In the days after they bring Luke home, he and Leia retreat from the rest of the base to talk – at least Rey imagines that’s what they’re doing – and only the droids are allowed into that quadrant. Rey’s left to her own devices and finds that people treat her differently now, giving her a wide, respectful berth, quieting their conversations when she approaches. She knows that people are talking, that there’s word that she’s a Jedi. It makes her laugh to consider it – she might become better at fighting, she thinks, or a commander with help from the Force, but she’s hardly a warrior. She’s living on a planet filled with green among new friends and allies because of luck, as far as she can figure, and a personal habit of hitting people with sticks.
She isn’t built for brooding over what her future might be once she hears what the General has to say – she’s built for working, and exploration, and learning things fast. So she takes Finn’s hand now that he’s upright and mostly himself again and drags him to the perimeter of the base where they stick their fingers deep into dark, rich soil and she wonders aloud how the dirt beneath her fingernails feels nothing like sand. They study the flowers out there – Finn says they’re probably weeds – and the waves of sediment in rock, and the way you can tell one tree from another by the quality of its bark. They spend a whole afternoon without socks and boots, pant legs rolled up around their knees, feet dangling in a rushing stream, and Finn tells her all about the things he learned in Stormtrooper school. (It had no such name, she knows, but it makes Finn smile to call it that, and she recognizes his expression as that of someone purposefully taking the sting out of something with their words.) Finn studied geology and geography and weather patterns, because who knew which world the troopers would be on next, or what battle formation would match the terrain. But she loves best the stories about the sewers and the fuel cells, the atmosphere scrubbers, the infrastructure that ran beneath the surface of every base Finn lived on. She loves, she realizes late one night, knowing what he knows.
She knows that Finn is sweet on Poe Dameron, but he also seems to be sweet on her. She feels a lot of complicated things when she’s around him – gratitude and hope and something hesitant that beats in her belly as if it has wings when she sees him. But she doesn’t feel jealousy, feels no compunction to stake out that Finn is hers because he’s not, he’s himself, and he’s learning what that means as surely as she is, and perhaps Poe Dameron is part of that, too.
She doesn’t know Dameron as well as Finn – has no crash story to bind her to him. But she likes him, is drawn to him, at first because of Finn’s enthusiasm, but soon enough for himself. He has a smile that the most nefarious traders on Jakku would treasure, but there’s no calculation behind it, just straight up honesty and a wealth of kindness. Once, he brings her a Prydaym fruit just because he knows she’ll never have tasted anything so good, and twice he walks with her and Finn to the edge of the landing pads, fishes choca nibs from his pocket or a piece of Frengasi cheese, sends them off on their wanderings. He doesn’t press in, doesn’t beg for attention, but he falls into step with them when they come back, and they eat together, and she learns what makes him laugh. From others she hears about his exploits, about his mother and his gift for flying, but not from Dameron himself. He teaches her some little-known details about the weapons system on his X-Wing, lets her tinker with the engine, and she puts it back together exactly as she found it. But it’s nighttime when she learns to trust him, when she sees him as she passes through the base unnoticed; he’s staring at star charts with loss written clearly across his face.
It’s not entirely by chance, then, that she and Finn end up on a shipping run with Dameron - Poe, he corrects her – on what should be his rest day. “I do this for fun,” he says, laughing, and she straps herself in, glances at Finn who’s vibrating at some kind of fever pitch she’s never seen before. He’s thrilled, she realizes, to have them to himself, and the fluttering in her belly comes back, as well as a new, sweet ache around her heart, to realize how much she is wanted.
They land, and the bay door lowers, and Rey is out of her chair before Poe and Finn can reach for their seat releases. This world – Poe told her its name, but she forgot already, having no memory for words made up of soft vowels – is ablaze, not with fire, but with color. There are trees all around them, but trees like nothing she’s seen – red and orange, gold leaves with pale green beneath – and their shade and light are reflected in the lake they’ve landed beside. The air smells of wood-smoke, so different a scent from the burning rubber and engine oil of the trade-town on Jakku, and a bird, something lithe and beautiful, glides over the water, calling out to its kinfolk on the opposite shore.
“It’s stunning,” she says as Poe and Finn come up beside her. Finn catches her hand – she knows now how little he was allowed to touch before he ran – and squeezes it gently. Poe grins at her. “I thought you’d like it,” he says, and looks suddenly nervous, pink rising high on his cheeks.
Oh, she thinks, and she feels a sudden rush of resolution, leans to press a kiss to the spot where his cheek is warm, turns to Finn and cups his face with her free hand, presses a kiss to his mouth.
Finn splutters and looks at the floor and back at her face and over to Poe and shakes his head a little even as he smiles. Rey feels Poe take her other hand, graze his lips over her dirty knuckles, and the whole world seems to open up inside her. “Did you plan this?” she asks Poe, and laughs when he says yes and Finn says no, and pulls them both as close as she can get them. Their breath mingles, warm and humid, and she smiles because she has friends and co-conspirators and perhaps even bedmates, and because she would die for either of them, and this is perhaps what the people from the green planets mean about growing roots.
“I brought the white bread you like,” says Finn. “In my pack.”
“Beer too, if you want it,” Poe offers.
“Thank you,” she says, and lets them one, then the other, kiss her sweetly, and as they kiss one another she thinks about the fact that her staff is at home, and she leans her head against Finn’s shoulder, slides her arm around Poe’s waist. She closes her eyes, feels the light inside her hum with approval. This light, these men, those skies – a new hope, she thinks; earned, beyond luck.