The base is nice. Really, really nice. It’s clean, there’s people whose job it is to clean up after everybody and they sweep everything and they mop the floors and it’s amazing. Especially because it’s hardly even necessary. Back home— on Jakku—the sand got in everywhere, all the time, and it was impossible not to have a layer of dust coating everything she owned. Even if she cleaned the AT-AT from top to bottom, it’d be dusty again the next day, so mostly she just tried to keep the dirt from forming actual piles and drifts in the corners and hoped for the best.
She couldn’t have washed everything weekly, the way they do here. Wouldn't have had the water, even if she'd had the time. Got used to waking up with dust in her nose, sand in her food, grit under the soles of her feet. Here, everything is squared away in lockers and boxes and shelves and only in the hidden back storage areas is there ever any dust.
She has a room to herself. It’s just big enough for a single bed, a bench, a trunk for her things. That one’s half full, the clothes they made for her, four whole sets, a pebble she found by the stream that was dark black and shiny under the water and dried to a soft grey. It sits comfortably in the palm of her hand, smooth and worn. Her light saber. When Rey opens the trunk to put on clean clothes, she gives it a wary look. She’s not sure how she feels about it. It’s powerful, exciting, beautiful—but it’s uncomfortable. She’s happy to leave it be.
When she’s dressed, she heads the mess, bracing herself for the noise. Rey’s used to being by herself. She didn’t need other people around, and okay maybe she wanted her family to come back and get her and maybe she wished she had a friend to share her excitement at a particularly good find, but she never imagined the cacophony of people here.
There are more people on this base than in all of Niima outpost, and it seems like most of them are in this room for breakfast. Rey stands in line, picks up her tray. For free, no counting out portions here. She looks around until she sees Poe’s curly hair and hears him laugh, and then heads his way.
Poe always eats with the same people, pilots all of them, and they leave her a place at the end of the table. Rey slides her tray next to Poe’s and takes a seat.
“Mornin’ sunshine,” Jessika says, smiling, her hands wrapped around a cup of caf.
“Good morning,” Rey says, sits, pulls her bowl of porridge close. She doesn’t understand how they can talk and eat at the same time, how Poe can wave his toast around in the air to demonstrate some maneuver he pulled off in his X-wing. Rey keeps her head down and her elbows on the table until she’s done with her porridge and only then does she sit up with her toast in her hands and pay attention to what the others are saying.
Not much, really, and Rey figured when her family came to take her home they would talk about…well, important things, like where they’d been and what they’d done, the dangerous missions they’d been off completing while she was waiting for them. Not whether Poe could beat General Organa at some game Rey’s never heard of, or whether a wookie could have sex with a human, or who stole Jessika’s striped socks.
No wonder it’s so loud in here.
When Rey’s done eating she heads down to the Falcon. BB-8 rolls up from wherever he’s been hiding out lately and follows her, chirping contentedly.
“Even you talk all the time,” Rey says, now that they’re away from the buildings a little and she can hear herself think. “You’d think people’d get tired of hearing each other.”
No, BB-8 says. People always like hearing each other. Reminds them who they are.
“Like they’d forget?”
You’d be surprised.
“I don’t think I’ve stopped being surprised since…well, since you showed up.” Rey tries to glare, but the droid just hums contentedly.
Chewbacca is standing by the Falcon, his hands hidden inside an access panel. He just nods at her, and Rey nods back and goes inside.
It’s cool and quiet and electric-lights-bright in here, and it’s clean but not too clean, and even if she’d only ever snuck in to poke around, she knew this ship on Jakku.
And even if she hadn’t, it’s a ship, and she understands ships. Can estimate what every piece of it is worth and how hard it’d be to find a replacement, knows what to pry loose and what to leave be, knows how to figure out anything she doesn’t know already. Knows the rules.
And it’s important, to get the ship ready, it’s gotten them this far on luck and quick fixes, but if they’re going to fly halfway across the galaxy to track down a legend then everything needs to work properly.
She forgets about all the rest of it while she works, until she hears footsteps behind her and turns around.
Chewbacca crosses his arms. “It’s lunchtime,” he says, watching her.
Rey shrugs. “I’m busy. I’ll go back for supper.”
Chewbacca just stands there.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she says, and ducks down into the maintenance bay to keep checking the wiring.
It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long when Chewbacca calls out that it’s suppertime. Her canteen is still half-full, and the job’s not finished yet, but the mess is only open certain hours and if she has to wait until breakfast to eat she’ll probably wake up restless. So okay, fine, she puts away her tools and walks back toward the base with Chewbacca. He splits off to a different mess hall—she’s scouted the base pretty well, but she still doesn’t understand quite how it’s all organized—and she goes into Poe’s.
“Hi Rey,” Poe says when she sits down. “Didn’t see you at lunch.”
“I got busy” Rey says, between mouthfuls. It’s some kind of starchy paste today, with leafy greens on the side and some kind of meat. It’s at least 2 portions worth of food, and she had a full portion for breakfast, and there’s really no need to eat more at lunch, too. Just an interruption.
“Ugh, spinach,” Jessika says, poking at the greens with her fork. “Anybody want mine?”
Rey looks up, startled. Jessika takes that as yes, leans over and scrapes her greens onto Rey’s plate.
“Have at it, girl,” she says. “Better you than me.”
Rey’s stomach feels stretched tight already, but greens—greens aren’t filling really and they’re expensive and important and so she finishes it all and scrapes her plate clean…and looks up to see them all watching her.
Nobody actually says anything though, and when she looks up, they look away and go back to talking about stuff she doesn’t even think they care about. Reminds them who they are, she thinks, tracing the edge of her plate with a finger. That’s worth thinking about.
When they start to get up she follows, waving as they duck into side rooms and heading into hers. It’s cool, the vent is blowing air softly in, there’s enough dim light coming in under the door that she doesn’t have to turn on the overhead light. Rey wraps herself in her blanket and sits against the wall.
Strains her ears and hears…nothing. Faint mechanical whirr from the vent, footsteps in the hallway sometimes, but no wind, no whisper of sand against the walls, no sign of weather at all—and of course not, these aren’t outside walls, but it is strange.
There’s a low whistle outside her door. She gets up, opens it.
Can I come in? BB-8 edges forward, then back.
“Sure,” Rey says, stepping aside. BB-8 just fits into the space at the end of the bed. “Show me the map again?” Rey asks. BB-8 warbles and projects it against the wall. “I’m going to find him,” Rey says, willing it to be true. “You’ll see.”
She lies down on the bed, tracing the lines on the map over and over again in her mind. Just in case.
When she wakes up, it’s dark. BB-8 is humming quietly, and if she closes her eyes it almost sounds like a desert wind.