She dreams of a forest at night, of a planet covered in snow, of red footprints on a dried salt lake. She dreams of a stormtrooper’s helmet smeared with blood, of Luke Skywalker as he once was, dreams of the hum of a lightsaber and a man’s voice. Sometimes, even, she dreams of Ben Solo, the downward curl of his mouth, the storm brewing in his eyes. She wakes uneasy and tired.
“You are nothing,” Ben had told her. It sits heavy on her skin.
You are nothing.
You are nothing.
“Here,” a voice says, pressing a mug of caf into her hands, “ You look like you could use it.”
The caf is bitter and metallic. It reminds her of home -- the empty expanse of desert. Where are you from? Nowhere, really.
“Thanks,” she says, smiling up at Poe.
He settles into the spot next to her. They’ve been on this planet for two weeks, yet she hasn’t quite gotten used to the pilot. Finn, she knows, likes him, but she hasn’t seen much of Finn these days. He’d been busy helping Rose with her recovery, and while the two of them were always welcoming to Rey, she still always felt that she was intruding. There was an easiness between them that she couldn’t help but envy. They were a team, in way that she and Finn had once been, in the way that she had thought--
“It’s good that they have each other, huh?” Poe says, following the path of her eyes to where Finn was leading Rose around the base.
“Yes,” Rey says, taking another sip of her caf, too fast. She sputters on the too hot liquid and Poe laughs. He looks nice when he laughs. It crinkles his face in all the right ways.
“Take it easy there, hot shot,” he says, grinning.
“I thought that was you,” she says, letting herself smile too. It still feels odd on her face. She hasn’t had much to smile about, not in a long while.
“Hot head, more like,” he says. “Or so they tell me.”
“Stay around long enough, and you’ll see,” he says, leaning back, his jumpsuit stretching across his shoulders.
She wraps her hands around the mug of caf, feels the warmth spreading into her fingers, up her palm.
“I suppose I will,” she says.
The world feels loud now, in a way that she wasn’t expecting. She grew up in solitude, the whisper of the wind over the sand dunes, the lonely cry of banthas at dusk, the eerie silence of an abandoned ship, clinking with age and rust. She is not used to the bustle of activity, the heartbeats of other life-forms, bright specks of life in the Force.
She takes to meditation with an ease that she doesn’t expect. She finds it disconcertingly easy to lose herself in the Force, to let go of Rey and become just another spark, one small being in the vastness of the universe, insignificant.
The door to the storage room swishes open.
“Sorry,” Poe says automatically.
Rey’s eyes flicker open. She is caught for a moment in between consciousness and the Force, unsteady.
“It’s alright,” she says.
Her eyes close again.
“Do you want me to leave?” he says, cautiously.
She can still see him even with her eyes closed. Warm, she thinks, he feels warm. Ben had felt cold, like he was sucking the warmth, the life from her.
“No,” she says. “Your presence,” she pauses, wonders if it will sound too strange, too personal , “it’s calming.”
He doesn’t say anything for a long beat, but then he comes and sits beside her.
“Well, okay then,” he says.
The corners of Rey’s mouth quirk up.
The next planet is cold. There are more of them now, several hundred huddled on the base. It seemed Leia had been right: people had come when she called, a steady stream. They all stare at Rey now when she passes them. A Jedi, they whisper. Sometimes, she wishes she were just Rey.
“Cold?” Poe says, settling his jacket around her shoulder.
The material is all warm leather. It isn’t until she’s wrapped in it that she realizes she was shivering.
“Won’t you be cold now?” she asks him.
He shrugs. The material of his shirt gaps open at the chest.
“I’ve had worse,” he says.
She sticks her arms through the sleeves, feels his warmth wrap around her.
“Thanks,” she says.
“What does it feel like?” he asks her. “The Force.”
She stops for a moment, considering him. He blinks back, calm and steady. His eyes are kind, she thinks. You could trust a man with eyes like that.
She takes his hand then. It is a pilot’s hand, calloused and rough, like hers.
“It feels like this,” she says, presses his hand to her chest where her heart beats.
She can feel his heartbeat in his palm, pulsing alongside hers.
“Do you feel it?” she says.
“Yeah,” he says, his voice rough, wind-blown, Rey thinks. “Yeah, I feel it.”
BB-8 rolls up to her as she is sitting alone. They are on Taris now in an abandoned section of the city planet. No one has lived here since the Clone Wars. It’s sad, she thinks, all the empty homes.
She rests her hand on the small droid, hears it beep back to her.
“Where’s Poe?” she asks it.
“I’m here,” he says.
She should have felt him in the Force, but she’s been distracted. She’d dreamed of Ben again. He’d looked at her, said, You come from nothing, you are--
“I always seem to find you alone,” he says, dropping down to sit beside her.
“I think sometimes I’ve spent a lifetime alone,” she tells him. It is easier to stay in the dark.
She can feel his eyes on her face, watching her. Unbidden, she feels tears well in her eyes.
“Did I ever tell you about my mother?” he says.
She wipes her tears, turning to look at him. His eyes are steady.
“No,” she tells him.
“She was a pilot--”
“Like you,” Rey says.
His hand runs up her back, hesitant, before it threads into her hair.
“Like me,” he agrees and she leans into him. He smells like sweat and engine grease.
“She served in the Alliance,” he whispers into her hair. She lets herself fall into him, listens to the rise and fall of his words.
“You would’ve liked her,” he says. “She was a fierce fighter. Like you.”
She knows the waiting grates on Poe. It grates on all of them, but him worst of all. He picks fights with General Organa, paces the hallways with a sort relentless desperation, gets drunk with Finn with a regulatory that becomes almost alarming. It is several weeks into their stay on Alzoc III that she suggests sparring, for she argues, she could use the practice, and he could use the activity.
Rey averts her eyes when he shucks off his jacket and then his shirt. His skin is all tanned muscle and scar tissue. He doesn’t look anything like Ben, she thinks, and then wishes she hadn’t thought it.
He laughs the first time she knocks him off his feet, a breathless sound.
And then he gets back up.
“Can you teach me?” he asks her.
They are sitting in the mess and Rey pauses, rations halfway to her mouth.
“Teach you what?”
She has grown used to his presence, him popping up at random hours with some strange task or another for them to handle, grown used to his quick wit and quicker smile.
“To use the Force,” he says.
It is not like she hadn’t known, hadn’t guessed, hadn’t seen it in the quirk of his head, half a second too fast. Still, she hesitates.
“I’m not sure I know how,” she says, finally.
She watches his lips twist. “Try anyway,” he says.
His eyelashes cast shadows on his face. She likes being able to watch him unobserved.
His eyes flick open and meet hers.
She thinks about looking away, but she doesn’t.
“How am I doing?” he asks, and she giggles.
His eyes light on her face, watching the smile spread.
“You’re doing fine,” she says, hand fluttering on his shoulders. “Just breathe,” she says. “Breathe and reach out.”
“Reach out for what?” he asks.
His hand drums a pattern on his knee.
She sets her hand over his, stilling the motion.
“Start with me,” she says. “Reach for me.”
In the Force, Ben had felt like a void, a black hole, a vast, endless darkness, a need. Poe is different. Poe feels like sunlight, like the brush of fabric on your palm, like warm leather. Poe gives back.
She hears his gasp when their minds brush.
He reaches for her hand with his eyes closed, grasps her palm, the bluntness of his fingertips, clumsy and eager.
She reaches back, grips his hand tight.
“You did not just say that,” Poe says, rising halfway from the bench.
The movement drags Rey forward with him as his arm is slung comfortably around her shoulders. When he’d first put it there, Finn had caught her eye with a look and she had laughed. Now, several disgusting drinks later (“Kriffing hell,” she’d told Finn when he’d first produced the alcohol.), it feels more weighted.
When he laughs, she can feel his chest shake.
“I still can’t believe I get to hang with the heroes,” Rose says, leaning back with a sigh, catching Rey’s eye.
Rey still starts at the term. It seems strange to her that people would think her anything but Rey. You are… You are… You are...
“Hey,” she says, bumping the other girl with her toe. “You’re one of the heroes too.”
She dreams of space this time, space through the windshield of a fighter craft, the way that the stars spin.
“Do you think it’s enough?” she asks Poe.
His eyes scan the base, a commander, a leader’s eyes.
“It’ll have to be,” he says.
“Poe,” she calls.
He halts, midway to the hanger bay, turning back to look at her, the line of him in the hallway.
“Come back,” she says.
He tips his head towards her. “Always do.”
Poe leaps from the cockpit, ensconced in the frantic, wild energy of a battle well fought.
His arms are strong when they wrap around her. Her feet leave the ground and he is spinning her around and she is laughing, really laughing, and his face is familiar -- she could trace the lines of it in her sleep -- and before she knows what she’s really doing she’s leaning forward and kissing him.
He laughs into her mouth and then he is kissing her back. The spread of his hand on the small of her back. The smell of him, like space and Poe.
And then he is spinning her again and there is Finn, laughing and throwing his arms around them, and Rose is squeezing in between them too and they are shouting, “We did it!” and it does not matter that it is a temporary victory, not really, because just for a moment, Rey feels at home.