“You’re lucky,” she tells him out of the blue one day. They’re standing—well, squatting—under a piece of the Falcon trying to adjust bent stabilizers.
“I’m sorry?” Poe looks over, confused. And nervous. He’s so cool, like she always imagined hot shot X-Wing pilots to be—at least, around everyone else. Around her, he’s fidgety and carefully chooses his words.
“You know exactly where you come from. Your parents. Grandparents. All their friends.” Her eyes cut across the field, where they’ve parked the old freighter, to the huts of this village that has offered them refuge. Maz was the only one to answer their call. Helped them find a place to regroup. Lick their wounds. Leia’s in one of those huts, trying to find someone—anyone—who will help.
It shouldn’t have bothered her, the words that Kylo Ren had implanted in her brain. That she was no one, came from nowhere. Was barely worth a flagon. But it did. It ate at her insides and tore a hole that never seemed to fill back up.
“I know where you come from, Rey,” he says. The words spill honestly from him.
Her eyes cut back towards him. She wants to be harsh, laugh, be sarcastic—anything but as honest as he’s being now. “Do you?”
“Yeah,” he grins. His eyes crinkle with his smile, hints of white teeth behind his lips. “You’re from Jakku.”
Of course he knows. She realizes how foolish the words were leaving her lips. He had taken the map from Jakku. Left BB-8 on Jakku. Fallen from the sky with Finn and crashed into Jakku. Been thought dead on Jakku.
Buried in a pauper’s grave.
“Jakku’s nowhere,” she says.
“Well…” Poe shrugs his shoulders as his fingers tighten on the spanner and he goes back to over-tightening the same bolt. He’s nervous again, like he shouldn’t have said anything and just let the conversation hang. He’s probably wondering if he should do that now, or chance to continue talking. “It’s Inner Rim. So it’s not nowhere.”
“You know what I mean.”
There’s a sigh she doesn’t catch the meaning behind and he drops the spanner back into the toolbox. “That’s the last one. Should be good to go now.” He puts his hand up so as not to hit his head as he stands and maneuvers out from under the Falcon. There’s a pang of guilt as she feels as if she’s just shot him down. Clipped his wing with a blaster charge and sent him spinning into the dirt. Well, didn’t he have more important things to do anyway than fiddle around with this old ship? Surely, the honeymoon period with the ship of legend should have worn off by now.
Meals are always a communal thing. They make a large pot of something; Rey doesn’t care what it is, just enjoys that it’s warm and there’s enough to fill her belly. They sit around on these flat stone tablets and have pleasant conversations, tell jokes, old stories, count the stars. The inhabitants of this village—short, large eared creatures who speak little Basic mostly translated by Threepio. They are friendly enough and freely offer what’s left of what they have to the Resistance. They have their own stories about the stars and moons and the ancient civilizations.
Rey is fascinated. She wishes she had a great story to tell. But she scavenged junk, fought off thieves. She scraped at parts until her fingers bled in order to have barely enough food to not die. She has one story—well, two. The one about how she rescued a droid and a former storm trooper and escaped on the Millennium Falcon. And the one where she met Luke Skywalker. She doesn’t tell the story about Kylo Ren, Ben Solo, and Snoke. She told Leia. She told Finn. Everyone else only know that Snoke is dead, not the details. They’ve seen the split saber, but no one asks. Rey doesn’t mind telling her stories, but she’d rather hear everyone else’s.
“We’re talking the last great stand. The battle to end all the battles. Every. Ship. On both sides.” Poe’s standing on one of the stone tablets they use as a table. He’s got his bowl in one hand with thick stew sloshing about and a spoon in the other as he weaves the tale. “The Republic—a string of victories, a new government. The Empire—in its death throes.”
The light from the fire flicks over Dameron’s features. He’s a natural leader, ace pilot, and, in that moment, a magician with words. Rey finds herself captivated by the drama he’s reliving. She can see it clearly, as if she’s watching some holo-novella.
“We have legends: Ackbar, Rieekan, Ranz—“ There’s a dramatic pause. “Wedge karking Antilles.”
Someone whoops in the crowd. Another whistles. They love the stories of the Rebellion and Poe knows them all. He’s like his own HoloNet archive.
“We’ve even got Imperial defectors: Stramm, Kyrell, and Versio.”
Rey looks at Finn at this point in Poe’s telling of the story. He’s grinning wide at his friend. In forty years, will they tell the story of Finn the defector? She hopes people will remember him. Remember his bravery and selflessness.
“We’ve got Starhawks, Home One, the Liberty, and more X-Wings, A-Wings, and Y-Wings than I could count. Stop me if I’m lying, Snap.” Poe points with his spoon to his friend and fellow pilot.
Snap Wexley lets out an almost embarrassed chuckle as he waves the other pilot off. “Stop reminding people I was at that battle. My joints ache enough.” A woman with short blonde hair sitting next to him throws her head back and laughs loudly and punches him in the shoulder none too gently. Rey grins at their antics, their camaraderie, their love.
Poe continues listing off the names of ships, squadrons, and Generals like the damn encyclopedia he is. But it doesn’t sound like a history lesson. He’s excited; he makes his audience excited. He tells the story with gusto, passion, and with reverence.
It takes Rey a moment of listening to the enchanting tenor of his voice before she realizes she knows exactly what he’s detailing.
“An Executor, twenty Star Destroyers—“
Poe pauses in the middle of his recount, spoon still held aloft. Several heads turn from him to her and her small voice that cut through his rousing story.
“There were twenty-five Star Destroyers at the Battle of Jakku. Twenty-three Imperial-class and two Interdictor-class.”
The hand holding the spoon drops slightly and he grins—a cheeky sort of smile she’d only seen him give other people before. “Well, it looks like I’m not the only war history nerd here.”
“No.” She shakes her head as she takes one step at a time towards him. She doesn’t know why she has to correct him, but he’s wrong and she knows he’s wrong. People should have the facts, even if they’re dumb facts like how many dead star cruisers litter her nothing planet. “I’ve just seen them. Counted them.”
“Beebee-ate, make sure you record that.” He points his spoon like the ringleader of a circus at the droid. Like her correcting him was part of his performance. “Twenty-five Star Destroyers.”
The evening wears on and they drift off to their borrowed huts and tents and scattered sleeping rolls. Rey stares into the fire and slurps the last of the leftovers out of her bowl. Not a drop wasted.
“You knew how many Star Destroyers were at Jakku,” she says to the man fidgeting with the laces on his boot. It’s an amused sort of accusation as she recognizes he was trying to get her attention, to draw her into the spectacle.
“I was rounding.” He shrugs as he stands up, nonchalantly walks over to where she’s sitting. His hands wipe on his trousers, then rest on his hips, then dig into his pockets.
“You don’t round, General.” Rey smirks at his new title. It’s not derisive, but proud. He saved what was left of the Resistance. Led them out of the tomb to fight another day. And he doesn’t round. He’s detailed. Precise. She scoots over slightly on her stone bench next to the fire and it takes him a few shuffles of his feet before he finally takes the offered seat. Somehow, though he’s still inches from her, he’s warmer than the fire. Like he’s his own star.
She sees him. Not in a way she expected.
“The Empire fell that day,” Poe says after a moment. His elbows rest on his knees. His fingers twist together. “Fell right into the sands of Jakku.”
“Yeah.” He can’t disagree on the point. It’s too obvious. Her whole life was sifting through garbage. The Republic left all its mess in the Jakku sands and went home to celebrate. “But it’s still an important place. Something very significant happened on Jakku.
“When I was a kid, I went on this tour of historical battle sites. We saw all the big ones: Yavin, Hoth, Endor, Naboo... and Jakku.”
“Kids?” Rey raises her brows at him, nearly to her hairline. “Tourists? On Jakku?”
“Well, not on. We just saw it from space. My point is—“ His hands reach out, nearly cover hers, but he stops himself. His eyes drift from his hands to her eyes. And he’s so honest, again. “The place you come from—I mean, not that it even really matters now—but it’s not nowhere.”
It bothers her more than it should—the shame of coming from nothing, of parents who sold her. But this man, son of heroes, of a privileged upbringing, telling her she should be proud of where she came from. She sees the kindness in his attempt and she offers him a small smile. “Do you think when they tell stories about us, they’ll call me ‘Rey from Jakku’?”
Poe’s quiet for a second, like he’s turning over the thought in his head, thinking about his words far too carefully. He looks at her again, a sincerity in his dark brown eyes. Different from the looks she’s gotten from other people. It’s wholly unnerving but at the same time ensnaring. “I think they’ll call you whatever you want them to. Whether it’s Rey from Jakku, or Jedi, or Porg Herder.”
“Oh, please, no.” She laughs, a bit harder than she intended. Her hand covers her mouth and nose as an unattractive snort exits her nostril. Poe laughs then, too, and whatever odd moment that had caused the air to still dissipates with the smoke.
“If I had not been on Jakku,” Rey says slowly as she wipes a tear of laughter from the corner of her eye. She plays into this conversation that Jakku isn’t entirely worthless, even if she still doesn’t believe it. “I would not have learned how to survive.”
“A very important skill.”
Rey laughs again at his obvious quip. “Or all about ships and how they work and how to speak to droids.”
“Sometimes I like talking to droids more than people.”
“Are you just going to interrupt me through this entire admission that, while my upbringing was cruel and horrible, it did seem to serve a purpose?”
Poe holds up his hands in defeat and doesn’t say another word.
“And I never would have found Beebee-ate, or Finn. Or you.” She gives him a look that she hopes matches the one he gave her. Something that’s open and honest and tells him that she appreciates what he did for her today.
Poe’s hand hovers over hers again and she wonders why he hesitates. She makes the decision for him and presses the top of her hand into his palm. It’s as warm as she imagined; calloused, and yet, with a softness.
“I wish you could have had a better start, Rey,” he says before he swallows thickly, the words rumbling around in his chest. “But you’re here, now, with us.”
She understands his meaning, though he seems to have a hard time putting it into so many words. They’re all family here. Not just Poe and Leia because she knew him when he was a boy, was friends with his parents. Or Snap and Karé because they’re married. But every one of them. She may have fallen into this rebellion accidentally, or maybe the Force pushed her a bit, but she’ll keep them. They’re hers now.
When they get to their feet to finally turn in for the night, Rey wraps her arms around Poe. She feels him stiffen against her touch, unsure. She plants her cheek on his shoulder and squeezes him close. It takes a second, but he seems to remember what to do in this sort of situation and embraces her back. His warm hand is in her hair and there’s a long, slow breath from both of them.
“Thank you, Poe.”