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All the Stars, They Must Burn

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It’s the silence that feels strange to Rey, now. Before, she was used to silence. In the Field of Giants you could spend hours without seeing another living soul before finally returning to Niima Outpost. Jakku was a place for the lost and the dead, where ships and tech went to die. Where people spent decades trying to climb out of the dirt. The unwanted. The Nobodies.

Rey’s fingers catch on the crate that she’s sliding out of the Falcon as that word passes through her mind. Nobody.

Perhaps it made sense that she had grown up on Jakku. Perhaps the planet made a person just as much as a family did. Her hands clench together so hard against the crate’s edges that they tremble and she cuts herself off from the balance, shuts it off, shuts it down, because Rey’s standing in the middle of a small space with a bunch of people and right now it feels like she could shove the Falcon off its landing gears if she let it all out. Even the bolts and hinges around her groan and vibrate. Like Rey's thought was a command that they were more than happy to obey. Her bones feel it. It'd be so easy

“You okay, kid?” Dameron cuts in, suddenly at her left shoulder with his own crate of what few food rations the Resistance managed to bring with them on the escape pods.

That easiness, the feeling in her bones snaps, and all Rey's left with is the cold.

Breathe, comes Master Luke’s echo. It’s hard to let the thing inside her chest go, let it dissipate, but she does. Nods. “Just— slipped.”

Slipped. Two days ago she'd lifted six thousand pounds of rocks on Crait. Today she can barely stay vertical. 

BB8, who rolls to the bottom of the ramp, looks between them with their swiveling visual unit with some exaggerated whirs and beeps something that translates into schedule DESIGNATED\\REY for traction upgrades?

Rey just blinks a few times and says nothing.

Poe, however, just sighs and says, “You know I can’t understand you when you talk that fast.”

BB8 ignores Poe and continues just as fast: DESIGNATED\\REY was not manufactured for this terrain, modifications necessary.

“They are not,” Rey bites. She’s being taken care of by a droid that barely comes up to her knee. “I’m fine.”

Poe shakes his head and frowns down at his bot, and continues carefully toeing his way down the Falcon’s ramp into the hard-packed ice, and as he goes Rey hears, “I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately, BB. Do bots have teenage phases?”

BB8’s visual unit swivels back to stare at Rey even as it rolls away, right on Poe’s ankles. Rey just shakes her head at it, and maybe something in her expression translates into binary, somehow. Stranger things have been known to happen.

 

_________

 

Now they are on Hoth. The old Rebel base, and Rey finally understands the meaning of cold because this place somehow makes Starkiller's snowy forests seem dry and balmy — she grew in the other end of the unlivable spectrum but this ice planet has taught her what death by cold feels like, and the coat and gloves that she was given are too large for even her frame, and aren’t warm enough, and everyone is scrambling, licking their wounds and trying to find what next might be. Like after the Breath of R’iia, the great sandstorm on Jakku that knocked over Imperial-Class Star Destroyers. Everyone is panicking, and it is only the firm hand of Command that is keeping people from flying apart at the bolts.

There’s cargo to be unloaded and wounded to be tended to, ships to be repaired. Especially the Falcon, who, at right this very second, has been promoted to the Resistance’s only Flagship. Chewie’s already working on repairing the Novaldex Static-Type Shield Generators on the port side, which was nearly ripped off during that stint in the crystal caverns on Crait.

Even just working on the generators will take better part of a day, if they can even find the right parts in this base. Chewie lets her help with the Falcon straight through dinner and until dawn, because it's important, because they're dead in the water without a functioning Flagship, because they have nothing better to do right this very second, and because it feels like the Resistance is holding its breath and waiting for the sound of heavy footsteps, their impending doom. But the doom doesn't come. All they can do is sleep. Wait for dawn. Chewbacca lets her work until her fingers start disobeying what her mind tells them and then shoos her into one of the bunks at the front of the Falcon with one of his short, no-nonsense tolerating burrs. She has half a mind to argue, because she’s not tired and the Falcon still won’t fly in this state— but he berates her again and she gives in.

That Wookie is possibly the second-most stubborn thing she’s ever met in the Galaxy.

 

_________

 

The bunks on the Falcon are not comfortable by any stretch of the imagination, even though Rey somehow knows that the ones in the other room are a little bit less-used, but to Rey, who slept for nineteen years on hard Durasteel covered in whatever scraps of cloth she could find in the Field of Giants, it should put her to sleep instantly. She slept on rocks on Ahch-To, in front of Master Luke’s hut. Rocks inside her own hut, when she got one. This is nothing, compared to that.

She climbs into the topmost bunk after peeling off only the outermost layer, the jacket and gloves, and buries herself under the blanket. It’s still cold, and cold is the thing that Rey hates most in the universe, she finds— but she’s slept in worse.

Except she can’t sleep. Rey frowns and spreads herself out, all limbs, like she did on Jakku, filling up as much space as she could. When that doesn't work, she tries curling up on her side. Nothing. She kicks the blanket off. Pulls it back on. Her mind is tired and her body is exhausted, it's been days since she got some proper rest.

She flips over a final time before she admits that the bunk may not be the problem. She lets out a frustrated sound and kicks at the Durasteel ceiling twice, the second time just for good measure, and turns around to lay on her other side against the wall. "Ah, shit," Rey finally spits, along with a half-dozen other words in Huttese and Teedo that she's picked up in two decades. "What the kriff!"

There is no answer of Such Language

Even though she half expects it. She isn't used to the silence. 

It was easy to do when she was upright, cold even sinking into her bones, with her fingers working and her mind blank, trying to wrap her head around a stubborn problem. Easy. But now? Trying to relax everything else, trying to re-find balance, all the while keeping that thing inside her chest locked away where it could never get out again?

And— the silence.

She used to be used to the silence. But now it feels strange. Now it feels as if the right side of her brain has malfunctioned. There’s no answer to a thought that she sends out into the void. There’s no sudden scent of Durasteel and oil and leather in the air. No hiss of the First Order’s mechanical repair and manufacturing droids.

Everything is just… empty.

The Rebel bases and Resistance fleets of course are very different, during her brief stays on each respectively. Bots and mechanics and officers and flyboys and sanitation staff and porgs and vulptexes and people everywhere, she could feel them almost as if on the very edge of her hearing, like thousands of tiny lights on a horizon that just thrum until they bleed together and the individuality, bar a few people, fades out. Some shine brighter. Finn. General Organa. Luke used to shine brightest of all but his light has faded, too. Expanded. Departed in one flare of brilliance.

The hum, Rey realizes. That, that had always been there. She just had no comparison to, well, compare it to. To her it had just been the effect of being alone for so long, that when she was around people, it thrummed. And now it’s gone. There’s nothing. Like she’s suddenly missing a limb.

Rey has— from that moment on the Falcon, looking down to where he was kneeling on the floor of the Resistance’s command center, shut herself off from the bond. It hurts to do it, like she isn’t getting enough oxygen to her lungs, but it’s the only way. It’s the only way to shut him out. Rey’s connection to the bond is locked away behind a mental wall made of thousand-foot Durasteel.

She didn’t understand at first. Now she knows why her Master did it. Why he shut himself off.

There is something inside her that knows that meditation would help. It could quiet her thoughts and calm her mind. Ease her restlessness and re-find her center. She isn't good at meditation, yet, because she learned from Skywalker for a grand total of three days, but she's a fast learner. But Rey does not know how to separate meditation and balance from the Force. And he would be there.

No. Meditation is not an option. It’s not an option until she can figure something else out.

Sleep doesn’t come for hours, but Rey does eventually drift into a dreamless stasis. She gets all of three hours of sleep before a loud noise and a shudder throughout the Falcon— Chewie, probably, wakes her back up again.

 

_________

 

"Where are the rest?" A voice asks, and for a tick Rey doesn't recognize it, except for the fact that it's familiar and feels too close, and she somehow follows them around the corner as they walk, dark cloaks moving in a wind that she can't feel. She can't see them. Can't see anybody, nobody, nothing, but gets impressions, almost, of movement and consciousness and sounds. Afterimages.

"Gone, Sir," another returns. "Sent out by Supre— by Snoke, Sir. Only one has returned."

 "Which one," he asks, and Rey can feel his panic, his worry— which onewhich one is itis it Rih

"Alor Ren, sir."

The taller figure stops, and Rey stops too, at least ten feet behind them, hidden in the curve of the durasteel. In the waking world, something in Rey knows that she'd never be able to hear this conversation, but she hears it echo anyway. Like it was happening right next to her ear, like her ears are hearing her speak the words. And she feels everything, too. His worry eases as she catches thoughts that aren't hers— Alor's too busy mourning and at least it isn't Ysser. Rey, who cannot feel the cold of Hoth, wonders who these people are, that he dwells on them so much.

Instead of answering her, the Supreme Leader's shadow waves a hand like it was an afterthought, and pushes into his companion's head. Like it was nothing. Like it was the easiest Force trick of them all. "You will tell me when the Knights return. Immediately."

  

_________

 

Half a million miles across the Galaxy, Rey wakes up on the top bunk of the Falcon with a jolt, an automatic response of striking out at absolutely nothing, at air, at durasteel, and remembers why she fought the need for sleep in the first place.

Slams the bond shut again and hopes that he hadn't heard.

 

_________

 

 

Rey doesn’t feel rested. She feels like she spent the entire night mashing her teeth together and tossing and turning. There’s a pressure building up in her shoulders that wasn’t there the night before.

“Rey!”

Finn’s voice all of a sudden from the doorway on her right makes her jump, makes her lose the grip on the vice around the Force until she wrestles it back down into the dirt. Finn winces, almost apologetically. It makes Rey’s skin shiver, but for half a moment she almost thinks she feels a response from the other end. “Finn.”

Finn is just as bundled up as she is, looks like, with only his ears, eyes, and nose popping out from above his jacket, but he’s practically vibrating with energy for so early in the morning. Hoth's single sun on a 30-hour day cycle hasn't even risen yet.

“Hungry?” Finn asks, already pushing food from his arms into hers. “There’s not much, but it’s warm. And better than the ration bars the First Order serves.”

Rey isn’t particularly hungry. She’s not particularly anything right now. Tired. Sluggish. Like she's in the water deep beneath Ahch-To again.

They still don’t have an official mess hall, but more of a cramped storage room near the generator storage that is always warm. The warmth helps the most, honestly, as Rey can open up her jacket a little bit and breathe. She sits with Finn and eats what he shoves her way just because she knows that she’ll be hungry later. Poe spots them probably because every surviving member of the Resistance is in this room and it still isn’t full, so he and BB8 come over with their breakfast while Finn spoons his into his mouth. “Mornin’ Finn. Mornin’, Rey.”

“G’mrg,” Finn says.

“Good morning,” Rey says, after glancing at Finn.

Poe, somehow, looks completely unbothered by the cold. Rey isn’t sure how he does it. Her shoulders are practically up near her ears, her posture is so stiff. Poe asks, “Sleep well?”

“Yeah.”

Rey starts, “Not r—”

An announcement interrupts her over the comm system, blaring, making Rey jump, something about all upper officers and commanders being needed for a mandatory meeting. The alarm starts going to mobilize and signal the changing of the shifts, but Poe makes no move to get up, even though, as far as Rey can remember, he’s a Captain.

There’s a scraping of people moving though, the upper officers and even Leia and her entourage exiting en mass through the sliding doors.

Poe scoots closer to Finn and lowers his voice as he whispers to them. “They already held a meeting this morning. General Organa’s calling in all the favors that she can," he pauses, but then his expression shifts. "But after the Hosnian system…”

He lets his voice trail off and Rey has trouble understanding why. But she looks to Finn, who seems to be thinking much faster than she’s currently able to. “Nobody’s responding to the beacons?”

Even Rey can tell what the expression on Poe’s face means. They have less than 50 personnel. They have three possibly working X-Wings. The Falcon, probably, if she and Chewie can get the repairs working in time. If they need to evacuate, if the First Order has tracked them, they won’t be able to escape again. And no help is coming.

“The Republic is crippled, trying to scramble,” Poe explains. “Trying to reorganize their own chain of commands individually, trying to keep their own economic systems from collapsing into total ruin, while still trying to stop the First Order from gaining ground. They’re wounded right now, but it won’t be long until they regroup, and the First Order has more resources than we do.”

“So,” Finn guesses. “There’s nobody to help us.”

“There’s nobody to help us,” Poe echoes. It looks like it hurts him to say it.

They’ve all lost so much in the past three days. She doesn’t need the Force to know that.

Both of them turn suddenly, to Rey, and she knows what they are thinking. Like she had gone to Luke on Ahch-To, for hope, for help, they are now looking to her.

“Master Luke is— he’s,” she stops, because this is hard, this is much harder than it was with Leia because at least Leia had felt it too. She’d understood. It hadn’t been so much out of grief, but of relief. He’d been at peace. “He passed on.”

Poe’s expression doesn’t change, but Finn’s does. “He’s dead?”

Dead. It sounds so final. It doesn’t encompass what happened, but Rey, with her connection to the Force in a vice—“In the traditional sense, I suppose.”

She’s the last one left. The last Jedi. The last person who has a chance to go up against— against the Dark.

Rey is totally and completely incapable of processing that statement at the moment. She's tired, and for them the world has nearly ended, and the Resistance is bleeding out, badly. Something nudges against Rey’s shin and she looks down beneath the table to find that BB8 has somehow rolled underneath it, whirring quiet questions in binary that Rey doesn’t really have the energy to answer right now. Instead she adjusts BB8’s antenna like she might have scratched one of the porgs on Ahch-To.

Finn’s voice sounds very small and from very far away. “Are you okay, Rey?”

She looks back up. Nobody’s ever asked her that, Rey realizes. Nobody’s ever cared enough. Nobody even existed that did, not her parents, or Luke, not in the way that she wanted. Not before—“I will be,” she tells them. “In time.”

 

_________

 

They have sixteen wounded, at least, and two must have died during the night. Rey can’t even feel it. But Finn doesn’t stop at the entrance to the MedBay. He greets everybody in the room like he’s known them for years and not days while Rey follows, lost, stepping only in the wake that Finn makes as he weaves, and finally stops at the bed closest to the far wall.

“Oh, my god,” the girl on the bed says when Rey comes around the tattered privacy curtain that separates one bed from the next, and Rey doesn’t need the Force to feel the absolute brightness shine from her— Rose. The girl that Finn was looking after on the Falcon. “You’re Rey.”

Rey has never heard her name sound like that, before, and she kind-of flinches. It’s strange that someone can feel so bright even when Rey’s shut herself off from it, and for a moment, she’s kinda stunned.

It takes her a second to stick out her hand. Hand touching is… not something she particularly wants to think about. “Hello.”

The smile that appears on Rose’s face can only be described as awestruck, starstruck, and embarrassingly probably what Rey had first looked at the Millennium Falcon like. At least, Rey really hopes it wasn’t.

“Hi! Hi, yes, hello,” Rose says again shaking her hand for what Rey can only describe as too much handshake. “I’m Rose Tico. You’re Rey. The Jedi. The one that helped destroy Starkiller. It’s so nice to meet you. I’m Rose. That’s Finn. Oh, of course you knew that. Sorry.”

Rey glances to Finn, who’s now sitting upright in the empty bed right next to Rose’s. He gives Rey a noncommittal shrug that speaks volumes.

“It’s…nice to meet you, Rose,” Rey manages. Even against Rey’s judgement she feels something lifting in that place just behind her left lung, standing here in the Resistance’s MedBay and having her hand shook so hard it might just fall off. Something that lifts, and makes Rey want to smile, even though everything is horrible and there's so little hope in the world and so much fear instead.

“Oh, my god.” Rose continues. Rey sees a map of the scars on Rose’s skin and does not think about other scars. Rose just continues to shake Rey’s hand, and even she seems to realize it. “I’m shaking your hand too long!”

“A little bit,” adds Finn. “It’s all right. It’s not every day you get to meet big heroes like me and Rey.”

Rose drops Rey’s hand, probably out of embarrassment. But Rey shoots Finn a look and tries to salvage this mess. Apparently, Finn isn’t going to. “I’m glad you’re recovering so fast. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Finn nearly groans as Rose’s entire expression just lights up like Rey has given her the best gift she’s ever been given, even hooked up to a miniaturized bacta tank with wires going into her sides.

“Oh, my god. Really?”

Rey nods. “Really.”

It'd been one of the few things that Finn talked about, on the way to Hoth. Rey had let Chewie take the controls and had gone back to the cargo bay. She and Finn had just sat in the quiet and breathed, for a moment. Tried to ignore the fact that they had just barely escaped with their lives. Tried to ignore the fact that they'd all been betrayed in one form or another.

But now, Rey hears all about their adventures on Canto Bight, and smiles at all the appropriate times, frowns at all the appropriate times for that, too.

“You shoulda seen it, Rey,” Finn smiles, even as he gets jabbed by a passing med droid. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” And then, he turns his head and glances at Rose and his expression completely changes, from admiration to scorn. “Awful people. Terrible. Hated the whole thing. I’m glad we tore the damn place apart.”

“I’m sure,” Rose says, and Rey catches the way that she narrows her eyes at him.

And maybe Rey’s never realized how much she relied on the Force to sense people’s intent, before, because now she feels like she’s stomping through this conversation blind with something horrible twisting in her gut.

It’s only when she really starts to worry is when they continue with their story. And it happens when she learns that they were on the Supremacy almost exactly at the same time that she was.

That starts it. The thought. The memory of it all, on the Supremacy. The vice flutters just enough for her to glimpse him standing just over Finn’s shoulder, not even looking at her, not even paying attention. But she knows those shoulders. She knows that stance. Rey knows that black leather armor and those dark eyes that go on forever and ever and she knows. She stops breathing.

For a long moment nothing happens. Like they’re both frozen— and if she can see him that means he can sense that she’s there and she cannot let that happen, she cannot let him in, she’ll never get him out again if she does, she cannot let him see anything or hear anything that’s happening on Hoth. He's taken too much. She offered him a way out, she offered to help him reach it, and he denied her. Be— the boy she knew, he's gone. Her vision was wrong. She was wrong.

He’s Supreme Leader now. He wants them all dead.

He turns. She can see some of that profile of his.

Rey doesn’t think, doesn’t pause, she crushes her hands into fists as hard as she can, tears her throat with a scream, and slams the walls up as hard and thick as she can.

She catches barely a glimpse before bacta bags in the Med Bay and wires and different metal tools go flying, too, shattering to pieces, and then it’s all flooding out again, everything, she can feel all the lights on the edge of her hearing and it burns. She can feel the force in everything, around everything, life and death and dark and light and how much it had been hurting to shut it all away.

He’s gone, vanishes, like a broken holo and then Rey sags against the railing of the bed and Finn and Rose and everybody in the MedBay are up and out of their beds if they can. Rey’s breathing hard— too hard, she knows, harder than she should be. It shouldn’t have taken that long. “Whoah,” Rose says. “You okay there?”

Finn’s hands are on her shoulder and underneath, propping her up better than she could herself. She’s— winded. She shouldn’t be this winded. “Sorry.”