As the horizon disappears before her eyes, erupting into the ever darkening sky, Jyn clings to the one person who has not abandoned her… who has never abandoned her. He’s had four chances, four times when no one would have questioned his decision to leave her behind, to let her go… but he never did.
Jedha: he’d had the information he’d needed, he’d had the living proof before him in the form of Bodhi, but he’d come back for her. He’d had every right to leave—he barely knew her, she’d made her contempt for the Rebellion quite clear, she’d given him no reason to trust her, hadn’t felt like giving him a reason to trust her—but he hadn’t. Even amidst the crumbling caverns where each rumble of the ceiling threatened a collapse that would surely kill him, he’d come and pulled her to her feet, urged her faster through the falling stones and all the way onto the safety of the ship.
It was a new experience for her, having someone go against their own self-preservation instincts and put their own life at risk for her sake. During her time with Saw Gerrera, the motto was: look out for yourself and no one else. If a comrade went down or was left behind, no one went back for them. She’d taken this to heart, particularly once Saw Gererra abandoned her six years before. Not once had she considered defending someone else at the risk of her own life, until she’d seen the crying girl in the middle of a firefight on Jedha. That girl had reminded her of innocence and loss and of what Jyn had not allowed herself when she witnessed her mother’s death.
But Jyn was not a lost, innocent child screaming for help in the middle of a firefight when Cassian came back for her. To him, she was sure she’d been nothing but a stubborn, self-absorbed, ungrateful pain in the ass. Apparently that hadn’t mattered to him.
Eadu: his mission had been accomplished—Galen Erso was dead—though not by his hand, and all he’d had to do was return to the U-Wing and leave. Instead he’d made his way onto the platform under heavy enemy fire and once again asked her to go with him, when she’d wanted nothing more than to lie down next to her father and join him and her mother in death.
At first she’d been in too much shock to contemplate why the Kriff he’d done that, and then she’d been too furious when she’d discovered he’d been sent to assassinate her father. She’d pressed and prodded at him verbally, looking for any chink in his armor of a calm, cool and calculating Captain, and when she’d found it, she’d sunk her knife in and twisted. Hard. She’d finally gotten a reaction, but he’d surprised her. If she hadn’t been hurting psychologically as much as she was, she would have recognized the validity of what he’d been saying—Force, she certainly recognized it now, as the end loomed before them.
At the time she hadn’t cared what he said, because nothing he could say would have changed the fact that he’d almost chosen to kill her father. She hadn’t listened then, but the conversation echoes endlessly in her head now. She has so many questions she’ll never get to ask. Why hadn’t he taken the shot? What had stopped him? Why had he come back for her? And what makes a six year old join a Rebellion?
Yavin 4: this time, he’d finally walked away from her without turning back, proving her theory that everyone leaves eventually, given enough time. Or so she’d thought. And she wouldn’t have blamed him, given the pain her words had obviously caused. She’d stood alone, pleading to the Council, pleading for a cause that she hadn't believed in the day before. But she believed in it then, with all her heart, and she’d thought maybe she was beginning to understand what motivates Cassian Andor, how a person could believe in a cause and an idea so much that he would do anything to see it succeed, even at the cost of his own physical and mental health.
She’d left the meeting disheartened and furious, unsure of what to do next. And then he’d returned, with an entire force of volunteer rebels who believed in the Cause just as much as he did and were willing to trust him and follow him, even while disobeying the will of the Council. He’d given her a home—even if just for a few fleeting moments—and his forgiveness. In turn, she gave him hers.
Scarif: when he’d been hit by the blaster and fallen two stories, striking beam after beam, she’d screamed his name. In anger and in fear, because here, finally, was someone who had three times had the choice to leave her, to abandon her, and three time had chosen to stay. Now that she’d finally had someone who stayed by her side by choice, in a cruel twist of fate, the universe had taken that choice away from him and in turn taken him away from her. She’d only been able to spare a moment to look at his motionless body lying on the grate stories below her, before she’d had to wrench her eyes away from the sight and climb. Climb. Climb. She’d thought he was gone, that he’d finally abandoned her, though it hadn’t been his choice.
And then, staring Krennic down, defiance flowing through every vein in her body, she’d known she would die alone and oh how fitting that would be. Everyone left her, so why not be alone at the end, too? When she’d heard the telltale sound of a blaster, she’d flinched in response, prepared for pain and death… but even then, she hadn’t been alone. When she’d opened her eyes, she could hardly believe what she saw. Cassian Andor, standing before her—well, leaning heavily on a pillar—holding the blaster he’d just fired to save her life. He’d climbed all the way up the tower while injured—she didn’t know how badly, but the thuds of his body striking the metal beams were still reverberating in her head—and come back.
She wants to ask him why, why he didn’t leave her, but she thinks she’s beginning to understand. Because it’s who he is. Cassian Andor is not the kind of man who leaves someone behind. He’s the kind of man who stands and fights for what he believes in, who takes hits for the sake of the greater good, who protects those around him but will never allow himself to be called a hero, even though she sees so clearly that that’s exactly what he is.
So she clings to this man as the world falls apart, she hugs him close in an effort to convey her thanks and gratitude that words can no longer express; the roar of a wounded planet is too loud. She feels his arms tighten around her, though not as tightly as she holds him—he is dying after all. During their trip down the elevator and onto the beach, she had had to support more and more of his weight, though she could see him trying his hardest not to burden her. His breathing had grown more and more labored and his uniform had gotten darker and darker from the blaster wound in his side.
And all of a sudden, he’s pulling away, and she wants to rage because she thinks it’s the strength of the Death Star’s blast that’s finally reached them—though it still appears far off on the horizon—and is forcing them apart, forcing them to face the end alone, but then he’s pulling her to her feet and shouting something she can’t hear over the roaring wind. His hands on her shoulders turn her and push her forwards. She’s confused for a moment, until her eyes land on what she hadn’t seen because she faced the ocean: Rogue One landing just a little distance away, hatch already open with Baze motioning furiously to them.
One step after another, she and Cassian race to their miracle.
As they stumble on board and collapse to the floor on their backs, the hatch closing and the transport rocketing into the sky, she realizes she’s rarely hoped for anything, too jaded and pessimistic. She hadn’t hoped to be rescued, she’d been so sure in the knowledge that their ship had been destroyed. She hadn’t hoped that her friends would survive, because surely that would be impossible. But here they are and here the ship is, ready to spirit them away from the doomed base. Now that she has something she’d never even dared to hope for, she couldn’t imagine life without it. She has someone who she knows will stand by her through thick and thin—who has done it four times already—and she suspects she has a whole family of someone’s in this shuttle ready to stand with her, if she gives them the chance.
Baze pulls Jyn into a seat and leaves her to strap herself in, immediately turning back and placing Cassian in the seat to her right and helping him with the buckles. Jyn turns to her left and sees Chirrut sitting next to her, his head leaned back against the ship, eyes closed and a small smile on his face. Baze settles in on Chirrut’s far side, buckling in quickly and reaching over to place a hand on Chirrut’s side, where Jyn can see a dark stain spreading. Bodhi yells from the pilot’s seat to hang on to something, so she does. She curls her hand around Cassian’s and thinks that rebellions are not the only things built on hope.