It was late.
Rey wasn’t entirely sure what time it was, but she was pretty sure she missed dinner. Not like she was all that hungry anyway. Growing up on a planet like Jakku where she had to live ration-to-ration had given her a small appetite and the ability to thrive on only one good meal a day.
Poe, Jessika, and most of the other people on the base that knew her kept encouraging her to come down to the cantina anyway and maybe grab a snack or even just sit and talk to people.
It would be good for her, they said. It would help her adjust to life on the base.
It wasn’t that Rey didn’t want to socialize and adjust and all that, but something about it still felt fragile. Like maybe if she closed her eyes, all of this would disappear and she wasn’t ready to get too attached to this life yet.
So instead of going to dinner, she was sneaking—not sneaking, she had just as much right to be down here as anyone else—to the hanger. She needed to do something to occupy her hands and her mind at least for a little while and if there was one thing she knew would keep her busy, it was working on something.
Before she even knew entirely what she was doing, she found herself in front of the Millennium Falcon.
As far back as she could remember, she had seen the ship sitting in the shipyard on Jakku and as far back as she could remember, she had always wanted to be able to get inside and see what made it tick.
Now, with the opportunity before her, though, she was frozen in front of it.
Something about going in know without Han at her side felt wrong. It made her stomach twist and her heart ache in a way that was so very different than anything else she had ever felt before.
Rey swallowed hard around the lump that had appeared in her throat and sniffed as she made her way around the side of the ship.
That was when she noticed that the ramp was down.
Someone was already there.
Rey was quiet as she tiptoed up the ramp and peeked into the Falcon. She couldn’t see anyone, but she could hear someone’s shaky breathing. She followed the sound to the very front of the ship and stopped in her tracks when she saw who was sitting in the pilot seat.
General Organa was a rather small woman to begin with, but there was something about her—a presence that could be felt whenever she entered a room—that made her seem so much larger than life, but there in the pilot seat with her arms wrapped around herself like she was trying to hold herself together, she looked smaller than Rey ever could have imagined.
The general’s eyes were closed, but she jumped when Rey cleared her throat to announce her presence.
“Oh, Rey. I didn’t hear you come in.” The general stood up and Rey didn’t miss the way that she ducked her head to swipe her fingers underneath her eyes, nor did she miss the slight quiver in the general’s strong voice.
“Sorry,” Rey said. “I was just…I can come back later.”
“No, that’s not necessary. I was just leaving anyway.”
“Are you sure, General? I mean, I don’t want to suggest anything but you looked…” Rey trailed off absently, not entirely sure where she had been going with that thought anyway.
“I’m sure,” the general replied. “I should get back to the briefing room anyway.” She sniffed and started to walk away, but then she stopped and put her hand on Rey’s upper arm gently. “And you can call me Leia if you’d like.”
Rey just nodded and she couldn’t help but sigh a little as the general—Leia’s—hand left her arm.
She heard Leia’s footsteps retreating down the ramp and before she knew it, Rey was alone in the ship with nothing but two empty seats for company.
Much of Rey’s first week on the base was spent exploring.
She had learned very quickly that she had a complete inability to sit still for longer than a few minutes at a time. It was probably a side effect of her life on Jakku, but it also meant that now that she was no longer scavenging to survive, she had to find other means of occupying herself.
Rey quickly learned every inch of the main building and was working on the surrounding grounds. The only problem with that was getting used to the storms.
On Jakku, the only storms that came were sand storms and the occasional rainstorm that would typically pass overnight.
Neither of those had prepared her for thunderstorms.
During the first storm, Rey hadn’t moved from her bunk until BB-8—and by extension, Poe—found her and reassured her that it was all right. It would pass soon enough.
By her second thunderstorm, though, Rey was happy.
Her explorations had led her to discover a small alcove at the end of a mostly-empty hallway that only contained Leia’s office. The end of the hallway was a huge pane of glass with a small sill that extended out just far enough for Rey to curl up against the wall and watch the rain as it pounded the ground.
Suddenly, Rey paused.
She could hear Chewbacca roaring in the only room in the hallway.
Chewbacca was in Leia’s office.
Rey wasn’t sure whether or not she was supposed to be hearing this, but then the door to the office slid open and R2-D2 came rolling out. The droid didn’t even seem to notice her and instead just rolled down the hallway in the opposite direction.
The office door stayed open and Rey could hear Leia speaking now.
“When are you leaving?”
Chewbacca said something else and Rey pushed herself up and sat up a little straighter so that she could hear better.
“No, I understand,” Leia said. “We all need to deal with it and if we need you back, I’ll contact you.”
Both Leia and Chewbacca stepped out into the hallway then and Rey pulled her legs up to her chest as though she could disappear into the window. She was pretty sure this wasn’t something she was supposed to be seeing, but there was nowhere for her to go.
Chewbacca wrapped his huge arms around Leia and Rey heard the distinct sound of Leia sucking in a shaky breath the same way she had that night in the Falcon. Leia buried her face in Chewbacca’s fur and they stayed like that for a long moment.
Leia’s shoulders were shaking and Chewie was making little noises that Rey assumed were meant to be comforting. Finally, they broke apart and Leia wiped two fingers under her eyes to catch any stray tears that might have escaped.
Even from the end of the hallway, Rey could see that her chin was quivering ever so slightly.
And then Chewie saw Rey.
He said something to Leia and nudged her before pointing at Rey.
“Rey?” Leia asked.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to listen, I just—“
“Don’t worry about it. Chewie, I’ll meet you down in the hanger in a few minutes.” Leia patted Chewbacca’s arm and he turned and headed down the hallway. Leia, however, made her way over to Rey. She paused in front of the alcove and dropped her hands to her hips as she looked past Rey to the storm outside.
“I assume you didn’t see very many storms back on Jakku,” Leia said.
“No,” Rey replied. “I like coming out here to watch the rain.”
“How much did you hear?” Leia asked.
“Not much. Is Chewbacca leaving?”
“For a little while. He needs some time away from the base to sort of…to deal with everything that’s happened recently. He knew Han the longest out of all of us.”
For a long moment, both Leia and Rey were quiet, just watching the storm. There was a flash of lightning followed by a loud clap of thunder. Rey couldn’t quite help her involuntary flinch.
She felt a warm hand on her shoulder and looked up to find Leia smiling gently down at her.
“I should get down to the hanger and send Chewie off,” Leia said.
Rey just nodded, pointedly not mentioning the shake in Leia’s voice and pretending not to notice the unshed tears that were glistening in her eyes.
Leia nodded to herself again and turned and walked down the opposite end of the hallway.
Rey, however, didn’t move. She just turned back to the window, pulled her legs a little closer to her chest, and watched the rain.
Finn woke up exactly nine days after they had arrived at the base.
Rey had been woken at dawn by BB-8’s excited beeping and she followed the droid all the way to the infirmary where Finn was sitting up in bed talking to Poe. When he saw Rey, his face lit up and he reached up to hug her as she came in. He wanted to know every detail about life on the resistance base and how Rey was faring and it felt so good to hear his voice again. Rey hadn’t even realized how much she had missed it.
The only downside to Finn waking up was that he was moved out of the infirmary and into the only available bunkroom on the base which just so happened to be Rey’s.
Poe had immediately offered to share his room, but it was already full and besides, Jess pointed out that Poe snored loud enough to keep anyone who wasn’t used to it awake, so Rey’s bunk it was.
The only problem was that Rey’s bunkroom wasn’t so much a room as it was a supply closet that had been cleared out on her first night at the base. She was pretty used to curling up in small spaces to sleep and she quite liked her room as it was.
She didn’t say anything when it was suggested that Finn stay with her, but she was pretty sure that Leia had seen it on her face.
That was how, the very next morning, Rey and Finn found themselves helping Leia clear out an old bunkroom that had been used for storage for what looked like at least a couple of years.
Well, Rey and Leia were clearing it out. Finn and Poe had volunteered to go get food from the cantina, but that had been almost half an hour ago and it didn’t look like they were going to be returning anytime soon.
But Rey and Leia were getting along all right. It was mostly just sifting through piles of boxes and stacking them in the hallway for the boys to take them where they needed to go. They worked mostly in silence, until Rey stumbled upon a box in back corner that she wasn’t quite sure where to put.
Most of the boxes contained old gear and weapons that needed to be fixed or spare parts that couldn’t fit in the mechanics’ room, but when Rey opened that box, the first thing she saw was a piece of paper.
It was a child’s drawing, clearly old and a bit torn around the edges, but still in tact. It was drawn exclusively in red and it showed two stick figure people holding the hands of a child. All three were smiling and Rey could see words written above each figure.
Mommy. Daddy. Me.
Rey felt sick and she dropped the drawing back on the box before standing up and moving to sit on the newly cleared bunk.
Leia was at her side in an instant, her hand on Rey’s shoulder and concern etched in every line on her face.
“Rey, what happened? What’s wrong?”
Rey just pointed at the box.
Leia followed her finger and walked over to the box. She picked up the drawing and stared silently at it for a long moment. Then she reached into the box again and pulled out a yellow baby blanket edged in satin. She lifted it to her face an inhaled deeply as though there was still some trace of her son on it.
When she turned back around, her eyes were glistening with tears that she was clearly struggling to bite back.
“I think I’ll go see what’s taking the boys so long,” Rey said quietly.
Leia just nodded and Rey hurried out of the room.
She paused in the hallway just long enough to hear Leia sit down on the bunk and the sound of a smothered sob as she buried her face in the baby blanket of her son who—as far as Rey was concerned—was long dead.
It was the first time that Rey had ever actually heard the general cry.
There was a part of Rey that didn’t wanted to leave, a part of her that wanted to stay and make sure that Leia was okay, but there was another part of her—a much louder part—that knew that Leia was still the general and probably wouldn’t be too fond of anyone, let alone the scavenger girl she’s known for barely a week seeing her so vulnerable.
So Rey just took a deep breath and headed off down the hallway.
Rey couldn’t sleep.
She was exhausted and she wanted nothing more than to be able to just curl up and close her eyes, but every time she did, all she saw was that red lightsaber glowing in the dark and then she was watching Han fall again, unable to do anything about it. Each time, she jerked awake in a cold sweat and each time, she rolled over and tried to sleep, only for it to happen all over again.
After she had finally lost track of the hours, Rey decided she had had enough.
She sat up and pulled her jacket on over her pajamas as she made her way out of her room.
She wasn’t entirely sure where she was going; she just needed to walk around and maybe clear her head a little.
After a few minutes of wandering the deserted hallways, Rey found herself outside on the front steps of the base. The night air was cool and when Rey looked up, she could see nothing but stars above her.
“It’s pretty, isn’t it?”
Rey jumped at the voice and spun around to see Leia sitting on a large boulder along the wall a few feet away.
“Did I startle you?” Leia asked. “I’m sorry.”
“No, no, it’s fine,” Rey replied. She took a few steps closer and crossed her arms in front of her chest.
There was a dim yellow light that extended from the wall above Leia’s head that shone down on her. Her long gray hair was braided over her shoulder and she looked somehow softer than Rey had ever seen her.
“What are you doing out here so late?” Leia asked.
“Couldn’t sleep,” Rey replied.
“Neither could I.”
Leia shifted over to make a little bit of room and Rey took it as a silent invitation to join her. She scrambled up onto the boulder and was rather relieved when Leia didn’t move away.
“It’s Han, isn’t it?” Leia asked quietly. “You see it playing over and over again and you feel it like you’re right back there, don’t you?”
Rey didn’t know what to say, so she just didn’t say anything at all.
Then Leia broke the silence again.
“You know, I remember back when I first met Han. He was so infuriating and frustrating, but I fell for him just the same.”
“What about Luke Skywalker?” Rey asked.
“What about him?”
“What’s he like? I mean, I suppose it’s a touchy subject and you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, but everyone’s trying so hard to bring him back and I’d kind of like to know who he really is.”
“My brother is…” Leia chuckled to herself. “He’s strong. And he’s a good man. He sees the best in people.”
Leia paused and when Rey looked up, she could see that Leia’s eyes were misty.
“He’s very brave,” she continued. “Sometimes even stupidly so, but he’s my brother and I love him.”
“You miss him,” Rey remarked.
Both Rey and Leia stared up at the stars and Rey could feel her eyes starting to droop. Leia yawned and Rey started to shift and get up.
“I should probably get back to bed,” she said.
“You can stay if you’d like to,” Leia said. “I’ve found that being out in the open air can help with the nightmares.”
“You don’t mind?” Rey asked.
“Of course not. In fact, I was starting to get rather used to the company. But it’s your choice.”
“Okay. Tell me more about Luke?”
Leia sighed and wrapped an arm around Rey’s shoulder.
“Well let’s see,” she said. Her eyes were getting that faraway, misty look again and she swallowed back unshed tears as she looked up at the stars. “We were separated at birth, so we never even knew about each other until we were nineteen and the first time I met him, he was dressed as a stormtrooper.”
Leia kept on talking, but after a few minutes, Rey found herself completely unable to fight off sleep.
She curled up against Leia’s side as Leia’s fingers combed absently through her hair and for the first time in nearly two weeks, Rey slept peacefully.
Rey was restless.
She had been at the base for nearly three weeks and she had settled into life there pretty well, but she wanted more. She wanted to see more, learn more, help more and there was only one way she could think of to do that.
She needed to find Luke Skywalker.
She told Finn and Poe first, mostly because she still wasn’t sure herself whether or not it was a good idea. All of three of them were crammed in her room after dinner one evening with BB-8 whizzing around on the floor between them. Finn in particular was listening with rapt attention and both he and Poe agreed that it sounded like a pretty good course of action. Even BB-8 beeped encouragingly at her.
That was the easy part.
The next step was telling Leia.
Rey did it late one evening after most of the base was clear and there were only a few stragglers in the hallways. Luckily, though, Leia was still in her office and when Rey knocked on the open door, she was greeted with a soft smile and a “Come in.”
Rey stepped slowly into the room and sat down in the chair opposite Leia’s desk. She was trying her hardest not to look nervous, but she was sure that Leia could see right through it.
“What’s wrong?” Leia asked, immediately setting down her datapad and narrowing her eyes.
“Well, I actually wanted to, um…” Rey was really beginning to regret not listening to Poe’s suggestion to practice some kind of speech beforehand. She twisted her hands in her lap and pointedly avoided eye contact as she said, “I want to go find Luke Skywalker.”
“You what?” Leia asked.
“I want to find Luke,” Rey repeated. “I want…I need to train with the Force and we need him here anyway and I think I’d like to volunteer to be the one to go get him.”
Leia didn’t say anything for a long moment.
Rey chanced a glance up at Leia’s face, but her expression was unreadable. Or at least it was until she stood up and rounded the desk. She gestured for Rey to stand up and Rey did exactly that. Once she was on her feet, she had only a half-second to prepare before Leia wrapped her arms around her in a hug so warm and strong that Rey felt tears already sliding down her cheeks.
Leia’s hands moved naturally, one coming to rest on the small of Rey’s back and the other cradling the back of Rey’s head to pull her even closer. The hand on her back started moving slowly up and down in a practiced maternal motion and Rey’s breath hitched as the tears started coming in earnest.
“You’re sure you want to do this?” Leia whispered.
All Rey could do was nod.
Leia sucked in a breath and pulled back. Her hands moved to Rey’s shoulders and she smiled though her lips were trembling.
“When exactly did you plan on leaving?”
“As soon as I can,” Rey said. She sniffed and Leia used the pads of her thumbs to wipe away a few of the tears.
“You can take the Falcon tomorrow morning if you think you’ll be ready,” Leia said.
“What? The Falcon? No, I can’t possibly—“
“You can and you will,” Leia said firmly. “It’s what Han would have wanted.” She squeezed Rey’s shoulders gently and smiled again, but Rey didn’t miss the slight quiver in her lips and the glistening sheen over her eyes. “I just need you to promise me one thing.”
“Anything,” Rey said.
“Whether or not my brother decides to come back, I want you to come home.”
Rey felt like she was going to cry again and Leia pulled her close, pressing her face into Rey’s shoulder and holding her until they were both steady again.
“I will,” Rey breathed. “I promise.”
This time it was Rey who pulled back from the embrace, albeit reluctantly. She paused for a moment and started to say something else, but there was nothing left to say, so she just turned and headed out into the hallway.
It wasn’t until she got back to her own bunk that she noticed the tear spots on the fabric at her shoulder.
When the Millennium Falcon touched down on D’Qar, it was to thunderous applause.
Rey was coming back to the base a hero, but she was pretty sure she had never felt more nervous in her life.
“It’ll be fine,” Luke said. She hadn’t even realized that he was at her side, but when he took her hand and smiled at her, she was grateful for him.
The ramp descended and the cheers grew louder. It seemed like everyone on the base had come out to greet them.
The droids went down first, R2-D2 beeping happily and C-3P0 waving to the gathered crowd. Then came Rey with Luke by her side.
As soon as Rey was on solid ground, the crowd parted and Leia was striding towards them, her head high and her expression neutral. She stopped in front of Luke who grinned at her.
“Hi,” he said.
“Idiot,” she replied, shaking her head and throwing her arms around his neck.
He was taller than her by just enough that he had to bend down just a little bit to be able to hug her back. They stayed like that for a long moment, her face pressed into his shoulder and his arms holding her so close that Rey was almost surprised they didn’t merge into a single person.
Finally, Leia let go of her brother and turned her eyes to Rey who resisted the urge to squirm under her gaze by kicking at a pebble near her boot.
“Rey, look at me,” Leia said.
Rey lifted her chin and Leia’s hands came to cup her cheeks.
Rey hadn’t even realized how much she had missed Leia until that very moment and her vision started to blur with tears that fell the second Leia pulled her into a crushing hug.
“You came back,” Leia whispered.
All Rey could do was nod.
She could feel tears that were not her own soaking creating a wet spot on shoulder, which could only mean one thing.
Leia was crying.
Leia was crying and Rey wasn’t sure what else to do, so she just started moving her hand slowly, smoothly up and down Leia’s back the same way that Leia had done that night in her office only a few weeks before.
The crowd was still there, but Rey wasn’t even registering it anymore.
“Of course I came back,” she replied. She closed her eyes as her words morphed into a choked sob.
“I had hope, but I didn’t know for sure,” Leia said. Her voice was surprisingly strong, but Rey could still hear the tremor. “It seems fewer and fewer people have been coming back lately.”
Rey wasn’t sure she could trust herself to speak a full sentence, so she said the only thing she could.
Leia made a noise that was halfway between a chuckle and a sob.
“That’s right,” she said. “You’re home.”
Leia took a half step back, keeping her hands on Rey’s shoulders and Rey could see for the first time the tears that were slipping freely down Leia’s cheeks and the way her chin trembled as she stroked Rey’s hair.
“Welcome home,” Leia whispered with a thin smile that made her eyes crinkle at the corners.
Rey didn’t think she could ever be happier than in that moment.
For the first time in her life, she was home.