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king, queen, checkmate

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Poe calls her king, sometimes. She asked him why once, and he had smiled, sharp white teeth against tanned skin and said, It’s your name, jedita. And I’m a simple knight at your service.

But why not queen?

Poe had laughed, head thrown back and the curve of his throat bared. Oh, Rey, he always says her name differently than everyone else. A slow, sensual curve of the r that she cannot hope to imitate. You’re the whole damn chessboard. Then he’d kissed her cheek and gone to find BB-8.

Rey touches her cheek with her hand now, like she can still feel the imprint of his stubble on her skin. She’s laying in the grass staring at the night sky–Poe and Finn are on a supply run. Easy, but far enough that they’re gone for three days.

Sometimes, when she sleeps, she dreams of them. She dreams of Poe and his droopy eyes and infectious curl of his mouth. Of Finn and his dancing eyes and bright laughter. She dreams of the way Poe says Rey, the way his mouth forms, the way his tongue curls out. She finds she’s never liked her name as much as when Poe says it.

In her dreams, Poe says to her, Little king. His eyes are glitter and his tongue slides along his canines. In her dreams, Poe is all him and also more than him, incorporeal, his hair made of stardust and his eyes like the twin suns over Tattooine, and he calls to her. Rey, he says in that voice. Lead us.

Why do you call me king? she asks him again.

His starlight mouth turns up. I’m the knight, little king. Just tell me when to say check.

She wakes, not with a gasp, no, but suddenly, all at once. There are lights in the sky not from stars and the familiar vibration in the ground that comes from X-wings flying towards the surface. She gets up and follows the noise, touching her finger to a shaking tree. Its leaves stretch towards her and she feels warm, presses the palm of her hand to a worn trunk, feels its unfathomable age, feels each root in the dirt, and the steady, beating life inside it.

She kisses it goodbye on its leathery skin before heading off to greet the pilots.

-

When she dreams that night, she’s curled up between Poe and Finn, tangled together in what Poe affectionately calls a puppy pile.

She’s in the snow, watching it fall around her. A snowflake falls on her eyelashes and she smiles, then sticks her tongue out, feeling it melt.

There’s movement behind her, not something she can hear, but something she can feel, like she’s just an extension of the ground she’s standing on. A buzzing, throbbing sound echoes around her, one she recognizes, and she tries to jerk away but finds her feet stuck. A bolt of panic and she looks down, but there are no legs, just long, dark bark and cool earth and she tries to gasp but she has no mouth and

Feel me, Rey.

Her eyes slide shut and if she had fingers, they’d curl into her palm.

We are one, all of us. It’s a shivery voice, one that rises above the buzz. And you are us too. There’s a low snarl and she feels sharp pain in her side, suddenly sees Kylo Ren, a jagged scar down his face, and bark splintering in his hands. A branch, a wound. His eyes look red in the glow of his saber.

She does not bleed.

Little king, she does (not) hear. Tell me when to say check.

A branch cracks and she wants to cry out but it lands a glancing blow on Kylo Ren’s head, she (all, we) sees the surprise in his eyes and he falls.

Check.

In the shower the next morning, she presses her hand to a bruise on her side, huge and blooming and purple on her pale skin. She presses down hard just to feel the ache.

-

She learns with Luke. Luke who is like her but more, his mind fathomless and ancient and filled with grief beyond measure.

He has lived much more than his sixty years on earth, has lived through centuries, felt the children in his care die, his nephew, a heart so full, turn black and shriveled.

Rey respects him and Luke, he looks at her like he sees hope again.

-

Poe, she asks again in her dreams. His skin shines faintly, and his hair shimmers. He is starlight again.

Yes, nenita? He reaches up and flicks a bit of dust from his pants and it shines, a firefly suspended in light, before going out.

Why do you call me king?

He smiles again, and his eyelashes are long and thick. When you figure it out, say checkmate.

Rey opens her mouth, frustrated, when he shifts and explodes into a thousand cubes of ice, tinkling like laughter as they land on the ground.

She is in the snow again. Finn is on the ground, a long gash in his back, and her breath catches in her throat. Not again.

There is something in her hand. Familiar. There’s a disturbance around her. Also familiar.

There are whispers that they call you a king, a voice snarls.

I’m no king, she replies.

He chuckles, and he’s already scarred, thick and ropey along his cheek and down his jaw. No, he says. You are not. And he attacks.

Time slows down. Her heart beats and she can hear her breathing, low and raspy. She can feel Finn’s heart, weak and thready but alive, and she feels the trees, the roots-–she is the tree, can feel the root that Kylo Ren steps on, can feel the scrape of his lightsaber against a leaf, slicing it in half.

She screams and their lightsabers collide and the world explodes.

-

Luke tells her she’s getting better. Her concentration is good, and her eyes are sharp, and you have a way with the Force I’ve never seen, he says to her.

She asks him what he means.

The Force is everywhere. She knows that, nods impatiently, and he smiles, quiet. But you are everywhere too. I can feel your presence in every living thing I touch. In my father's time, in my time, we could feel the Force, wield it, respect it, but. We were limited by who we were. We were Jedi, messengers. You, he pauses and touches her cheek. You are.

Rey has been thinking about his words all day. She’s quiet at dinner and Poe nudges her, smiling, and asks what’s going on in her kingly little head and she looks at him and sees the same teeth made out of sunlight, the same glittering sky eyes. Finn pokes her side and she sees in him endless space, expanding and infinite, and ripe with all possibilities.

Poe, she says, and he tilts his head, glossy hair falling in front of his eyes. Why do you call me king?

He looks startled and laughs, the tinkling of broken crystal. That’s your name in my language. Rey, he says. King.

That night, centered and calm, wearing a crown made of starlight and infinite night sky and her chin held high, she sees a scarred face and yellow eyes.

Checkmate.