As soon as Jyn let go of her tiny hand, Felis unexpectedly ran back to Cassian.
Jyn watched, an unfamiliar mixture of joy and apprehension swelling inside her chest, tugging at the seams. She forced the darkness down, lower, deeper. Sealed it shut and let the hatch fall back on it like a sarcophagus.
The little girl had no concern of her own. She held on the side of Cassian’s seat, only looking at him with innocent, hopeful eyes. She did it more and more as time passed, opening up to him and seeking his presence every chance she got because ‘Cassian is from the nice people. I know because he wants to hug you.’
The harsh contrast of stellar light piercing through the frontal viewport washed her small form away. “I peed in the small room,” Felis informed him seriously.
Cassian tried to muffle a laugh behind his hand and slowly pivoted his seat to look at her. “Congratulations.”
Jyn wanted to grin, able to catch a faint trace of sarcasm in the subtones of his voice. The muscles of her face hurt, still.
Felis timidly moved her grip to hold on Cassian’s leg, not quite sure if it was alright, but evident enough to Jyn that she waited for his validation. “I’m not scared anymore.”
He put a hand on her head, as if trying to pet a feral tooka cat, slightly awkward, not used to dealing with young children. Felis smiled all the same, unbothered, her beaming face shining like starlight. She folded over his leg as he kept stroking her hair, moving a braid aside, and she giggled a little.
“Good job,” Cassian said. “I’ll hire you on my team when I need someone brave.”
Felis almost gasped, her lips parted over a silent sound of excitement.
If only he realized what those words meant to her. He didn’t know Felis enough for that, of course— there hadn’t been the time. But Jyn knew her child. There was nothing in this world that Felis wanted more than to go on big, perilous adventures around the Galaxy with all her made-up friends. No doubt a product of Jyn’s stories.
Now, she would get to do just that and Cassian was the one to give it all to her.
Of course, he is.
The scene left Jyn overwhelmed by her own feelings. She wasn’t part of that exchange. She didn’t want to intrude either.
For the first time, Jyn wasn’t the center of gravity in Felis’ life anymore. She fought back the tears watering her eyes with solid resolve, hoping that no one would notice. She didn’t have enough strength left to cry. She didn’t have the strength to take in all those emotions, either. Maybe too disconnected, still, from her new life. They grazed over her like raindrops, cold but harmless on her skin, numbing to her mind.
I’ve never wanted to be a mother but for you, I could have chosen to.
If they had more time together, if they stayed side by side all those years, if she saw the aftermath of their fight. The new spark of hope.
I refuse to wonder now if you would have wanted to, if you would have picked me, if you would have held my hand and told me: everything's gonna be alright, it's almost over, good job. You're the only one I would have let come close.
At least, that's what I like to pretend because if the wound is intentional, it cannot hurt as bad. I live with this fantasy and I wonder what lies you tell yourself to numb your own pain. Do you still love me, Cassian? Enough to love her, too?
Or do you tell yourself another kind of lie?
For all she rejoiced to see them side by side, and every word and smile and touch they exchanged made her heart beat faster, Jyn was left with a treacherous uncertainty. For so long, she’d hope to see them reunited—the only driving force that kept her alive all those years, thanks to him—and now that the moment had come, Jyn couldn’t find her steps anymore. She needed a new hope, a new purpose to keep going. One that, maybe, would simply include her… Jyn Erso… a separated entity from the mother she became in order to survive and protect her child. But everything had a cost in life.
Now I’ll have to stand aside and watch you love somebody else… Both of you.
Jyn wasn’t sure to remember who that woman inside her was, or if there was a place left for her.
What if you love him more than me, her brain would scream in agony. What if you take him away from me?
The guilt suffocated her instantly.
She silenced those thoughts in shame, drowning herself in the wonderful sight of Cassian and his child—together. Just like walking in one of her dreams, not sure if she was able to tell reality and fiction apart. Or even if she wanted to. Her place in this story, after all, might be irrelevant.
Jyn stopped between the two seats of the small shuttle cockpit. She noticed the inquisitive look Kaytoo gave her before returning his attention to the commands—unbothered as per usual.
She meant to apologize for a disproportionate reaction she had earlier, impaired by a precarious state of mind. When the droid offered to wipe Felis’ memory, so it could be ‘easier to navigate a new environment without reminiscence of traumatic events’, Jyn had snapped at him in horror.
She knew it came from a place of service, practicality, efficiency. Kay hadn’t tried to hurt her (quite the contrary, in truth,) as it made perfect sense to him. Still, Jyn was an organic being and the suggestion almost threw her over the edge one more time, if it wasn’t for Cassian’s quick intervention.
Timing the action, Jyn decided the apologies would have to wait just a bit longer. They were about to reach their destination and she wanted to strap Felis before they neared the Smuggler's Run asteroid belt. Cassian was a skilled pilot but navigating the sector was notoriously difficult—she remembered it first hand.
“Fei, come with me. We’re going to sit in the back for a little while.”
Felis looked up to her with a conflicted expression, her tiny hands still gripping Cassian’s leg pants. It amazed and terrified Jyn all at once.
“You can talk to Cassian later,” she offered, “don’t worry.”
We’re going to have a very long discussion all together, she thought, remembering the decision they had taken just moments ago. (Explaining to Felis that Cassian was her father. Wondering how she would react upon finally having an answer to the questions she sometimes asked.)
“But I want to watch the…” Felis gestured towards the viewport and turned her head to the stars, the twin braids softly moving along her back to follow the movement. “...the space.” Too short to gaze very far, she started to climb on Cassian’s lap with a determined frown. He landed her a helping hand until Felis could grab his shoulder, pressed against his chest, and turned around again. “Look!”
“It’s nice, right?” Cassian asked with a soft tone, his right arm curled around her.
Jyn’s heart shuddered between her ribs. She’d never seen Cassian holding someone other than her and, just days ago, Felis had been too terrified to even speak to him. Now they almost acted as if they’d never been apart. Jyn knew she would never be able to repay that sort of miracle. If the Force had decided to balance the incommensurable darkness of her life with blinding luck, she prayed to never run out of it.
Jyn made sure her voice didn’t tremble before she continued. “You can see all the space you want when we arrive, I promise.”
“Where?” Felis asked with a renewed curiosity, still holding tight on Cassian.
It’s not really space, is it? You just want to stay where he is.
Jyn’s hand instinctively flew to Cassian’s shoulder while she tried to find the words, striving for something familiar to soothe her sudden outburst of anxiety. She exchanged a quick look with him (knowing that he understood). All the memories she had left behind, equally good and bad, from her time with Saw’s Partisans. There was nowhere to run anymore but facing them upfront.
She relaxed a moment later, feeling the solid touch of Cassian’s hand at the small of her back, grounding her until she could speak again. Whatever ghosts she’d left on Wrea, she wouldn’t face them alone. She had her family with her, her whole world. She didn’t need anything else.
“Home,” Jyn said. And it felt like a spell had been broken around her, fusing into millions of ionized particles passing through her like gamma rays. Jyn Erso, finally, said the words she’d been safekeeping from all the horrors and despair of the past five years and let herself feel complete, genuine happiness: “We’re going home, Felis.”