Weirdly enough, it was Shara who brought it up.
Jyn didn’t really know her well at the time. She knew Kes, who she’d sworn at and bled on and fought alongside, and she knew that Shara knew Cassian, in the same way all the Alderaanian speakers knew a little of each other in the aftermath of Alderaan’s destruction (did you lose -? no, but my father was born there, he remembers - or worse, yes, my sister and all her kids). But she and Shara were on friendly terms and nothing more. Shara’s brand of bold and witty was one she appreciated, but from a distance. Most of what she knew about the other woman came in asides from Cassian, or rhapsodies from Kes, who was wildly in love and didn’t care who knew it. It was kind of sweet.
They were drinking some days after the Battle of Hoth, in the cramped cabin Cassian and Jyn were sharing, and Shara was too pale, her jaw too set, her eyes too bright. She kept folding the corner of a picture over with her thumb, and then smoothing it back.
“Credit for them,” Jyn said, settling her back better against the wall and eyeing Cassian and Kes, who were fully absorbed in a dejarik battle to the death, complete with noisy sound effects.
“Credit for your thoughts,” Jyn elaborated, and tipped more of the bottle into Shara’s far from empty glass.
“I was thinking about my son,” Shara said, “thanks,” and tipped a lot of alcohol down her throat.
“Yeah?” Jyn said. She remembered Shara’s baby; she’d met him several times before Shara and Kes had taken him off Hoth to go and live with Shara’s father, only a few months ago. He’d stopped looking like a screaming red potato, and had started to giggle and smile and crawl like a tiny, fearless demon. He liked pulling Cassian’s hair, and yanking on Jyn’s crystal, and chewing Baze’s braids. He liked everyone.
It was probably a good thing the battle had happened several months after he’d gone to live with Shara’s dad. But it was still too close a call.
“My dad’s sick,” Shara said abruptly. “He’ll probably get better. The meddroids give him good odds. But I keep thinking. If…”
“I just.” Shara put her glass down on the blanket and rubbed her hands over her eyes. The picture lay flat on her lap; a smiling baby, his face almost hidden by the oversized fluffy hood on his coat.
Jyn picked up the glass before either of them could knock it over. “Come on, Shara,” she said.
“Who would take care of him?” Shara said. Her voice had gone whispery.
Across the cabin, Kes twitched, and his eyes shot sideways. Jyn shook her head at him.
“You don’t think Cassian and I would leave your kid to the kind of shit we grew up with,” Jyn said.
Shara lifted her head and stared at Jyn.
Jyn lifted one shoulder in an awkward shrug. “Stay alive. I wouldn’t be a good parent. But we wouldn’t abandon him, Shara.”
Shara had eyes like obsidian, except obsidian couldn’t go soft. Jyn transferred the glass to her other hand and gripped Shara’s fingers tightly, feeling clumsily sincere.
Shara rested her forehead on Jyn’s shoulder, and Jyn leaned her cheek against Shara’s head and closed her eyes. The room was spinning slightly, but she was pretty sure she meant what she’d just said as much as she’d ever meant anything in her life.
“I think you need some water,” Cassian said. The dejarik game had been left to its own devices.
“No,” Jyn said sarcastically. “Really?”
When Kes had carried Shara out - her feet collided with the cabin door, but her head did not, so there was at least one win for Kes’s drunken reflexes - Cassian locked the cabin door and turned to Jyn, who was piling up crockery somewhere they wouldn’t stand on it. In practice this meant stacking glasses and disposable plates stolen from the mess on top of the dejarik game, which was still active, and whose holographic players were protesting their abandonment.
“You think we’d make good parents?” said Cassian.
“No,” Jyn said. “I think if there’s no-one else left, someone should keep the kid alive.”
Cassian walked up behind her, telegraphing his movements with an unnatural amount of noise and clearly demonstrating that he thought she was on edge, and wrapped his arms around her waist.
Jyn thought of a bunker, and a lamp that flickered, and the way the light flooded in. Hurry, child. It had been a rescue then, but it hadn’t stayed that way, not if you thought about the weapons he’d pressed into a child’s hands, or the blood on her teeth and bile in her stomach when she killed her first traitor at twelve; and Jyn couldn’t remember the relief of the first bunker on Lah’mu without remembering the second on Tamsye Prime.
“We’d do better by him than Saw did by me,” she said.
Cassian rested his chin on her shoulder for a long, thoughtful moment, and then he turned his face to kiss her neck, softly, on the pulse point under her ear. She shivered, and pretended it was only about the kiss.
“Yeah,” Cassian murmured.
They were silent for a while, and then Jyn let out a sigh and leaned back into Cassian’s arms.
“Let’s go to bed,” she said.
Weapons inventory didn’t give a fuck about your hangovers. Jyn and Kes worked in grim silence, nursing their pounding headaches in solidarity, and freaking out the trainees who had seen their first battle as part of the disastrous retreat from Hoth and still weren’t sure if it was true that Pathfinders could rip your spine out through your oesophagus.
Jyn wasn’t sure if that was true either, since she had never tried.
“So,” Kes said eventually, when the worst of the hammering inside Jyn’s skull had stopped. “You and Shara had a, uh, conversation last night, and I just wanted to say, you were very kind, but we know that -”
“If it came to it,” Jyn said flatly, before this could get any worse, “your kid would be safe with us.” She put down the scope she was trying to reunite with a sniper rifle - she was going to string Solo up from the Falcon’s guns if he had ‘lost’ the fucking thing, always assuming she could find him, since both he and the Falcon were still missing - and met Kes’s eyes. “There are probably a million better guardians in the galaxy for him. But if everything went royally to shit -”
The words stopped, and hung in the air. There was something terrifyingly grateful in Kes’s eyes, and Jyn didn’t want to look at it, so she stared back down at the scope, and turned it over and over in her hands. It was scratched.
“We’re good at surviving,” she said at last. “We’d find him, and we’d keep him safe. The offer’s there. If you need it.”
“Thanks,” Kes said, too gently.
“Yeah,” Jyn muttered, feeling herself go pink around the ears, “well.” She put the scope down on the table, and picked up her datapad again. “Any time. Just don’t fucking die on me, Dameron.”
Despite Dameron and Bey’s collective best efforts, nobody died between Hoth and Endor, although Jyn had a grumpy couple of hours sitting up with Kes after Endor while the medics stabilised him and someone located Shara.
“Do you think it’s over?” Jyn asked Cassian, as Shara hurtled through the door ahead of Cassian and began swearing at length. She seemed settled in for the long haul, and Kes was giving her his dopiest grin, so Jyn slipped out and pulled Cassian with her.
“Down, but not out,” Cassian said judiciously, and tugged her down the corridor.
“Where the hell are you taking me?” Jyn said. “Back to Endor?”
“No,” Cassian said, following some complicated mental map of his own devising along corridors and up stairwells. Eventually he let them both into an empty, unused sideroom of the hospital ship - one with an enormous porthole, and a clear view of one of the moons of Endor. Not the forest moon half the Pathfinders were getting drunk on. The one the second Death Star was slowly crumbling onto, the remaining chunks of its skeleton burning through orbit to crumple against its surface like golden meteors.
“Shit,” Jyn breathed.
“I thought you’d want to see,” Cassian said quietly. “We missed the last one. I thought you’d want to watch this one go.”
When the first Death Star had fallen apart, both Jyn and Cassian had still been good for nothing in the medical bay. Chirrut hadn’t even been conscious. The only members of Rogue One who had watched the Death Star fall apart were Bodhi, wedging himself into the control room with the assistance of Princess Leia, and Kaytoo, in the form of a mouse droid, the only functioning chassis Bodhi had been able to find him. Since it had only the most basic optical sensors, Kaytoo had apparently insisted on narration.
But here was the second Death Star, blazing to the ground, blazing out, the last gasp of Galen Erso’s twisted brilliance. Jyn had often wondered how her father would have reacted, knowing his blueprints had made another planet-killer, this one without the weaknesses he had sold his soul to hide in the first.
“Yeah,” Jyn whispered. “Yeah.”
She put her arm around Cassian’s waist, and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and they sat and watched the Emperor’s pyre burn.
About a month later they got to take a holiday. It lasted exactly forty-eight hours and involved way too much listening to Chirrut flirt outrageously with Baze, but it was a nice resort planet to wait on while their transport showed up, and Jyn had now been listening to Chirrut trying to pick up Baze like he was making a move in a bar rather than hitting on his legally wedded husband for five years. She could tune it out.
Cassian lingered over the souvenir stalls, looking at the figurines. Jyn spotted various Rebel craft, deftly carved, and wondered if there were now TIE fighters being used for kindling - or just kept under the table, for the day when the tides of the war changed again.
“He’s two, Cassian,” she said. “Get him something he can’t choke on.”
In the end, Cassian went with a stuffed tooka in vibrant green and purple. Shara laughed and nearly cried over it when she showed up to collect them, and Kes sent them about fifty pictures of Poe playing with it, napping on it, and shoving its entire tail into his mouth.
“Can’t choke on, eh,” said Cassian.
“He can’t swallow an entire stuffed toy,” Jyn said. “That A-wing had a removable pilot.”
She wasn’t surprised when Kes and Shara mustered out, but the Force-sensitive tree in their new back garden was kind of weird. Apparently Luke Skywalker had planted it, which was also weird. Shara had not been forthcoming about it.
“Auntie Jyn!” Poe squeaked, when she was trying to play rebs and bucketheads with him. “Auntie Jyn rock!”
“Yeah, your auntie does rock,” Kes yelled from the kitchen.
Jyn considered swearing at him, but then remembered that Poe was now verbal, and repeated everything that was said around him. “Yeah, kid,” she said, tucking her crystal back inside her shirt. “I know. It’s glowing, right?”
“Rock glow? Happy rock glow.”
“I suppose,” Jyn said.
“Happy rock?” Poe asked, turning those enormous, pleading dark eyes on her.
Jyn took her necklace off and showed him the crystal. Poe made an immediate grab for it and tried to put it in his mouth.
“No chewing, Poe,” Jyn said, and kept a firm grip on the chain.
“You’re adorable,” Kes yelled through the open window. “You were born to be a mother. Poe, wouldn’t you like cousins?”
“Shut the - shut up, Dameron!”
“Happy rock,” Poe cooed.
In the end it was Cassian who taught Poe his first swearwords, and all of them were in Alderaanian. Jyn blamed his own refusal to take his painkillers and treat his back properly. If he hadn’t moved wrong and aggravated his longstanding injuries, he wouldn’t have sworn, and if he’d just listened to her and been less convinced that he was totally indispensable to the intelligence background for the Battle of Jakku, he wouldn’t have overworked himself and caused a flare-up in the first place.
“You’re banned from holocalls until you can stop teaching my kid shit he repeats at school,” Shara said, making as if to turn off the camera.
“Shit!” Poe burbled.
“Oh for -”
“Watch it,” Jyn said mockingly, and Shara pulled a face at her. Cassian, who had actually looked mildly guilty for a second there, relaxed.
“Listen, Poe,” Jyn said. “Some words have to be saved for a special occasion. Like when someone really, really hurts you. Okay?”
Kes forwarded her a copy of Poe’s next school report, which said that while Poe was admirably invested in justice and kindness for such a young child, he should probably refrain from describing other children as sons of bastard blurrg mothers, even if they were being mean to one of his classmates.
Oops, Jyn wrote back, and left it at that.
Poe was six the next time Jyn saw him, and going through a phase of speaking only Alderaanian - except, apparently, at school. Made it kind of hard for Jyn to talk to him, so she stuck with Shara.
Shara, who kept coughing like she didn’t even notice she was doing it.
“The hell’s that?” Jyn demanded, opening the good alcohol while Kes and Cassian put an extremely reluctant Poe to bed, and pointing at Shara with the cork.
“It’s just a cough. You’re worse than Kes. It’s allergies.”
Jyn’s crystal flared hot on her breastbone, and she almost dropped the bottle. “Yeah, no,” she said, without knowing why. “Does that tree always do that?”
Shara peered out of the kitchen window at Luke Skywalker’s weird tree thing. It was flapping its leaves slightly in a breeze that didn’t exist, and Jyn knew it didn’t exist, because she’d been outside in the still damp heat earlier. “Sometimes, lately. Why?”
Every instinct Jyn had was jumping up and down on her shoulders and screaming, and the crystal’s heat was still dying against her skin. She thought it might have burned her.
“Fuck this,” Jyn said, recorked the bottle, and grabbed her jacket. “Get your coat, we’re going to a medical centre.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Erso -”
“You can get me your keys or I’ll hotwire your kriffing speeder, Bey.”
Shara was sick for so long that Cassian threw in the towel and rented them a house nearby. It was nice to have a base. It meant Poe could stay with them if Kes did nights with Shara in hospital. Bodhi helped paint the walls. Leia Organa dropped in on Shara and used the time to move a bunch of heavy furniture with the Force. Kaytoo declared the local droid garage moderately acceptable.
Poe stopped speaking Basic at all, even at school. Cassian told him stories, and Jyn downloaded a programme off the holonet to teach herself the approved version of Alderaanian vocabulary and grammar so that the seven-year-old in her care did not start a barfight.
She was clearly going to need to start with the words for WATCH OUT, STOP THAT, and SPIT THAT OUT, YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE IT’S BEEN.
Jyn took a turn sitting up with Shara, after the doctors had administered a drug combination that they said was the last chance saloon, and that Shara would need to take for at least six months - though she should start improving within a month. She wasn’t highly contagious, at least; exhaustive testing had established that none of her colleagues or her family had caught her lung consumption. Just her luck that it would be resistant to so many treatments, Kes had said, with a smile paler than Jyn could ever remember it being.
“This isn’t what I had in mind,” Shara murmured, in the middle of the night. Kes was sacked out on Jyn and Cassian’s sofa with Poe on his chest; Cassian had sent Jyn a picture. “When you said you’d look after Poe.”
“You’re not dead yet, Shara,” Jyn replied roughly.
“My odds are not good.”
“Never tell me the odds,” Jyn said automatically, and tried to hear something other than a death rattle in Shara’s laugh. “You’d better live, Bey. Or I’ll teach your kid every swearword I know and make sure he uses them on his teachers.”
“Sure. Please. Start with Basic, it might get him interested again.”
“Shut up and get better, Shara,” Jyn said, and showed her the picture Cassian had sent Jyn, just to see Shara smile.
Shara did get better. Kes had a full-blown meltdown on Jyn’s shoulder about how close it had been - the doctors said another few months and that would have been it for Shara’s lungs - but Jyn had anticipated that.
Poe started speaking Basic again, but thanks to Cassian and Kaytoo’s unfortunate influence, he was also starting to prefer Binary.
When Poe was nine, and the doctors gave Shara the long-term all clear, Cassian and Jyn transferred their lease to Baze and Chirrut - who needed somewhere to settle down - and went to work for Leia Organa in the Senate, then doing a rotation on Corellia. It was… interesting, except for the way people looked sideways at Jyn’s name whenever she had to show up in the actual Senate, as opposed to doing her information gathering elsewhere and then skulking around a back door to give Leia a briefing. She didn’t like the false glitter of it, and she knew Cassian’s sensitive nose for corruption was twitching almost non-stop. But at least they had an employer who broadly agreed with them, and never complained if extra information about nailing someone who was embezzling Senate funds showed up in an otherwise unrelated data package.
Cassian started sending Poe a lot of books about civics, and a t-shirt printed with THEY WORK FOR YOU and the Senate symbol.
“Cassian, he’s only just turning ten.”
“It’s never too early,” Cassian said darkly.
Poe replied with messages asking if you could be a pilot and then a senator, and what you had to do to be a senator, and why particular senators did what they did. Kes sent them a brief recording of Poe peppering his mother with political questions, accompanied by the words YOU DID THIS.
“Fuerza,” said Cassian, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“That’s what I call a consequence,” said Jyn, and got Leia to answer the messages.
Luckily for everyone except Kes and his blood pressure, Poe grew into a pilot instead of a senator. Jyn took him to watch the podracing for his fourteenth birthday.
“Aunt Jyn, they’re cheating,” Poe said, leaning so far forward in his seat Jyn thought he was going to fall into the row in front. “Look, see, that Rodian’s spoiler is -”
“Don’t wreck it for everyone else just because you already have a line on half the cheats in the race,” Jyn said, trying not to sound too proud. Bodhi would let Poe handle pretty much any craft on Yavin IV, now, with supervision - and bearing in mind that there was very little he could get into serious trouble with on Yavin, since he’d been sitting on Shara’s lap doing barrel rolls in an A-wing from the age of three. Even Kaytoo said Poe was quite a skilled mechanic, which meant he was more than good enough to make a living at it if he wanted.
Poe shut up and sat back. “How old do you have to be to enter?”
“The record-holder is a guy called Anakin Skywalker, in the Boonta Eve Classic on Tatooine, but that was fifty years ago,” Jyn said, biting into her kebab. “He was nine.”
“So I could…”
Jyn pointed the kebab at him. “Don’t even think about it. I would find you and drag you out by your hair.”
Poe was growing his hair out; he shook a riot of curls at her and grinned.
“If you got into real trouble,” Jyn started, not knowing why she was saying it.
“You’d find me and drag me out by my hair?” Poe suggested, smiling at her with the guilelessness of a boy who had never really been less than safe, not even on Echo Base.
“Exactly,” Jyn said, and something warm settled around her heart.
Cassian sent an actual, physical, handwritten birthday card for Poe’s sixteenth birthday, all the way from the Senate on Chandrila.
“What the hell, Cassian, what’s wrong with a nice recording?”
“He’s into history this year,” Cassian said. “I asked Kes.”
“You’re insane,” Jyn said, overlooking the bill for interplanetary postage. “I hope he likes it.”
Because Jyn was not a complete spendthrift, she annotated a digital copy of Sienn’afan’s The Tiger of Onderon: A History Of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans, From The Clone Wars To The Destruction of Jedha, and sent it to Poe on the date itself. As well as she could calculate it, given that Yavin IV was in an entirely different system.
Poe’s thank-you note covered three handwritten pages. Scanned and sent over the holonet, Jyn was pleased to note.
Poe did not tell his parents he was signing up for the New Republic Defence Academy until he’d already done it. The argument, according to Baze, was volcanic, and if Baze and Chirrut knew about it from three streets over it must have been. Cassian and Jyn changed their holiday plans and went back to Yavin IV, where there were multiple spare bedrooms on offer to them, and an extremely tense Dameron-Bey household.
Kes had basically stopped drinking after the war - he’d said he thought it was beginning to turn him into someone he disliked, and Jyn wasn’t a useless friend so she wasn’t going to argue with that - but even had that not been the case, it clearly wasn’t the right solution to the problem at hand. She dragged him out for a run instead, and wiped the floor with him.
“Your fitness is shit,” she announced, at the top of a local ruined temple, while Kes was still gasping and wiping his forehead. “What if we’d tried to do this at noon?”
“You are out of your tiny mind, Erso,” Kes said with conviction, lying down on the stone.
“At least you no longer look like you’re geared up to yell at Poe again.”
Jyn maintained her most off-putting silence and meanest stare.
“I just,” Kes tried again.
“I worry about him, all right?” Kes exploded.
“I have no idea what that’s like,” Jyn said. “Having parents to worry about you.”
“Not even Gerrera?”
“Every time he got worried about me he taught me a new way to kill someone,” Jyn said. “Until I was fifteen, and then he abandoned me for my own good.”
Kes winced, and covered his face with both hands.
“I love him anyway,” Jyn said, and it was not as hard to say as she thought.
There was a really long pause.
“Poe’s going to take risks, Kes,” Jyn said patiently. “He takes after both of you. Unless you think I’ve mysteriously forgotten, oh, the entire war.”
Kes sighed. “Will you look out for him? I know Organa still does a lot with the Academy.”
“Always,” Jyn said.
When Poe was nineteen, and doing spectacularly well for himself at the Academy, he went on ‘a short trip with a friend’ during the long annual holiday and vanished.
“He’s got to stretch his wings sometime,” Shara said, and then went and did a bunch of stunt flying to prove how nervous she wasn’t, with absolutely no success at all.
“He promised he’d check in!” Kes growled, and started running often enough that he actually gave Jyn a workout.
Cassian received a clumsily encrypted message that started So you know you always said if I got into real trouble you’d drag me out of it by my hair, auntie? and that was how they figured out that one of Poe’s friends had had some kind of dumb illegal posh-kid sideline in stimulants, and that Poe had been sufficiently overconfident and naive to believe that he could pull the kid out of it, and now Poe was stuck. Though not as stuck as he would have been had Cassian and Kaytoo not taught him Binary, or had he been as stupid and greedy as Antilles.
“No relation, I assume,” Leia Organa said, when she’d finished laughing. Wedge Antilles, who had been shooting the shit with her in her office when Jyn and Cassian called in, sighed and dragged his hands down his face.
“Sounds like my cousin Nerys, unfortunately,” he said wearily. He looked at Jyn and Cassian. “You two will need a lift.”
“Yes. Bodhi doesn’t do illegal,” Cassian said dryly.
Wedge pulled an incredibly sour face at him.
“Leave granted,” Leia said. “Take as long as you need. Tell Dameron the younger from me not to be such an optimist.”
“You’re his hero,” Jyn said. “He’ll be mortified.”
“Good,” Leia said. “Maybe the mortification will keep him out of trouble.”
Poe defected to the Resistance at twenty-nine. Jyn met him and his droid on the tarmac.
He gave her a thin, pale smile just like Kes’s. The legacy of another volcanic argument, Jyn suspected. Kes still believed the New Republic would pull it off, and the First Order would dwindle to dust. “Still looking out for me, Aunt Jyn?”
“What do you think, Commander Dameron?”
Jyn sent Shara a message that night. Midday on Yavin IV - assuming she was there, and not in her A-wing, on her way to find them.
We won’t abandon him, Shara.
She turned off her datapad, and slipped into bed next to Cassian. He stirred slightly.
“Kid make it here all right?”
“He’s not a kid. He’s nearly thirty.” Jyn dragged Cassian’s arm over her waist; he grunted and shifted slightly to accommodate her, tucking her head under his chin.
“You know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” Jyn said. “Yeah. He’ll be fine.”