Poe was getting ready for bed when his transmitter pinged, signalling a message from the Millennium Falcon. Pulling down the comm screen above his desk, he was already on the alert. Rey had called just a few hours ago, chattering to Finn and showing off her latest lightsaber trick, and there was no reason for her to contact them again so soon.
Except: ‘Oh — it’s you,’ she said, as soon as Poe brought her up onscreen. So, not an emergency, then.
‘Is everything okay?’
Rey frowned. She was sitting with her legs folded up and her chin resting on her knees, alone in the now-familiar cockpit of the Falcon. Her bare, skinny arms reminded Poe of himself as a kid, his mother calling him “little buglet” when he curled up in the branches of the big tree outside their house. Rey looked pale in the light of the screen, just a few inches tall and horribly far away.
‘We’re all fine,’ she said. ‘Sorry, is it the middle of the night there as well? It’s hard to keep track.’
‘Don’t sweat it.’ He looked down at where Finn was sleeping on the floor, a blanket-swaddled lump on Poe’s spare roll-out mattress. Finn was an oddly motionless sleeper, for reasons Poe didn’t really want to examine. ‘You want me to wake Finn up?’
‘No! It doesn’t matter, I just couldn’t sleep. I can go.’
Poe studied her face through the weak, greenish tone of the transmitter screen. They couldn’t get live holo communications from the Falcon at this distance, even from the main control room, but he didn’t need high definition to detect the strain at the corners of her eyes.
‘Think you can make do with me instead?’ he asked, easing himself casually back into his desk chair. People didn't just call in the middle of the night for no reason. She clearly wanted to talk to someone who wasn't a Jedi Master or a 200-year-old Wookiee. ‘I wanna ask how Luke is doing, but it’s kind of hard to imagine him as a normal guy. I used to have like eight models of his T-65 lined up beside my bed when I was a kid.'
‘He’s mostly just... quiet. And sad.’ After a moment, she admitted: ‘I had an X-Wing pilot doll, back on Jakku. And an old Rebel Alliance helmet.’
‘No kidding? Does that make me your Luke Skywalker?’
She smiled. ‘I wouldn’t go that far. Maybe your mum would have been. She was a pilot, wasn’t she?’
Poe’s stomach twisted. Finn must have told her, which meant they spoke about him when he wasn’t around. Which was... good, maybe?
‘Yeah. She would have liked you, I think.’
Rey leaned back and pulled a blanket up around her shoulders. ‘You should tell Finn more about her. I know he’d want to know, he talks about you all the time.’
Well, that answered that question. Poe felt his face heat, which was just dumb . He was thirty-two damn years old.
‘You know you guys can ask me anything, right? About my parents, or the Resistance, or... anything?’
Rey nodded, a sly expression stealing across her face. ‘Actually, I do have one question,’ she began. ‘Every time I call you guys here, I've been wondering...’
‘What are all those weird bottles behind you?’
Poe glanced around and barked out a laugh, loud enough that Finn shifted in his sleep on the floor below.
In the cramped cube of Poe’s quarters, there was barely any spare wallspace except underneath his bunk. The viewscreen on his desk pointed straight at his one shelving unit, which was crammed with basically everything he used on a regular basis, plus a little glass bulb of glow-lichen that Finn had bartered off someone in the mess hall. Rey had spotted his collection of haircare products in garish plastic containers, which admittedly must be a total mystery to someone who grew up taking dust baths in the wreck of an old AT-AT.
‘Um, the bottles are mostly for stuff I use in my hair. And some Dathomirian wine.’
‘Your... hair?’ Anyone else would have been making fun of him by this point, but Rey just seemed puzzled. 'Is there something wrong with it?
‘No! I wear helmets a lot,’ he said, defensive. ‘It just gets tangled unless I put stuff in it.’
‘That makes sense. It looks nice,' she added, in case he needed reassuring. Unconsciously, she reached up and touched her own hair, which was lying in a neat braid over one shoulder, ready for bed. ‘You know, I always wanted to cut mine short like yours, back on Jakku. It was so bloody hot all the time.’
‘Why didn’t you?’
For a moment, she was silent. ‘This is just how I’ve always had it. I can’t remember what my family looks like, or their names, or where we lived. But I do remember someone started every morning by putting my hair up like that and tying it so it wouldn’t get in a mess.’ Her mouth tipped down at the corners, and Poe was struck with the overwhelming desire to wrap her up in a hug, this girl who he’d only really met for a couple of hours before she flew off to the other side of the galaxy. ‘It’s stupid, but I used to think it would help them recognize me, when they came back. I’ve grown so much, but I thought if I had the same hair, they’d know it was me.’
‘That’s not stupid at all,’ he said gently. ‘Do you know anything about the General’s home planet?’
‘I know she didn’t grow up on Tatooine with Master Luke. And I guess she became a princess somehow?’
‘She was adopted the royal family on Alderaan, one of the core worlds of the old Republic. She must have been about your age when the first Death Star blew it up, like the Hosnian system.’
Rey’s eyes had gone very wide. ‘That was Alderaan? Did anyone survive?’
‘Only people who were already offworld, I guess. But my point is, the General never let go of Alderaan. That all happened more than thirty years ago, but she still wears Alderaanian clothes and tries to find food and stuff that reminds her of home.’ Poe stared at the fizzing grey-green particles of the viewscreen, trying to collect his thoughts. ‘People mourn in different ways. But it’s not stupid to want to remember your family. No way. That’s what makes us different from the First Order. They just want to lock that stuff up and make everyone be the same.’
Something made a soft noise behind him, and Poe glanced around. Finn was awake, eyes reflecting the green light of the transmitter screen. Poe opened his mouth, stricken, but he couldn't make himself apologise for telling the truth.
‘It’s okay,’ said Finn, his voice low and gruff from sleep. He rolled up onto his knees, and Poe tilted the screen down so Finn and Rey could see each other. They looked like a diptych of paintings, mirror images leaning forward to meet each other with their blankets pooling around their shoulders. ‘Why are you up so late?’
Rey scrunched up her nose in a mock-angry little glare. ‘You keep hogging Poe during the daytime, I had to call him now to get a word in.’
‘Ohhh, alright,’ said Finn, his face relaxing into an easy smile. He must have heard part of what they were saying; Poe knew he had. But Finn was kind about that sort of thing, kinder than anyone had the right to be in his situation. ‘You’ll just have to come back here for him, then. Make sure I don't get him all the time.'
Solemnly, she nodded in agreement. ‘That’s only fair,’ she said, and Poe, caught between them, smiled helplessly into the darkness.