to something that might make her weak. So Idryssa resigned herself. “Well… I’ll send some things for you in the next batch for Saw. Don’t worry.” Once again, finely tuned to objection, Idryssa intercepted Jyn’s concerns before she voiced them. “It’ll be a separate box in the crate with your name on it, I’ll make sure he doesn’t touch it.”

 

For the first time since they reunited, Jyn relaxed but guardingly so; as much as she could relax.

 

“One more thing.” It prompted the defensive rouse again, her ease short-lived but Idryssa took no notice. “I get that you’re developing up here-” She waved a hand over her own chest to illustrate where she was steering the conversation. “And I know you want to be private about it but…. we need to get you some better clothes. Seriously.” And in that one declaration, Idryssa thrillingly experienced the very closest thing that Jyn Erso had to offer to a smile; a bare grimace with something akin to appreciation.

 

“I’ll sort something.” The rebel thought best not to draw too much attention to the breakthrough but archived it as a success in her own mind for later. “I might have something I can send you; if not, there’s always something at the flea markets….”

 

Jyn basked in contentedness. The meeting had been unexpected and its content a mystery until Saw left. After that, she reacted out of embarrassment but Idryssa’s coaxing helped her to relax when she realized she only wanted to help.

 

“Jyn? Did you hear me?” Flinching back to reality, a portion of the dialogue had been missed; having mistaken it for one-sided musing.

 

“N…No? What?”

 

“I said, do you have any questions? I have to meet a team a few planets over.”

 

“No…. I think I’m okay.” Satisfied, Idryssa straightened from the counter and looked over the youngster once again before giving her the nod of approval and gentle dismissal.

 

“Well, if you do, I’m going to tell Saw to give you my com details. If there’s anything you need to ask me or anything you want me to put in the next box, let me know?” Jyn returned the gesture and hoped Idryssa would not ask for hug or any sort of imposing embrace. Thankfully, the older of the two had enough sense to read that silent request so the mutual nod sufficed. “We’ll probably have another talk in the next year or so; another one Saw isn’t going to want to give you.” Jyn didn’t ask, she had enough information to process for one day.

 


 

Jyn Erso was well established with loss; she’d known it well since she was eight years old and scarcely reacted to it anymore. But when Idryssa died not long after that conversation was had, Jyn took rare pause and reflection of the “friend” she once had. Then, she took her machetes and yet another mission to wage war on the Empire that had taken Idryssa Barruck from her.