She’s exhausted and filthy and still a little in shock and on the verge of collapse and she wants Finn to be okay and Han to be alive. She wants to go back somehow and tell her past self how to save everyone. She wishes she never left Jakku.
That’s not true. Or it is, a little. Maybe the Resistance would have destroyed Starkiller Base without her. The general would have found a way.
General Organa—Leia, she reminds Rey to call her—leads her deeper into the base, to the rooms that house higher-ranking officers.
“We’ll find you something more permanent later. For now, you can use my refresher," Leia says.
“I don’t want to impose,” Rey says, miserable at the thought of putting Leia out when she couldn’t save Han and he and Leia had just—her breath catches and she has to swallow a sob.
“Take a shower. You’ll feel better,” Leia says. “I’ll find some clean clothes for you.” Her tone is somehow kind without leaving any room for disagreement.
Rey nods and slips into the fresher, knowing in theory what she’ll find based on some of the quarters she scavenged on the bigger starships in the Graveyard and recovered schematics and operations manuals. There’s a stall covered with an opaque curtain, and a sink with a hot and cold tap. She runs the cold water and cups her hands under the stream, drinking up until she can feel liquid sloshing in her belly. This world is so green, so covered in vegetation, that she logically knows in her head that water must be plentiful. She even saw them spraying off some of the fighters outside, careless of how the water collected on the duracrete and ran off in small rivers. So she drinks as much as she can, trying to resist the temptation to find a canteen and fill it.
Finally she starts pulling things from her belt. The blaster—Han’s blaster—is first, and she sets it on the counter and stares at it. It’s only a blaster, a simple light one at that. Nothing like Han’s heavy DL-44. A good fit for her smaller hand. Maybe Han had thought of that when he picked it out for her, or maybe it was just what was in the weapons locker. She pushes it to the wall to make space for the rest of her gear.
The lightsaber is next, placed carefully next to the blaster. She hasn’t had any more visions since the first time she touched it but she’s still wary of it. The dim white mirror lights glint off the handle. This weapon—Luke Skywalker once used this weapon. Darth Vader once held it. Kylo Ren had been desperate for it. And when she had asked for it, called for it, it flew readily to her hand. As though choosing her. She can’t think about that right now, not with everything so fresh in her heart.
She efficiently strips off the rest—bag, belt, wraps, bandages, shirt and pants and boots and underthings. The shower takes a few guesses on how to turn the handle to adjust the water temperature. It comes out ice cold at first, which she likes, but as she’s standing in it, it gets warmer and warmer until it starts to become unbearable, and then she has to fiddle with it until it goes back to being cold. The longer it takes to adjust the more nervous she gets, using up all this water that she isn’t even drinking.
There are a few bottles on a recessed shelf in the wall. She opens them up one by one and sniffs experimentally at each one. They all smell nice, in an understated chemical sort of way, and when she dabs some of one onto her hand, it breaks up the dirt and blood caked there. She doesn’t want to use up Leia’s things so she just dabs a little bit more onto her hands and face and hurriedly scrubs, wanting to be done and not running the water any more. She’s already used so much already.
She hits the shower handle and shakes herself off, spattering droplets against the walls and the curtain. There’s a large towel hanging on a rack within hand’s reach. It might be the softest thing she’s ever touched and as she runs it over her body, it slurps up every little bead of moisture until she’s standing there in the tepid air, naked and looking at herself in the mirror. She doesn’t look all that different, she thinks, compared to the reflections she remembers from dented chrome surfaces in the marketplace. But she feels different. She feels like another person, almost distinctly separate from that naïve girl on Jakku.
There’s a knock on the door, and once again Leia’s gentle, firm voice.
“Coming,” Rey says, and slips on her old shirt and pants, mind already turning towards the next step.
Leia is waiting patiently in the outer room. She holds a few things folded up in a neat pile and scans Rey head to toe in a slightly discomfiting way when she emerges from the refresher. She has a penetrating stare, eyes that see more than someone might be willing to offer. Still, for all that, they’re kind eyes, and they soften as Rey stands there with her satchel in one hand, the other itching for the staff she left on the Falcon.
“There’s a laundry bag in the closet by the refresher,” says Leia. “If you want to get your clothes washed.”
“Oh, no. It’s—I can do it,” Rey says, a bit dumbfounded at the idea of someone else washing her clothes. Or washing her clothes at all. Water isn’t for washing, it’s for drinking. But this isn’t Jakku. She’s not stuck on some beyond-provincial dustpen of a temporary stop. She has to adjust, and quick. There’s so much galaxy beyond Jakku that she resolves right then to think about it as little as possible. Forget Niima outpost, forget that blobfish Unkar Plutt, forget every miserable scavenger who ever stole a find or tried to swipe a portion from her hands.
“Here you go,” Leia says, holding out the clothes. “The quartermaster had to guess at the size but you’re about the same as a few of the pilots on base.”
They’re soft, even softer than the towel. Just a simple shirt and pants, and a grey vest to go over them, but with no frayed edges, no stains or tears. Clean, crisp, new. “Thank you,” Rey says, her voice coming out much softer than she meant it to.
“If you’d prefer something else, the quartermaster can probably find it,” Leia says, watching her carefully as she fingers the cloth in her hands.
“No, no this is good. It’s very generous.” Rey smiles at Leia, trying to convey her gratitude.
Leia clucks her tongue. “Generous. Come with me. We’re going to the quartermaster and she’s going to issue you a full set.” Again, that tone that doesn’t force but still commands.
Rey hurries to tug on her boots, trying to fasten her belts at the same time and shove everything into her bag and not drop her new clothes. “It’s not necessary, I’ve got a whole new change now and mine are still in great shape,” she says, even though she knows arguing is futile. It’s true; she probably still has a good six months or more left in the clothes she wore from Jakku if they don’t get shredded or burned by anything.
Leia just starts walking, leading Rey towards general stores and the quartermaster’s office. “And we’re getting you fitted for a holster too,” she says. Rey does her best to keep up.
If any fruit ever made its way to Niima outpost, it was either the freeze-dried and vacuum-packed kind, or it was so shriveled and desiccated as to have the same effect.
Not that Rey ever got her hands on any of it. She’d seen Unkar eating fruit once, gobbling down the faded chips along with some of his cronies. She’d gotten a full portion that day so it wasn’t that bad, seeing him eat to his heart’s content. And she had a lead on an untouched Y-wing just on the westerly end of Carbon Ridge so she went back to her AT-AT not feeling that sore about it.
But on her first morning with Luke—after he agreed to let her and Chewie stay overnight on the Falcon and she climbed every single one of those blasted steps again—she finds him waiting by a little table set out with what he calls a light breakfast. Light to him, she supposes, but a bowl is piled high with the freshest fruit she’s ever seen and there’s a plate of crisp warm bread newly baked and another bowl of nuts and a pitcher of clear, sparkling water. There are several solid meals separating her from Jakku but she can still feel her mouth automatically salivating and she swallows, waiting for Luke to cue her.
He motions to the little hassock opposite him, so she sits, and he pours her a cup of tea from a dark earthenware pot. “First we eat,” he says, and takes a piece of bread for himself.
She doesn’t hesitate after that. Fruit first—she picks one from the top of the pile and bites into it, teeth cutting deeply as she carves out a chunk. It’s ripe and sweet, flooding her mouth with so much juice she almost chokes in surprise, but she keeps it under control. She doesn’t want to embarrass herself in front of Luke Skywalker first thing in the morning. Not an auspicious start to the day.
She doesn’t realize her eyes are closed. When she opens them Luke is watching her, something sad playing around the corners of his mouth. “It’s…” She finishes chewing. “Thank you. It’s delicious.”
He nudges the fruit bowl closer to her. “Take your time. There’s plenty more.”
She tries to eat at a steady pace, remembering the time she’d brought in a killer eight-portion haul and overstuffed herself on a full portion that night to celebrate. But the fruit is down to the pit before she knows it, and her tongue feels thick and heady, overloaded with the lush flavor. She keeps running her tongue over her teeth, into the corners of her mouth, as if to reassure herself that she really did taste something so clean and good.
Luke digs in the fruit bowl and holds out another to her with his flesh-and-blood hand. This fruit is small and purplish, but plump. “These are my favorite,” he says.
Rey takes it, turning it with her fingertips, feeling the soft skin give slightly as she squeezes. It’s even sweeter than the first, if that’s possible.
She wants to get on with the day, wants to ask Luke a thousand questions, but there is also this—fresh food, straight from the vine or the tree, as much as she can eat, with no one telling her to hurry and no reason to save a portion in case the next day’s haul is bad or Unkar is in a foul mood. She eats until she realizes she’s more than full, and as she places a hand to her stomach in some consternation, Luke laughs gently at her.
She insists on taking a few days to go back to D’Qar and check in on her friends when she receives word through Chewie that Finn is awake. He still isn’t allowed out of the infirmary so she spends all her time in there with him, scanning the holonet feeds and making up base gossip and escape plans.
In the evening, when she’s just thinking about finding dinner for them both, Poe saunters in and tosses a crinkly package on Finn’s blanketed legs. “Took me two days but I traded my way to the only package of real Wookiee-ookies on this entire planet,” he says, sounding pleased with himself.
Rey stares at the brightly-colored bag, printed with a picture of lovingly-crafted cookies cradled in a matronly Wookiee’s arms. “What are Wookiee-ookies?” she asks.
“They’re cookies!” says Finn, grabbing eagerly for the package and struggling to tear it open at one end. “I’ve heard of these but I’ve never been allowed to have any.” He plucks one out of the bag and examines it for a second. The lopsided, lumpy disc does not in any way resemble the picture on the front, but Finn crams it whole into his mouth anyway and chews with relish. “So good,” he says, crumbs spraying.
Rey is a little more hesitant. The only cookies she’s ever seen were some spicer’s hard-packed algae cakes at Old Meru’s and she was under the impression they were not, in fact, a treat. She pulls one out of the bag, aware that Poe is staring eagerly at her.
He makes a little “go on” gesture with his hand.
She bites delicately at the edge. And immediately smiles, which sets off a chain reaction of smiles from Finn and Poe, Poe especially. “What did I tell you, Wookiee-ookies,” he says, proudly flourishing his hands at the bag.
She takes a bigger bite, liking the chewy-crumbly texture, the sugary bits crunching between her teeth. It’s by far the sweetest thing she’s ever eaten, sweeter even than the fresh fruit on Luke’s island.
Finn and Rey trade off until there’s one cookie left—a process that takes only a few minutes—and then she looks at Poe, stricken. “Oh. You didn’t get any.”
He waves her off. “Nah, I already ate a whole pack by myself. Come on, don’t tell me you don’t want the last cookie.”
Rey looks at the misshapen disc at the bottom of the foil bag, sitting in a nest of crumbs. She pulls it out and cracks it roughly into thirds, holding out a bit to Poe and a bit to Finn. Finn tries to nudge her hand back but she dumps the cookie in his palm, so he claps it into his open mouth, chewing and grinning toothily at the same time. Poe takes his as well and they sit together, chewing and grinning at each other and not saying a word.
She nearly faints walking up the stairs to the ground level. Chewie finds her trying to get her bearings while leaning against the cool stone wall and carries her straight to the infirmary, even though they’re scheduled to leave today for Luke’s planet. She thinks she complains to Chewie all the way there, but mostly it’s just a hazy general sense of movement.
She swims in and out of consciousness, but can’t let herself fully drift off. She keeps jolting awake, convinced she has to leave. Unkar won’t let her get away with playing hooky for a day. She doesn’t have any reserve rations left, not after she hurt her knee and could barely limp around a few wrecks that were already stripped clean. She has to get to her speeder, has to scout out the next deck in the ImpStar Deuce she’s been methodically sweeping for nearly a month now. Shifting sands have revealed a new section of the ship that the others don’t know about yet and she could find a big haul there.
Each time she tries to climb out of a bed, a huge furry arm pushes her back down. She doesn’t know why the Wookiee traders are keeping her here. They stop on Jakku pretty infrequently, so she doesn’t have much chance to practice understanding them. This one keeps telling her to lie down, stay still, let the doctors take care of her. There are no doctors on Jakku.
There’s a human hand holding hers in a very familiar way, a voice tutting at her that he “just got out of here and now I have to come back again?”
She drinks something, thick and syrupy and not good-tasting at all that she nearly coughs back up, but after that she stops jolting awake and sleeps so deep and heavy that when she wakes up again she’s completely disoriented.
At least she remembers she’s not on Jakku. But her entire body is sore and she’s sweating something awful. She pushes down on her blanket, only to have it immediately drawn back up again.
“You are a terrible patient,” says Leia.
Rey offers the faintest suggestion of a smile, too exhausted to do much else. “What happened?” she says, voice coming out ground down to dust.
“There’s something nasty going around base. People are going down as fast as we can get them back up,” says Leia.
Rey’s arm makes a limp motion, just barely managing to nudge a few fingers free of her blanket. “I need to get up. We’re supposed to—”
“You’re staying right here until your fever breaks,” Leia says, tucking the blanket around Rey’s legs and feet. And then she places her hand on Rey’s forehead and it’s cool and dry and soft and feels like it’s soothing the ache in her head where it touches her brow. Leia makes a familiar-by-now clucking sound, the sound that means that someone has done something foolish and Leia is here to fix it. Rey thinks she’s done the foolish thing. “You’re still running hot. I’ll get the doctor.”
For the next two days she’s stuck in the infirmary so Finn brings her soup and Poe brings her a deck of cards that she’s too weak to play with and she thinks she hears the rolling sounds of a BB unit and Chewie just sits with her, comforting her with his deep, rhythmic breathing. And Leia visits her once a day, each time placing that cool, soft hand on Rey’s forehead instead of using a thermometer. She never knew how much she could crave someone simply touching her on the forehead, how nice it could feel.
“You look like you feel better,” Leia says on the second day. She looks tired herself, and Rey supposes that with people getting sick left and right that Leia has taken on even more work.
“Yes,” Rey says. She’s already planning to leave in the morning, whether the doctor says she can or not.
“You’re bouncing back pretty well. The doctor says your immune system is in decent shape, considering.”
Considering she spent her entire life on a nothing planet, with a nothing job, waiting for—nothing. Everything. “I’ve never been this sick before,” Rey says. “Not so sick I couldn’t work.”
Leia makes a face that looks oddly familiar, and it takes Rey a few moments to place it. Luke. Luke looked at her like this, during their first breakfast together. Well, they are twins. “Get some rest,” Leia says. “Work will still be there in the morning.”
Rey closes her eyes. Leia is right.