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heart in a headlock

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you say too late to start, with your heart in a headlock
you know you're better than this.

.

.

Jyn heard a story once, many years ago now -- the storyteller’s identity lost to the depths of memory -- of a great queen of a great empire, on her deathbed, croaking to her servants, All my possessions for a moment of time. The moral of the story, she recalls being told, is that no amount of things can buy even another second of life. 

In this moment, with the memory of the space station eclipsing the sun burning in her mind, and Cassian’s faltering breath both too close and not close enough, she thinks the old queen had a much different, much simpler motive:

I would give up everything I have ever had to feel something -- anything, any of the myriad emotions, good and bad, any of the storms or the summer breezes or the winter freezes, the loves and the losses and the bitter betrayals and all the mornings she’s woken up alone and all the mornings she’s left someone behind sleeping, the pain and the joy and the heartbreak and the rapture -- to have any one of these sensations back in my hands, for just one more moment.

All she feels right now is exhausted, drained. It’s not a good way to die.

She decides to make for the lift, for the ground, if for no other reason than to feel steady earth under her feet for one last time.

“Come on,” she mutters under her breath, and Cassian -- bewildering Cassian, the captain who betrayed her but at the same time defied orders to not betray her, the man who believed in her when he had no decent reason to do so, who came here on the faith that Galen Erso had not lied -- is standing beside her dying and yet rallying his strength anyway to follow her.

At least, she thinks in a faroff sort of way, I’m not going to die alone.

It’s worth something to her, here now at the bottom of things.

But there’s another noise, a closer noise, before they reach the lift, and there’s a ship -- their ship -- with her cargo bay wide open, beckoning, and it’s a long-shot chance but it’s the only one they’ve got so they half-jump, half-fall into her and hit the floor rolling.

It’s Bodhi, come back for them with an empty ship.

Jyn jams a fist into the console to close the cargo door, and wonders, with no small amount of hysteria, if this means that the universe expects her to hold up her end of the bargain.

.

“Chirrut?” she asks Bodhi, while Cassian sinks, wincing, into the co-pilot’s seat. He had refused to stay in the cargo bay, and she honestly can’t say she blames him; it’s haunted down there, with the echoes of all the people who came here with them and who they’re leaving behind. “Baze?”

Bodhi shakes his head. “I don’t know,” he replies, hands shaking on the controls as they escape the atmosphere. “But I saw an explosion from that way. I chanced a fly-by but I didn’t see anyone moving.”

Even if they were alive, she thinks, as the atmosphere behind them scorches burning white, they aren’t anymore.

We are the only survivors of Scarif, she thinks. Of the whole planet, really, since even this small display of the weapon’s power is enough to wipe a world clean of life.

“But we succeeded,” Cassian says, voice strained like he’s holding back a cough, and then sighs, leaning back into the seat. She wonders if he believes it.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” Bodhi snaps, reaching out with a semi-free hand to smack him on the arm. “Don’t fall asleep, you can’t fall asleep. Jyn, tell him not to go to sleep.”

“You probably have a concussion,” she agrees, nudging him. He cringes, so she nudges him again, harder. “You can’t sleep until we get you some kind of help. Speaking of…” she trails off, glancing at Bodhi. There’s no way they’ll get back to Yavin IV before Cassian crashes entirely, and while she does know basic first aid, he’s far beyond any kind of bandages and bacta patches she could throw at him. Most of it’s internal, anyway.

“I can get us to a few places nearby,” Bodhi mutters, and glances at a map. “But mostly they’re Imperial. Tatooine isn’t far, neither is Mon Gazza. I vote Mon Gazza, two trade runs pass through it, we’ll have better -- “

“Not Mon Gazza,” Cassian groans. They both look at him. “It’s nothing but spice and underground podracers.”

“Well…” Bodhi starts, but Jyn cuts him off.

“If it’s got podracing, it’s got medics.”

“Have you ever seen a podrace?” Cassian counters weakly.

“You crash in a podrace, and there’s no medic in the universe that can save you,” Bodhi chimes in. “Tatooine?”

“Tatooine is Hutt territory,” Jyn snaps. “They’re no friends of the Imperials, but they’d sell us out to them in seconds.”

“So we don’t tell them who we are,” Bodhi suggests, but seems to see something in her face. “I feel like you’ve met them before.”

She cringes, and changes the subject. “Ryloth?”

“I don’t know if we can make it to Ryloth…”

“It’s about as far away as Mon Gazza!”

“But there we’d have a better chance at getting off the planet,” Bodhi counters. “It would be worth it to try to make it there. Ryloth, not so much.”

“Well -- “ she starts, but then Cassian begins coughing, hard, and his hand comes away from his mouth with bright red blood. She freezes, jaw set. “Whatever inhabited planet is closest.”

“Tatooine it is, then.”

.

They land in Mos Espa, and even manage to get Cassian to what passes for a hospital in these parts, which Bodhi seems to find reassuring, but Jyn knows better -- this will put them deep in Jabba’s pockets, because he’s not stupid enough to hear about rebel attack on Scarif and bedraggled rebels drifting into his city with one half-dead man and two shellshocked soldiers, and not put the pieces together.

Their best bet would be to go to Jabba before he can come to them. That way they could at least make a show of offering him something in exchange for shelter, rather than being blackmailed outright.

But that would mean she’d have to leave the hospital, since she’s not sure that Bodhi -- terrified, soft-hearted, traumatized Bodhi -- is really the right person to send to Jabba, if for no other reason than she’s not sure she could be cruel enough to do it to him.

Jabba is not the sort of person you go up against without being very certain of just what sort of person you're going up against.

She supposes, sitting in the hot “waiting room” while some droids work on Cassian, that they’ll just have to hope that Jabba has something brighter than them on his radar.

.

It takes a full day in a bacta tank before Cassian can even be taken to a room, and although Jyn is not exactly uninjured herself, she refuses the droids’ attempts to treat her while he’s in there -- bacta, in that quantity, isn’t cheap, and she already owed Jabba before coming here. Once the bill for Cassian’s treatment comes in, they’ll be in serious trouble.

“We may need to sell the ship,” she tells Bodhi, who gives her a look like she’s grown a second head.

“What? Why?"

“To pay for this,” she says under her breath. “We’ll need enough to pay for the medical bill, and it’s going to be steep,” she explains, and deftly ignores the fact that, if Jabba finds out who she is, it’s going to be significantly steeper. “The only thing we have that’s that valuable is the ship. If we sell it for enough, we can also buy passage back to base.”

“What if we just…” Bodhi whispers, then pauses as an aide passes them, “leave without paying?”

She cringes. If she hadn’t already done that to Jabba once -- or, well, if Kestrel Dawn hadn’t done that to Jabba once, in the event that had necessitated a new identity -- she would consider it. But she’d end up in carbonite for the rest of eternity if they got caught, and they probably would get caught. Jabba is very good at catching people who skipped out on their debts, and isn’t known for being forgiving to those who did it twice.

“It’s too dangerous,” she replies.

“And selling our only way out of here isn’t?”

“Mos Eisley isn’t far,” she counters. “It’s a major smuggler’s hub. We’ll be able to find passage.”

“We should ask Cassian,” Bodhi says, crossing his arms, and she purses her lips. It’s not that she’s against it -- Cassian is a spy, he probably knows how deep in sithspit they’ll be if they run afoul of Jabba the Hutt -- but she isn’t sure they’ve got the time. The aides are saying he’ll be out of the tank shortly, but he’ll need at least another day of rest before he can get back on his feet, and they’ll need to hit the ground running. She and Bodhi need to have everything already arranged by the time Cassian is ready to get out of the hospital bed.

“I don’t know if we’ve got that kind of time,” she mutters darkly, and Bodhi gives her the closest thing to a glare she thinks she’s ever seen on his face.

“What are you hiding? Have you been here before?”

She clenches her jaw, but there’s nothing for it but the truth. “I have,” she admits. “If Jabba finds out I’m here, he’s going to shake me down until my teeth fall out. We need to get in and out of here as fast as possible, and if we can do it without making any fuss, all the better.”

“How much do you owe him?”

“That’s not important,” she answers, because the truth is that she isn’t sure. It was a few years ago, and Jabba is absolutely the sort to charge interest when his black little heart wills it.

How is it not important?” Bodhi hisses, aghast.

“It’s a lot, all right?” she snaps back. “I was seventeen, I wasn’t exactly the galaxy’s best smuggler. But we’re here now,” she adds, crossing her arms and leaning against the uncomfortable metal seat, wishing distantly for a shower and wondering when she last ate real food. There had been protein bars in the ship’s med kit, so she isn’t actually starving to death, but only sort of wishing she was. “So we have to deal with what’s in front of us. Best-case scenario, we get out of here without Jabba finding out we were ever in this sector. But I don’t see a way to make that happen without a lot of credits.”

“We could steal?” Bodhi suggests, but he doesn’t sound very convinced. “I mean, if it turns out that it’s not that expensive, we could always try to pick someone’s pockets.”

“I don’t think anybody on Tatooine is going to have ten thousand credits in their back pocket,” she growls through clenched teeth.

“Selling our only way off of the planet, so that we can get off the planet without trouble, doesn’t sound like a good idea to me,” he replies sullenly.

“Well, come up with a better one in the next six hours and we’ll talk,” she snaps. He’s tapping his feet with nervous energy, hands on his knees, and she thinks he’s probably wondering if he shouldn’t have just left them on the Citadel tower. The thought opens up a gaping maw in her mind, a black hole she’s been circling for the past day, that threatens to crush her whole.

She’s not going to think about Scarif, she tells herself. Not going to think about Chirrut and Baze, not going to think about Melshi and Tonc and all the others she’d given that rousing speech to, encouraging them to go out and die. Not going to think about Cassian hitting every support strut on the way down. Not going to think about Kay telling them to climb.

The problem is, if she’s not thinking about it, she’s got nothing else right now to think of.

Luckily, a droid comes in after only a few more minutes, and tells them that Cassian is in a room now, and they’re welcome to come in and visit him if they like. He’s still out, but should wake up before too long.

“You see, it wouldn’t take long for us to treat you, miss,” the droid continues, but Jyn waves it off. “You have significant bruising and you are limping, which is possibly indicative of broken bones and internal injuries. Please allow us to care for -- “

“I’m fine,” she grumbles, and they walk into the room. It’s not a private one -- there really aren’t private rooms in this sort of hospital, only a bunch of beds lining the walls -- but there are only a few other patients there, although they eye her with a curiosity that’s unsettling.

Because they recognize them as rebels, she wonders, or because they recognize her as Kestrel? Or maybe they don’t recognize them at all, but just wonder why they’re here.

The old paranoia, cultivated by nearly seven years on her own, wraps itself around her like a security blanket.

She’d almost, surrounded by people who would have her back and fight for and with her, people she could almost say she trusted, been able to cast it aside.

Oh well.

When they get to his bed, Cassian looks peaceful, even serene, like he’s having a good dream, and for a moment she envies him the sleep. But only for a moment; if there’s anyone in the galaxy who deserves a few hours of blissful sleep, it’s Cassian, who, to her, seems to be perpetually stressed out of his mind. He looks younger like this, too, maybe only a couple of years older than her, and she takes his hand without thinking.

It’s only just settling in that they’re really alive -- after everything, after the Citadel, after the Death Star’s appearance -- they are here and alive and breathing. She’d been so certain they were going to die, and she’d been so desperate to feel anything other than hollow, clawing fear squeezing her heart to dust, that she never even considered what might happen to them if they didn’t.

Where do they go from here? Back to Yavin IV? They ought to -- they should see the job through, make sure that the plans got delivered, make sure that Galen Erso really wasn’t lying -- but at the same time, she’d really just like to sit here for a few more days, sleeping as peacefully as Cassian is right now, dreaming happy dreams of better times.

(And also, a small part of her thinks, where do we -- meaning Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor -- go from here?)

“So what are we going to do?” Bodhi asks, startling her out of her reverie, and she realizes that she’s been staring at the sleeping captain. “About payment?”

She clenches her jaw. “You already know what I think we need to do.”

“Yes, but that’s a terrible idea,” he hisses, worry making him sound nastier than he probably means.

“So come up with another one,” she replies wearily, sinking into the seat beside Cassian’s bed and finally releasing his hand. There probably isn’t a better plan to be had.

“We could bomb Jabba’s lair,” he suggests, and she raises an eyebrow.

“Do you have bombs?”

“We could find bombs.”

“Do you know where Jabba’s lair is?”

“No, but you do, right?”

“Not really, no.” It’s sort of a lie -- she knows it’s in the Dune Sea somewhere, but camouflaged to blend into the sand, and she has no idea whatsoever how deep in it is. Short of carpet-bombing the entirety of the Dune Sea between here and Anchorhead, she can’t really see how they’d manage to destroy it.

“Oh.”

“Selling the ship is our safest option,” she sighs. “There are plenty of smugglers in Mos Eisley who will take us off the planet. Maybe not all the way back to base, but at least out of Hutt territory. We can make it work.”

“Could we at least negotiate that before selling the ship?” Bodhi asks, taking his goggles off and nervously messing with them without any apparent purpose.

“One of us could run on ahead to Mos Eisley,” she says. “But they’re not going to let him leave until the bill is paid.”

“We could -- “ he starts, but then one of the human aides walks up.

“Miss Dawn?” the woman says, in a deceptively pleasant voice, and Jyn bites back a groan, considering whether or not it would be worth it to feign ignorance. Glancing up at the smiling attendant, she decides that it would probably just end with her frozen in carbonite. Not that that's an unlikely outcome at the moment anyway, but it's probably better not to push her luck at this point.

“Dawn?” Bodhi asks, and Jyn sighs.

“That’s me,” she replies.

“We need to discuss the subject of payment, Miss Dawn,” the attendant says, still in that light, pleasant voice. Jyn wonders whether or not she’s some kind of ridiculously human-looking droid.

“Of course we do,” she mutters, standing up and wincing at the pain in every muscle, reasserting itself now that she had almost let herself believe they’d get a chance to rest. The attendant raises an eyebrow at her wince.

“You should have let us treat you, Miss Dawn.”

“Thanks, but I’m already deep enough in Jabba’s debt,” she growls, glancing back at Bodhi and shrugging. He looks panicked, but it’s not like there’s anything she can do about it.

“Then how much damage could a few thousand more credits do?” the attendant asks cheerfully, and Jyn cringes.

“Was that supposed to be reassuring?” she asks, and the attendant laughs a bit as they step into a lift.

“No.”

.

She’s handcuffed and shuffled into a speeder that sets off at a breakneck pace into the Dune Sea, and wishes deeply that she didn’t know where it was taking her.

It’ll be a while, she thinks; she’s only been to Jabba’s palace once, and from another direction, but if her vague mental map of the planet is accurate (a big if, frankly), they’ve got most of a day of traveling ahead of them before they get to it. It would be prudent to sleep, except the hot air and the high speed is whipping sand in her face even as she raises her scarf to shield herself from the worst of it. It’s so bad that she wishes they’d thrown a bag over her head like Saw’s men did.

Even if she’d wanted to talk to any of these people, they wouldn’t hear her over the wind.

So she’s left to huddle, burrowed into her scarf like some small, frightened animal, and think.

The past week hasn’t been kind in many ways, but the one way -- the one single way that it has been on her side -- is that she hasn’t had the time to stop and dwell on it. It’s been so chaotic, one crisis to another to another to what she had truly believed would be certain doom, that mourning the dead and processing the information she’s been bombarded with hasn’t even registered on her priorities.

Shavit, it’s only been a week. Less than, really -- a week ago today, she was waking up in an Imperial prison listening to her cellmate tell her that she was going to kill her.

Since that time, she’s found and lost and found a home, found and lost her surrogate father, found and lost her biological father, found and lost a surrogate family, gone through at least three near-death experiences that she can think of off the top of her head, narrowly escaped the Empire’s greatest weapon twice, and ended up here, on the godsforsaken rock of Tatooine, being shuttled to meet and explain herself to Jabba the damn Hutt.

It’s like every piece of bad karma she’s ever earned decided to catch up to her all at once.

(Or maybe not, she thinks again. At least she’s not alone anymore, in general if not in this specific instant.)

Jyn wonders if this is how the Force works: you spend half your life trying to escape its pull, only to have it wrench you violently back into its path the moment it gets a foothold in your life. She fingers her mother’s crystal at her neck, and wishes that she’d ever asked where it came from. Was her mother a Jedi, once upon a time? Or was she a guardian like Chirrut? She knows that Lyra had believed firmly, almost desperately, in the Force, had staked her whole life on it and ended up dead in a field anyway.

She realizes that she doesn’t even know if her mother ever got a funeral, or if her bones are still there on Lah’mu, waiting in vain for anyone to come back for her.

She clenches her jaw tightly to banish the thought, with little success.

The twin suns begin to set.

It’s going to be a long, long night.

.

The first thing Cassian becomes aware of is the sound of an incessant tapping.

The second is that he feels absolutely no pain, which has become something of an anomaly in his life.

The third is that he’s laying in a bed in a hot, dry room.

He tries, with limited success, to sit up, and someone’s hands help him. He blinks in the white, artificial light and looks up into the anxious eyes of Bodhi Rook.

“Hi,” Bodhi says, and something in his face tells Cassian that there is very bad news hiding there.

“Where are we?” he asks, instead of going straight for the bad.

“Tatooine,” Bodhi replies, which is confusing, since the last thing Cassian remembers talking about is Mon Gazza. “It was the closest inhabited planet we could get to. You’ve been in a bacta tank for most of a day, but you’re better now, so that’s good.”

He runs a hand over his face and glances around. “Where is Jyn?” he asks, and Bodhi’s wince tells him that that is, most likely, the Bad News. “She’s all right, isn’t she?”

“Er…” Bodhi starts, cringing. “Probably? Apparently she owed Jabba the Hutt a lot of money, she didn’t tell me how much, but they came and took her away to discuss payment, it sounded bad.”

He blinks. Owed Jabba the Hutt a lot of money is one of those phrases that is usually only found in obituaries.

“What’s our plan?” he asks, but doubts that Bodhi has an answer. He’s a good guy, a solid ally, and exceptionally smart in his own sphere, but Bodhi runs on a rabbit’s sort of fear, the kind that drives a person to do great things because they’re kriffing terrified of what will happen if they stop running. It’s a fear that makes a man brave, but only rarely creative. Most likely, he was expecting to hash out a plan with Cassian, because hell if he knows how to deal with Jabba the Hutt.

(Cassian does know how to deal with Jabba the Hutt, and that’s “don’t.”)

“Well, Jyn’s original plan was to sell the ship and use the money to pay off the hospital and buy us passage out of here,” Bodhi answers, as if it’s an actual answer. “But that was before they identified her. She was hoping we could get out of here without coming up on his radar, but we didn’t. Obviously.” He hesitates, then plunges forward. “I’ve been trying to come up with something, but I can’t think of anything. We’ve got no weapons on us, no money, nothing to sell except the ship or our own bodies and I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like a good idea to me, we don’t really know the city unless you know the city, do you know the city?”

Cassian takes a deep breath, recalling how Bodhi babbled back on Eadu -- he’s nervous, and that’s how he responds to anxiety. He wonders what, exactly, he’s most nervous about. There are a lot of possibilities. “What city are we in?” he asks, running a hand over his face. “Mos Eisley?”

“Mos Espa.”

He lets out the breath. Hell if he knows his way around Mos Espa. It used to be a slaving city, and some people claimed it still was, albeit underground, and was firmly in Hutt territory, so he’s never come anywhere near the place.

“Never been here before.”

Bodhi slumps. “Me neither. I’ve never even been on this planet before.”

He clenches a fist under the sheet. If this hospital is run by Jabba’s people -- and it probably is -- then they’re not getting out of here without paying, or at least he isn’t. Maybe he can send Bodhi to go find credits, somewhere, but where? Tatooine isn’t exactly the richest place in the galaxy, and trying to steal from some of its richer wayfarers is a great way to get a blaster bolt to the eye. Selling the ship really does seem to be the best option, but then how do they get Jyn?

You could always just leave her, his self-preservation mutters, but he ignores it. He made that decision all the way back on Jedha, if he was ever going to leave her behind it would have been then: now he’s too deep in her thrall to ever just walk away.

Why the hell did Jyn let them come to Tatooine if she owed Jabba money?

He asks Bodhi as much, but gets a pained grimace in response. “You were in bad shape,” he replies. “I don’t think we could have gotten you anywhere safer.”

“Christophsus is closer,” Cassian snaps. “It’s right there by Scarif.”

Bodhi shakes his head. “It’s firmly in Imperial territory, and we were already heading away from it. It was Tatooine or let you die.”

What he doesn’t say: And so Jyn made the objectively wrong decision for herself, because it would save your life.

He doesn’t recall her being particularly badly injured -- nothing that wouldn’t heal on its own, at any rate -- so it was just Cassian’s life on the line.

And she’d decided that he was worth the risk.

“What about the Alliance?” he asks a bit desperately. “Can we contact them?”

“I tried that, sort of,” Bodhi answers, sighing. “I got a lot of Imperial chatter, they’re looking for some droids here. It’s not safe.”

“Droids?”

Bodhi nods. “A pair of droids. They didn’t say why.”

So the Empire is looking for a pair of droids on the same gods-damned rock that they fled to with the hope of saving Cassian’s own life; the thought enters his head like a knife to the back: the plans for the Death Star might be with those droids.

But why would they be here? Unless the Alliance ship carrying them had been captured, and somebody decided to send a copy off to the nearest inhabited planet, in the hopes that someone was there? Maybe they’d seen Rogue One leave in this direction?

Something didn’t add up. But he couldn’t think of anything else a pair of droids might have that would lead the Empire to Tatooine.

“We’ll need to find those droids,” he says quietly, swinging his feet over the side of the bed to sit up fully. “After we find Jyn.”

“Right,” Bodhi replies, nodding. “But how?”

Cassian runs a hand through his hair. That’s the question, isn’t it?

.

The first sun is beginning to rise when they come up on Jabba’s lair, a building that looks like an old monastery out in the wastes of the desert, and Jyn startles out of the fugue state she’s been in for the past hour, staring at the floor of the speeder, too strung-out and anxious for sleep but too tired to think anymore.

One of Jabba’s aides jams her in the back with his blaster, forcing her to her feet and out of the speeder; she moves slowly and stiffly, more of a stagger than a walk, as they file into the building.

It’s strikingly cold in the monastery, and loud -- music is playing from some hall nearby, people are jabbering all around in languages she barely knows, and nobody pays them much attention at all as they filter through, even though they come with a hostage in handcuffs.

Then again, hostages in handcuffs are probably a common sight in this place.

Even though she knows what to expect, has met Jabba before, somehow she’s still unsettled when they walk into his throne room.

It’s just that he’s so large, takes up space like a traumatic memory, shoving aside and poisoning everything around him with his existence, twisting the air he breathes into a knife.

He speaks in Huttese, but everyone who deals with Jabba learns very quickly how to understand Huttese.

Kestrel Dawn,” he says, and she thanks her lucky stars that he doesn’t appear to know her real name.

“Yep, that’s me,” she replies, in Common, because she’s a stubborn little bitch and it’s all she’s got to hold onto right now.

I was surprised to hear you were back on my planet,” he goes on, sliding forward like a snail. She wonders if he leaves a trail behind him, but makes no move to look. “You must have been desperate to save your… companion.”

She flinches involuntarily at the word. “He was badly injured,” she answers. “Tatooine was the closest inhabited place.”

Badly injured how?” he asks, and she deliberately misunderstands him.

“Internal injuries, mostly,” she says flippantly. “Broken ribs, punctured lung, that sort of thing.”

“I wonder how he managed that,” Jabba’s aide says beside her, in a deceptively neutral voice. They know -- they all know -- that she and Cassian and Bodhi are rebels from Scarif, but damn if she’s going to just admit it to their smug faces.

“Got into a fight over a podrace in Mon Gazza,” she replies, shrugging. “We bet a lot of money, and lost.”

Jabba laughs, a terrible sound to hear and an even worse one to see, as it ripples over his entire body. “I wonder why you try to lie,” he chortles, but doesn’t press her for details. “That’s not why I brought you here. You owe me a lot of money, Kestrel,” he says, crossing his arms. “I want it back.”

“Well, I haven’t got it right now,” she replies, because there’s really no point in trying to bluff about this one. “I can get it, but it’ll take time.”

You’ve had five and a half years.

“Yeah, well, I haven’t had a very steady job,” she snaps, and he grins.

That’s not my concern. You will pay me.”

“With what?” she snarls, already knowing what the answer will be: her service, for an indeterminate amount of time. She just hopes that, if she can’t talk her way out of this one, Bodhi and Cassian leave without her. They don’t deserve to be trapped on this dusty rock.

But Jabba surprises her.

What is it you value most, Kestrel?” he asks, and she freezes. It’s not like Jyn has ever kept much of value -- her blaster was probably the most valuable thing she had, but it’s long gone with the rest of Scarif. But still, she lands on an option.

“I have a ship,” she replies desperately, but Jabba shakes his head.

“He didn’t ask what the most expensive thing you have is,” the aide hisses in her ear. “He asked what the most valuable thing is. You’ve got to be taught a lesson, Jyn Erso,” he adds, and she forces herself not to flinch. Figures that Jabba would toy with her hope like this. It's a stark reminder of why she gave up on the emotion in the first place.

You’ve got a kyber crystal,” Jabba says, and she wonders darkly why he bothered to ask when he already knew what he wanted.

You’ve got to be taught a lesson. Humiliation is the point.

It makes sense. To Jabba, ten or twenty thousand credits isn't all that much. It’s the principle of the thing, to lord over her that he can take whatever the hell he wants from her, that he has absolute power over her right now, and there's not a damned thing she can do about it. It's not about the money, and it never was. She humiliated him by escaping and then getting away with it for five and a half years; it's not a debt that can be paid with credits.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she growls, and the aide reaches out and, almost delicately, pulls her mother’s pendant out of her shirt. How the hell did he know about it? “It was a gift from my mother. It’s worthless.”

“In credits, perhaps,” the aide says. “A gift from your dead mother, which you still carry with you to this day, I imagine is very valuable to you.”

You have a choice,” Jabba says, eyes alight with a disturbing cheer. “You can give me the crystal, or you can come into my service until your debt is paid.

It’ll take years, if not decades, of service to pay off that debt.

“There has to be something -- “ she starts, but Jabba cuts her off.

If you don’t choose one of these,” he says, almost lazily, “I’ll have your injured companion killed.”

Cassian and Bodhi can probably handle themselves against whoever Jabba throws at them, assuming that Cassian is awake, and that they can find weapons, and that not every single person at the hospital is in Jabba’s pocket.

Her eyes land on the crystal, Lyra’s gift to her, Lyra’s faith, the last remnant she has of the last time she felt like she was safe and had a real home. It’s always stood for hope, to Jyn, been the one light in the darkness when she’s had nothing else to guide her -- she’s always had her mother’s gift, her mother’s faith, her mother’s love tied around her neck and resting against her heart. When Jyn has had nothing else, she has had her mother’s crystal.

It’s just a thing, she thinks. It’s not worth more than a person. It’s not worth more than Cassian.

But it’s her mother, it’s everything her mother stood for and believed in and gave to her. Her mother, the last person who didn’t let her down.

(Cassian came up to the catwalk, bruised and broken, to help her when he had no reason at all to believe in her in the first place.)

The strongest stars have hearts of Kyber.

Trust in the Force. 

“All right,” she whispers, unable to speak any louder. “It’s yours. Let us go.”

Jabba grins, the aide snaps the necklace from her neck and walks away with it, and another aide shoves her out of the throne room and out of Jabba’s palace and back onto the speeder.

She feels blinded, even as the dawn-light lands on her.