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oh, through the teeth of life

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The first sun isn’t even fully risen yet and Jyn already feels like she’s dying. The forest air is already stifling, full of the damp mildew scent that’ll only get stronger the hotter the day grows, makes sweat sprout like mushrooms across Jyn’s skin with every breath she takes.

“Ugh,” Jyn groans, pushes her hair back viciously and gets no relief for it. She thinks she can feel the heat mounting by the second, shifts uncomfortably again and again trying to find a stance that alleviates the pinching ache in her lower back. There’s nothing like comfort left though, Jyn knows it, not standing or sitting or lying down, there’s not a single position that doesn’t feel like she’s slowly swelling to the point of bursting. She paces her small quarters, marches mindless trails back and forth, hands braces on her hips. The giant mound of her abdomen juts out in front of her, radiating smugness as it leads the way.

Jyn pauses, studies the stretch marks spider-webbed across the surface of her stomach, brown and red and angry looking, and Jyn pokes at one, traces it as far as she can see before it disappears on to the underside of her belly. The kid inside is still for now, apparently tired after a long night of tossing and turning and bruising all of Jyn’s insides.

“This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.” Jyn says to the room, the cot, the narrow expanse of ground she walks back and forth. She thinks her feet hear her, but she can’t be sure, she hasn’t seen them in a month. The kid doesn’t move, probably still sleeping or whatever it is it does in there when it isn’t beating Jyn.

Jyn tells herself it's for the best.

 

-

 

The second sun is a taunting bastard up in the sky, smaller than its predecessor but just as intolerably hot, and the air shimmers over the ferns growing thick across the grounds. Jyn sits on an overturned log and doesn’t bother pretending she isn’t in as bad a mood as she is. She spent the majority of the morning sitting at a desk going over transmissions, jotting down anything of merit to report which honestly wasn’t much. Her head hurts from where the headset pressed her ears flat against the sides of her head. She stares down at her hands, scar-speckled and bony, wishes she were doing something better with them other than taking notes.

The kid digs a heel up into her ribs and Jyn groans, presses her hand against the spot and hopes it communicates the message. Stop . The kid reels back and does it again.

“You’re going to be like me aren’t you?” Jyn mumbles, rubbing at her side, feels the jolt of the hit press up against her palm.

 

-

 

The rest of the afternoon isn’t any more stimulating and the heat just keeps ripening until Jyn isn’t anything more than a wilted stem, sagging against the warm stone wall of her quarters. She gets a solid thirty minutes to herself, to glower and growl and curse under her breath. There’s a knock at her door, timid and short, and Jyn takes a deep breath before she goes to open it, knows that Bodhi hasn’t done anything to deserve her ire.

“Hey, hello, how—I mean—hello.” Bodhi smiles tightly, hands clasped behind his back. “I was wondering if you were—uh—eating today.”

She hasn’t been hungry the last few days, doesn’t have any space inside her for anything it feels like, between the heat and the kid and the ballooning sense of wrong she can’t examine too closely or else risk falling headfirst into something thick as tar and just as impossible to escape.

“Not now.” She says, unconsciously touching the bottom of her belly through her loose tunic. It draws too much attention to the girth of it, to her own vulnerability, so she drops her hand quickly, sets it back on her hip.

“Okay—that’s okay. How about—a walk? Do you want to walk with me? Just around the base.”

Jyn doesn’t really want to walk, but she doesn’t want to sit in here either, doesn’t want to lie down and feel every spot of discomfort digging its way through her body and think about how quiet her quarters are.

Bodhi stares at her and there’s something frail and hopeful in his glance that makes Jyn feel like crying or screaming, she isn’t sure. She can’t remember the last time she was sure of anything other than how much she hates all this.

“We can walk.” She answers tersely, because she can literally feel the strain of how hard Bodhi’s trying. No matter how much Jyn snaps and grunts and glares Bodhi has spent the last five months stuck on this forest planet with her trying and Jyn doesn’t know how to repay the favor.

Bodhi smiles again, surprised and so obviously pleased, waves his hands as he gestures for Jyn to go in front of him. “Great! Wonderful! Just around the base or until—however long you want.” He says, and

Jyn nods, quiet, heavy. Trying. She’s trying.

 

-

 

The first sun has already started its descent and the second sun is smaller still in the sky, but the heat hangs thick in the damp air as they walk around the perimeter of the base. It’s really more a cluster of stone huts of various sizes, the larger ones dedicated to housing operations while the soldiers barrack in the smaller ones. Jyn’s one of the only soldiers who doesn’t have to share with anyone else, not since her first roommate transferred units and no one came to replace them. There was an assumption at the time about who would be filling the left over spot anyway. Jyn almost wishes there were someone there to fill the empty space but not enough to trade the privacy being alone affords her. At least no one is there to see her when she gets so frustrated with herself that she cries, red-faced and furious, hunched as far into herself as her belly will allow.

“Any word today?” Bodhi asks as they approach the farthest point from the camp, and Jyn curls her nails into her palm to keep herself from snapping something snide.

“Nothing interesting.” She says instead, watching out of the corner of her eye as Bodhi worries his fingers together, winds and unwinds them with jerky movements.

 Bodhi bites his mouth thin, the ropes of scar tissue across his jaw twitching, pale against the rest of face. “He’ll be alright.” He says, soft in the cage of heat surrounding them.

Jyn doesn’t shrug, humidity hanging in heavy ropes over her shoulders, down her arms, the tired length of her spine. Her legs are weary, her feet swollen in her boots, and there’s that feeling again, rising hard in her chest, that feeling that something, everything, is wrong.

“It’s hot,” Jyn says, turning back towards the collection of stone huts, “I’m going back.”

Bodhi looks apologetic, starts to say something but Jyn forces herself to move faster, wills her body to carry her away from this conversation she doesn’t want to have.

“Of course,” Bodhi says at her shoulder, not even having to quicken his stride to catch up with her, “yeah, it’s boiling out.” He wipes at his face with a wrinkled scrap of fabric pulled free from one of the pockets of his flight suit, worn with the top half open and the sleeves wrapped around his narrow waist. They walk back towards the base in relative silence, Jyn chewing on the inside of her mouth to hold in the question burning in her head.

What if he isn’t? What if he isn’t? What if—

 

-

 

“Don’t miss me too much.” Jyn teases, feeling bold as she presses forward, a quick kiss to Cassian’s mouth. The docking bay is empty at this hour, just a skeleton crew and them, saying their goodbyes like they have dozens of times before.

“I’ll do my best.” Cassian grins, but his eyes are tired, something close to worry in the lines around his mouth. He hasn’t slept well since they moved off-world, no more a fan of living aboard a freighter than Jyn though less prone to complaining about it.

Come back, Jyn thinks, watching Cassian walk away, towards the ship he’ll pilot to some far off world without her. Please come back.

 

-

 

She wakes up drenched in sweat, her dream fading fast but still clear enough for Jyn to feel the quick fevered rush of yearning. The feeling is so strong it only serves to highlight the dread pinching in the pit of her belly, tightening and releasing in waves.

Six months, six months without a word from Cassian and six months without a way of getting word to him, most of them stuck here, feeling useless and helpless, growing more and more a stranger to her own body with every passing day.

She reaches for her mother’s necklace out of habit, but there’s nothing there, and she wants that too, wants something familiar to hold her steady.

“I had a mother once.” She says, hands curling over the metal edges of the cot to help her sit up. Her heart is still beating quick beneath her skin, the kid moving again, not hard but insistent, like it’s telling Jyn it’s listening. She licks her lip, salt-stained with sweat, stares out across her dark quarters and places her hand on her belly, nowhere in particular, just rests her palm against her burning skin. The skin is stretched taunt, Jyn’s almost afraid to touch it, like one touch too many will rip the skin in half. She’s enough battle wounds to picture it in vivid detail, swallows a few times tp dislodge the image. The whole of her stomach feels like it expands for a single breath and she tries to picture it instead, the kid stretching, testing its limits. She doesn’t know that it’s any more comforting.

“She gave birth to me in a prison camp, y’know.” Saw had told her as much, Jyn doesn’t know if its true, though she doesn’t know why Saw would lie about a detail like that. “I guess this is a little better.”

Jyn sits there, petting her belly in the dark, and wonders if Mama ever felt this alone, this overwhelmed, this utterly lost.

She wonders if Mama sat up at night thinking about what it meant to carry a person inside her, if she ever thought about who that person might become. Jyn tries not to, hard though it is, especially now when everything seems to come back to the giant mass of her belly. She wishes Chirrut were here, would offer him anything for a glimpse into the future.

“Don’t be like me, okay.” Jyn says, tapping one finger against the top of her stomach where the kicking is usually worst, thinks she’s most likely to make contact that way. There’s nothing about who she is now that Jyn’d change, knows every rough and grated edge has helped her survive to this point, but Jyn knows the path that brought her here. She wouldn’t wish it for anyone else though. “Whatever happens, just don’t be like me.”

 

-

 

It’s raining the day the kid decides to make an its grand entrance. Both suns are still shining and the air is so thick Jyn feels like she’s choking on it every time she tries to breathe. Zwi keeps telling her to breathe, their large oval eyes blinking sideways at her, patient and calm, and Jyn bites down on the urge to ask how treating sunburns and heatstroke for months makes Zwi qualified to tell her what to do.

It goes on forever, cycles of pain and exhaustion and terror and rage. The rain stops and the suns set, one after the other, and the rain starts again, harder, drumming against the stone roof. Bodhi comes, dripping rainwater and haggard looking, and Jyn sends him away, doubled over the edge of a table, forearms bearing her weight as her insides seize with pain.

She doesn’t want to be seen like this, panting and red-faced, tear-stained and frightened.

The horrible feeling is there, bearing down on her chest as sharply as the pain churning through her pelvis. She cries out and Bodhi’s hand touches her shoulder, squeezes hard and Jyn focuses on the imprints of his fingers bearing down on the bone there.

She never thought this would happen to her, never prepared for the possibility of it. Never, not even in the years since her life became more than running from one planet to another, not even when Cassian welcomed her into his home, not even—

She wishes Saw were here. Of all the people in the galaxy she might wish for, it’s her father she wants here with her now. He’d never approve of this, of course, there wasn’t a place for children in a war. The Emperor’s dead now, but there’s still so much that needs to be done in order to make the galaxy safe. Is there place for children now?

Should have thought of that before , Jyn chides herself, breathing out hard.

“You’re not alone, Jyn.” Bodhi says sternly, clutching Jyn’s fingers when she grabs hold of his hand, unsure of whether to move it off her or squeeze it harder.

He doesn’t leave.

 

-

 

The ugly squawking thing Zwi places on her naked chest is covered in slime and blood, it wiggles against Jyn’s skin and she thinks that’s what it must have looked like on the inside, blind and searching for comfort.

Jyn raises her shaking hands slowly, frames it carefully, afraid it’ll roll off her any second. Bodhi is gawking, eyes and face shining with tears or sweat or both, Jyn doesn’t know, barely takes a second to look at him before she’s staring back at the bald curve of the kid’s head.  “Oh shit.” She gasps, fingers barely touching the miniscule plane of it’s back, slick and hot, “Oh shit.” Because that’s a baby, an actual baby, laying on her, letting out a whimpering wheeze and a snuffling cry, and Jyn cups one palm around its back and another around it’s still soft skull, as tenderly as she would cradle a live grenade.

 

-

 

Everything about the kid is small. His nose and his hands, his nails, his ears. Bodhi measures the pink sole of his foot against the length of his thumb, whispers nonsense at him while he sleeps and marvels every single time he opens his eyes, even if it's only for a second.

Bodhi sent a message out, he told Jyn as much hours after the kid slid out of her, though Jyn still doesn’t know who is out there to receive it. She pushes all thought of it to the back of her mind and turns all her attention to the kid she’s suddenly responsible for.

Jyn holds him at night and touches the soft mound of his nose, afraid she’ll squeeze too tight.

“Sorry kid,” she apologizes, rocking him in nervous arms when he cries. He quiets, mostly, eyes shut again and face turned towards her breast. She worries he’ll fall asleep while feeding and choke on milk. She doesn’t know if that’s the sort of question Zwi can answer.

She wonders what Cassian will think when he sees the kid, if he’ll agree with Bodhi that he has Cassian’s eyes. They’re just dark to Jyn.

“You’re sure about the name, then?” Bodhi jokes, and Jyn gnaws on her thumbnail, not sure of anything never mind the name she’s saddled the kid with. Of course at the rate she’s going he won’t be answering to anything other than Kid once he’s old enough to understand she means him when she speaks.

At night Jyn sits on the edge of her cot and peers into the emptied supply crate that acts as a crib, the forest heat still curling around her every limb. She doesn’t know how he can sleep through it, but she’s glad that he can, finds some fraction of reassurance watching him sleep.

His eyelids are so thin Jyn can see the spider-web thin trail of veins tracing across them when she watches the way his dark eyelashes twitch while he dreams.

 

-

 

She didn’t always know how to shoot a blaster or wield a truncheon or build a bomb. She had to learn it, far away though those lessons are now. She had to train the same way she’s worked at every other skill she’s wanted to master, even something as simple as staying when things are hardest.

Maybe her own mother, brilliant and capable and righteous, had felt the same when she held Jyn those first few weeks, unused to the enormous weight of a child in her arms. Maybe no one is born ready for anything, just a fragile limbed, soft-boned collection of parts in need of someone to look out for them. 

“I’ve got you,”  Jyn tells the kid late at night, when all their conversations seem to take place. “Whatever else happens, you’ve got me.” 

It’s the best she can do.

 

-

 

Cassian arrives on an otherwise unremarkable day, indistinguishable in every way except for the fact that he’s here, standing in the doorway of Jyn’s quarters.

“I received Bodhi’s message.” He breathes, staring, just staring at the kid lying on Jyn’s cot, naked except for his diaper to ward off the heat. “I came as soon as I could—”

He takes a halting step forward, stops, stares at Jyn instead. “I’m sorry—I’m sorry—”

“I didn’t know,” Jyn grinds out, shoulders tight, “I didn’t know until after—”

Cassian stares at her a moment longer, his hands hanging limp at his sides. “Jyn, I—”

“Do you want to hold him?” Jyn asks, awkward and unsure, standing up from the improvised desk where she’s been working on recording transmissions. Cassian looks at her like she’s just asked him if he’d like to try juggling womp rats for fun.

“I don’t know how.” He answers quietly, eyes flickering from Jyn over to the kid, kicking his froggy legs. His face is scrunched up almost in concentration. Jyn’s studied his face enough now to know it means he’ll need his diaper changed soon.

“I’ll teach you.” She says simply, the same way Cassian once told her he believed in her.

“I don’t want to drop him,” Cassian confesses, still frozen by the entryway. Nervousness sits on his shoulders like an ill-fitting jacket, his sharp face softened with fear. Not even on Scariff did Jyn see Cassian afraid, but he’s terrified now, nearly holding his breath as he watches Jyn pick the kid up off the cot.  “Then don’t drop him.” Jyn jokes, trying her best to be reassuring. She doesn’t know how good she is at it.

The kid snuffles, lets out one of his breathy squawks that make Jyn smile because he sounds like a disgruntled hatchling. She lifts him carefully, still so reserved in her movements even though Private Veta assures her he won’t break. His dark hair is sweat damp when she cradles his head, standing in thin cowlicks.

“Say hello kid,” she whispers, “this is your papa.” Cassian sucks in a breath when she passes him over, his hand covering Jyn’s for a moment before she fully relinquishes his weight over to Cassian’s hold. It takes a second, Cassian’s arms stiff and his hands tense, the kid grumbles, gnaws on the air with his toothless mouth. “Don’t let him know you’re afraid.” Jyn says, though she’s still learning it too, still trying to do something to loosen the knot of inadequacy she feels whenever she touches the kid’s soft, thin skin and warm rag limbs.

“Hello,” Cassian says, voice ragged, and Jyn bites her lip hard, surprised by how fiercely she wants to hold him, how she wants to cradle his face in her hands and tell him it’s okay. She didn’t know what to think the first time she looked into the kid’s round face either.

“Kay.” Jyn adds, repositioning one of Cassian’s hands so it better supports the kid’s bottom, “His name is Kay.”

Cassian blinks, eyes wet and startled, and Jyn can’t wait for her body to get itself together, to stop crying without a moment’s notice.

Jyn doesn’t know if the kid’s got Cassian’s eyes or not, but she doesn’t care. Not right now. Because Cassian’s here now, just as scared as she is.