“I have something to tell you.”
Her mother looks up with a little grin. “Oh yes?” The rim of the porcelain cup gleams as she hands it across, gold rim on pale white patterned with birds and twisting green vines.
“I remember that,” Jyn says slowly, gesturing to the saucer where the vines curl around the strange bird. “That was my favourite.”
Lyra’s smile deepens. “You always had to have your special afternoon treat on it. No other saucer would do.”
“Well, no.” Her fingers hooked in the delicate curved handle, she watches the steam rise in lethal wisps off the clear water in the cup. Still too hot. “It was the best one of all, it was mine.”
Lyra has this deep dimple in one cheek that appears only when she smiles a certain mischievous way. And now as rain streams down the windows of her parents’ little apartment, Jyn watches her mother reach across to drop one tight coiled bud of green with its centre of pink into the steaming water.
“This is my favourite part,” she murmurs, setting the teacup down on the smooth wooden counter. Without looking, she knows Lyra is watching her, serene and warm. The bud starts slowly to uncurl in the silence bound by the rush of rain outside, long green tendrils spiralling out into the stinging water, fragrance rising up into Jyn’s face.
“Oh this rain,” Lyra says, looking over her shoulder at the steel grey skies and stormclouds visible through the long panelled windows. Coruscant is having a brief monsoon as the WeatherNet is sorted out.
Jyn glances past her mother, secretly delighted. “I like it. It makes me feel all cosy and warm inside.”
Lyra laughs, pushing the little tray of biscuits towards her. “Eat something. What’s happened here?” She touches the mark on the back of Jyn’s wrist, her mouth tightening with displeasure.
“Oh that, nothing, weapons training.” Jyn takes one of the small round fluffy biscuits and says in a rush, without looking at her mother, “I need to tell you about this person I’m seeing.”
Lyra says nothing, her silence a watchful compelling thing. Nervous, Jyn brushes the crumbs from her mouth and then is annoyed at herself for even being nervous. She has nothing to be ashamed about.
Tell that to the five year old inside her head.
“Yes?” Lyra says eventually, her patience having run out. “How long have you been together?”
Jyn takes in a deep breath and almost reaches for her tea before remembering it’s still too hot. “A while. About, um, about five months now.”
The reproach and hurt ring clear even though she can’t look at her mother’s face. “I didn’t, I didn’t,” she stammers, the words hurtling together as she stares at the green tendrils tangling through clear water, “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know what it was. I mean --” she sighs, frustrated with her own inarticulacy, her gaze skittering across the comfortable chaos of her parents’ home. “I didn’t know that it was serious, that --” she finds her calm suddenly and finds that now she can look at her mother directly. With honesty. “ -- that it means so much to me.”
Lyra’s face softens at that, her hand reaching out to touch Jyn’s. “Sweetheart, that’s lovely. I’m --”
“Yeah,” Jyn interrupts, pulling her hand away. “You might not feel like that when I tell you who it is.”
Lyra raises a brow, dark and haughty. “Have you met your father?” she says with perfect irony. As Jyn chokes back a laugh, her mother adds, “Don’t think it was easy introducing him to all my friends and my family.”
“The big nerd,” Jyn splutters, content in the knowledge that her father is well secured in his lab, locked in too many calculations to be aware of them giggling about him.
Lyra shakes her head, lifting her cup of tea. “He was hopeless. No charm at all.”
Jyn makes a face, struck by a new irony. “Well … that won’t be a problem here. Mum, I do love him,” she blurts out. “I know you’re going to try and tell me it’s all wrong and that it’s the biggest mistake, that I’ve ruined --”
“Jyn, Jyn,” her mother interrupts, alarmed now, putting down her cup. “I’m not going to lecture you! Why -- so it’s a man,” she says with disarming humour.
“Yes,” Jyn replies, stung. “Is that a problem?”
“No.” Her mother’s eyes are sparkling with glee now. “No, I just thought for years that when you come to me with this conversation, we wouldn’t be talking about a man.”
“Well,” Jyn grumbles, reaching for another biscuit. “You can’t plan these things.”
“That’s very true,” her mother replies drolly. “And what does he do?”
“He runs the Imperial Army.”
It takes Lyra a moment to understand. The elegant hand freezes in the action of lifting the cup to her lips. Utter shock in the eyes that fix on her, and Jyn sees the unmitigated horror, the revulsion. She breathes in and waits, tells herself not to run, tells herself to stay and wait and obey. For now.
Lyra Erso very carefully puts the fine teacup down and folds her hands. “Explain, please.”
It’s a tone calculated to inspire complete terror. For one moment, Jyn wishes herself back in the Death Trooper armour, helmeted from her mother’s pinion stare.
She swallows past a dry throat and launches into it, all instinct and untidy words. “I didn’t mean for it to happen. You know that. You know why and how I went into this, I never meant for any of this to turn out like it has, how it … may.” She falters for a moment, the terrible uncertain future stretching before her, striven with pain and death and so much loss. But then she sees the water twisting with so many green strands and she remembers all the beauty she’s found so far. Tells her mother in an effort to communicate that joy.
“He’s everything you said he would be, Mummy. He is charming and he is so scarily good at manipulating people. But here’s the thing, Mum. He’s mine. He trusts me like he’s never trusted anyone else, and I know that sounds like romantic twaddle, like I’m deluding myself. But he’s proven that over and over again, not just in what he tells me but, like the missions we run, the missions I run on my own.”
Jyn breathes in, curving her hands around the warm fine porcelain with its red and green patterns. “He sees me,” she says quietly. “He knows what I can do and he doesn’t try to stop me. Anymore. I don’t have to pretend to be kind or beautiful or tough all the time. I can be whatever I want with him, and he accepts it.” She laughs a little. “Okay, maybe he’s a shit about it sometimes too but I love that. I love that we have fun together.” She raises her eyes to her mother’s face, careful in her tone. “And we do, you know. We’re learning how to be happy together. It hasn’t always been this way, it’s definitely not easy -- but it is, actually.”
Her mother frowns, and Jyn stumbles as she explains, “I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either but it’s like even when we’re arguing, when we’re actually fighting about something, like him not letting me go on some mission or fucking off to some unmapped planet without me, even then I have this sense like even this is easy, so much easier than I ever could have thought. I like him, Mum. I like him as a person and he likes me. It may have started out as sex --”
A flinch but Jyn barrels on. “-- but it’s so much more now. And,” she runs her fingernail around the gold rim of the cup, her voice lowering, “I think it could become even more. I feel like … we belong together.”
Her words eventually run out, the silence creeps back into the apartment. Outside, the rain washes down the transparisteel, blurring the cityscape. And inside the warmth, Jyn watches her mother take a deep breath.
“What happens when he gets tired of you?”
It’s a reverberating shock but Jyn answers without thinking, “Then I kill him.” She laughs at her mother’s wide eyes. “No, I’m joking, Mummy. No,” she says, softening her tone. “I’ll leave him before he leaves me.” And he’ll never leave me, she says to herself.
“You can’t know that.” Lyra stares hard at her, calm voice and unwavering eyes, all the strength of her conviction directed at Jyn. “I know you’re brave and you’re strong, Jyn, but you can’t know everything that happens in a relationship, especially not before it happens. He’s not a faithful or trustworthy man --”
Jyn’s hand twitches, an involuntary denial, but she reminds herself to stay and listen now that she’s begun this conversation.
“-- and I know he’s seductive --”
“He didn’t take advantage of me,” Jyn interrupts, unable to help herself.
“No, you probably made the first move, didn’t you? He is that clever, Jyn. You know this. He has a way of making people think they choose their actions. How much have you told him?” Lyra asks abruptly, eyes bright.
Her mother slumps for one second, utterly stricken.
“We have no secrets from each other,” Jyn says kindly, trying to keep the love between her and her mother. “I know everything there is to know about him --” and more, she adds to herself, the things he won’t admit to her about his weaknesses and his many secret undoings, all the ways she knows how to hurt him “-- and I tell him everything about me.”
“Jyn,” her mother, voice shaking now. It’s not anger in her strong beautiful face. Maybe it’s betrayal, so much unsteady emotion bombarding out that Jyn almost feels bruised. “How -- how can this happen? With everything your father -- everything we’ve fought for, our family -- how could you do this? And for so long! You hid this --” a vicious edge now “-- all these months you hid this from us. How could you possibly think I’d understand this? Or your father!”
Jyn focuses on her breathing, reaching inward for an icy calm she knows is necessary. “I understand, Mummy. That’s why I’m telling you, I want to explain it to you. It’s not as bad --”
“He’s not as bad as I think he is?” Her mother snaps, eyes flashing now. “Are you really going to try that line on me?”
With an effort, Jyn holds onto her temper, her fingers curling into her palm. “I’m saying that our relationship, my relationship with him, is not the end of the galaxy, Mother. It really isn’t.”
“How do you know? What makes you think he won’t turn on you, turn on us? What are you going to do, Jyn, when he comes after your father? And me?”
“He hasn’t yet.”
Lyra stops and stares at her.
“He’s known for months where you are.” Jyn picks up her cup, faintly pleased at how the bud has unfurled completely. It’s a perfect spread of green strands around a red flower, a silent natural marvel.
She takes a sip of the fragrant tea, warm and sharp on her tongue. “I think he found out just after we -- just after our relationship began. He’s never said but I accessed the files. He’s known all these months and he has never ever mentioned it to me. And no --” she adds loudly, seeing the alarm in her mother’s expression. “No, I am not staying with him to keep you safe. I told you, I’m perfectly capable of handling myself, of handling him. I’m a Death Trooper.”
“You’re his weapon,” Lyra says faintly. It’s like she looks at Jyn in a whole new way, and it’s not an entirely unpleasant sensation.
“I’m my own weapon. It’s in his best interest to keep me happy, Mum. Don’t you see?”
Lyra looks away slowly, her anger dissipating to thoughtfulness. The crystal strung around her throat glimmers. Maybe it’ll be all right now. Jyn nudges the plate of biscuits toward her mother, feeling somehow like a little girl again, wanting the smile, the approval.
“He is faithful,” she says quietly.
“Men don’t change, Jyn.” Her mother glances back at her, all the worry back in her eyes and around her mouth. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can change any man with your love. It’s --”
“Then maybe you were wrong about him all this time. He is faithful to me, and I can trust him with my life. He trusts me with his.” She pauses, then says with some delicacy, looking down at the cup. “Think about it, Mummy. I could have killed him a hundred times over these past few months.” A grin again because it’s still such a delicious thought. “I may yet. And he still wants me with him.”
For the first time since they began this conversation, Lyra puts her hand over Jyn’s. It’s somehow familiar and achingly new, precious in a way that makes Jyn’s eyes prickle with tears. “What’s going to happen a year from now, two years? When that thing goes operational, when the Empire uses it against the Alliance, against the galaxy?” Lyra’s voice shakes. “Is this the side you really want to be on? Do you understand what that means?”
A betrayal of all her parents’ ideals.
“The Empire will never last, Jyn. Such … selfishness, such rampant cruelty --”
“They’re not the only cruelty in the galaxy.”
“No,” her mother replies, “but they’re the ones killing species and destroying planets. They’re the ones dressing up greed and despotism in the language of security and the greater order. Don’t be fooled, Jyn. If you love him, if you want him with you for more than a few months, what possible future can you have? The Empire will fall, either because of good people or because of its own corruption. Do you really want to be taken down with it?”
Jyn feels her face shake, feels her mother’s hand squeezing hers with something like remorse and compassion. “My darling,” Lyra murmurs.
“No, I understand,” Jyn manages through a throat choked with tears. “I know you mean well, I’m not -- I’m not blaming you.”
They sit in silence for a little while, drinking their cooling tea as the bruised air between them heals and the warm apartment flickers with rain. There’s a distant boom of thunder, a flash of light across stormclouds. And Lyra says kindly, “Tell me how he is with you. Is he …”
Jyn glances across as her mother’s voice trails off. Lyra scowls and clearly steels herself. “Is he tender with you?”
It takes Jyn a moment to understand and then she almost blushes. “Um. Yes? No, I mean,” she babbles when Lyra’s eyes narrow, “I mean, yes, of course he is.”
The heat of memory curls around her, all the nights in his bed learning his mouth and his freckles, learning to let him give her pleasure. She smiles to herself and feels it in every atom of her body, the secret knowledge and private joy. When she looks up, her mother is regarding her with an expression of odd recognition.
“He’s tender when I want him to be, let’s put it that way.”
Lyra’s eyes sparkle at that. In one moment, their relationship slides into a sort of maturity. Jyn senses it, looks across the counter and sees her mother as a woman of sexual knowledge in her own right. Unnerved and somehow pleased too, she smiles, and her mother dances her fingertips across the back of Jyn’s hand, an affectionate little thing from so long ago. In the cocoon of her parents’ apartment filled with her father’s scribblings and all the different trinkets and handmade things her mother has collected and been gifted from friends of different species across the galaxy, Jyn remembers. This is why she comes home to talk. Because her mother is the kind of person who, beyond her worry and her principles and her temper, will always try to understand.
This is why Jyn loves her.
Lyra sighs deeply as she reaches for another small biscuit. “You’re happy then.” The crystalline gaze rises. “He actually makes you happy.”
Her mouth curving, Jyn replies with confidence: “He does, Mummy. I love him.”
Lyra closes her eyes and shakes her head with a tiny laugh. “Your father is going to have an absolute fit.”
“I know,” Jyn says ruefully and wakes to the sound of rain on the sides of the Imperial shuttle. To the sleek heat of a naked male body tangled in warm sheets against her. There’s dancing rainlight on durasteel above, and she remembers now. They had come back to the shuttle in a balmy summer afternoon and made love and now he’s stirring against her, his hand moving across her bare midriff.
“What’s the matter?”
She loves his voice like this, all soft and slurry with sleep, the Imperial accent dissolved in dreams. As he touches her arm, she turns onto her side and snuggles closer, stroking his familiar lovely face with all its bold contours and graven lines. “Nothing,” she murmurs and kisses him. “Go back to sleep, everything’s all right.”
But it isn’t. Her dream of a clever vanished mother is right. The Empire can’t last, and Jyn wants so much more for them. For him. She watches as he sinks back into sleep, his silver brown hair rumpled across his brow. He is so precious to her, not to be given up ever.
But what does that mean? Will she have to fight him for a future together? Or wear him down with months of argument and persuasion?
In the comfortable chaos of their bed, she strokes the back of her hand down the centre of his chest, her mind circling around the aching familiarity of that impossible dream. She could wake him up and tell him, and he’d look at her with pity and tenderness, and she’d be grateful that they don’t need to talk about what it means.
They’ve already talked about that ghastly day on the black mud, she’s already screamed and torn into him with her rage and her grief and her conflicted searing love. Every now and then she needs to hurt him all over again, in an effort to reconcile these two awful loves. He has never expressed any regret, not the slightest contrition. That’s not him. Sometimes she tears into him for that too. And he never ever says no.
Jyn strokes the back of her hand against his thin tender mouth, against the little place where his upper lip juts out that she loves so much. Why can’t she take him away from all of this, like some noble hero sweeping the magical princess away? Why can’t they escape it all? How can they possibly escape the Empire?
She blinks, then lies very still for a long while, her mind ticking over very fast. Beside her, Krennic murmurs and rubs his cheek against the pillow. The rain continues in a soft roar, the air inside thick with absorbed summer heat. And Jyn flicks her fingers against his chest. “Wake up.”
A grunt. Krennic turns over, the dark sheets sliding down his pale arms and freckled back. With a grin, Jyn sinks her teeth into his shoulderblade and laughs when he flinches, squirming away. “What? I’m sleeping,” he complains. “I’m dreaming, leave me alone.”
But he does turn back to her, soft blue eyes and soft uneven mouth that she kisses quickly. “What were you dreaming?” she asks, curious. He lets out a scoffing sound even as he slides his hand down her arm, his expression contorting with such disgust that she guesses.
“The big guy with the bucket head?”
“That blithering arse,” he snarls with such venom she laughs again, always entertained by such idiotic male competition. Krennic watches her, all sulky before he clearly decides it’d be better to kiss her instead. His mouth is warm and soft, the weight of his body a familiar thrill as she coaxes him to come lie against her, his legs parting hers, his stirring cock nudging the smooth inside skin of her thigh. She twines her arms around his neck, raking the fingers of one hand up the back of his head through his hair the way he likes. And sure enough, he nearly purrs at that, pushing back into her touch. She looks at the precise beautiful line of his nose and mouth, and knows all over again how much of the galaxy she’d give away for him.
The summer rain falls all around the shuttle, their sleepy private world. And he opens clear blue grey eyes to her, curious and waiting.
“Listen,” she says. “I have something to tell you.”