Chapter 1: Honey, Honey
Moods for Chapter 1:
"Moon River"~ Andy Williams
"A Million Dreams (reprise)"~ The Greatest Showman: Reimagined
"A Thousand Miles"~ Vanessa Carlton
"August Winds"~ The Last Ship (Original Broadway Cast)
Sage Paier jumped up when her mother called. Wiping the sand off her trousers, she answered back, "I'm here, Mummy."
The sun was beginning to set over the tallest of the mountains that lined the river, which meant The Grecian would soon be bustling with guests, all there to drink away the stress and hard work of the day.
"Out here again, I see," Sage's mother said. "I know you're tired of helping me, but he'll be back soon. I promise."
Sage turned her head, hoping her mother hadn't caught the eye roll that her body produced involuntarily.
"Now, now, my little Petia, none of that. After all he's done for us, he deserved a break."
That much she knew. Of course, if she had realized how much extra work his absence would have created for her, she might not have asked him to leave in the first place.
No, that wasn't true. She still would have asked him to go, but maybe she'd have requested he speed things up a bit. She'd always done little things here and there to help out (sometimes she would even request to do chores at the tavern on her days off from school), but this was on another level. By the time she washed her fifty-first glass on a peak night, the novelty had worn off.
She knew her mother assumed she was tired of standing in as Uncle Chewie's replacement. That was true. What her mother didn't know, however, was why he'd requested to take a vacation in the first place. He'd made up some excuse about a festival on Kashyyyk and wanting to visit old friends. Her mother was happy to oblige, though she looked confused when he explained he couldn't give her an exact date of return. Sage couldn't wait for him to come back (and not just because she was looking forward to actually having free time again). If all went according to plan, Uncle Chewie was to return with some news. Hopefully, it'd be good news.
"Well, he needs to come back soon. I haven't seen any of my friends in two weeks! They've probably forgotten all about me."
Her mother giggled. "While I highly doubt that's true, I do have a surprise for you that might make the evening go by a little bit faster."
That perked her up right away. "What is it? Tell me, tell me, tell me!"
"I've invited Ari and Jaylana tonight for a sleepover. Their parents are dropping them off at 20:30. You help me at the tavern until then, and you three can stay up as late as your little hearts desire."
Sage gasped. Her mother rarely allowed sleepovers and never let her stay up passed 23:00, if she was lucky.
"Really?! Then what are we waiting for? Let's go!" Sage ignored the granules of sand and small pebbles pressing into her feet as she darted up the sandy incline and onto the grass, her mother chasing right behind her.
As the incline steepened, their pace slowed until they reached a wide, two-story building that sat in the middle of several pathways lined with stone, each leading to another structure. This was home, and The Grecian stood at the center. It was placed high enough that guests who stayed the night could look out their windows and see just passed the fifth bend in the river. Nowhere else on Hay Tor offered this view, a point that Sage had heard her mother make many times since its grand opening.
The sound of adults chattering on about boring nonsense filled Sage's ears as she skipped across the patio and approached the front door. It slid open effortlessly, without her even having to touch the entry button, and she went inside the dark and somehow-not-gloomy room.
A group of older men sat at a table situated right next to the entryway. One of the men, named Miles Venn, lifted his head, caught sight of Sage, and smiled.
"Made it here before your mum, eh?" he winked.
Her eyes twinkled mischievously. "She's getting slower."
Several hearty laughs echoed from the table.
"Or maybe you're getting faster 'cause you're all grown up! How old are you now, Sagey?"
Sage cringed. "Same as the last time you asked me."
"Mi, you're more stupid than a booze-filled Stormtrooper," said the man sitting next to Miles. "She just told ya last week! The girl is eleven."
"Almost twelve," Sage corrected.
"That's right! How long until the big day?"
"It's only twenty-three days away!"
"Then we'll have a Young Woman in our midst!"
Sage beamed. "You will."
"Ay! Let's drink to that!"
Midnight found Sage and her friends still awake, giggling over the small droid Ari held in her hands.
"And it will do your hair in funny styles if you ask it to!"
"I want to try!" Jaylana said.
Ari placed the droid on Sage's bed and instructed Jaylana to sit on the floor, with her legs crossed and her back against the bed frame.
"There's an upgrade you can buy that lets it levitate, but it's expensive..."
Ari and Jaylana looked at Sage expectantly. She bit her lip and sighed. "I'll give it a shot. It probably won't work, so don't get excited."
She stared at the droid, hard. She felt the energy in the room vibrate through her entire body, filling every organ, every capillary until it reached her brain. It was difficult to control; she felt like her head might burst. She tried to push the energy toward the hexagonal prism that held a stylist tool in each grasper. The droid beeped wildly as two of its six appendages lifted into the air, completely out of its control. They dropped again suddenly. Sage's friends looked at her in amazement.
"Not exactly what I was going for."
"But still really cool!" said Jaylana.
"It's okay," said Ari. "My parents said they'd get me the upgrade for my birthday. Until then, I guess you can use it for practice."
The droid interjected with some very angry beeps.
"Have you written your speech yet, Sage? It took me forever to write mine."
Jaylana laughed from her spot on the floor, eyes closed as the droid ran combs through her hair. "Ari, you know better than that. I bet she hasn't even started to memorize the Vows yet."
Sage smiled sheepishly. "You are correct. I mean, I know the Seven Values, but I haven't worked on the actual Vows of the Seven Values yet. Or my speech."
"What about the… you know… the 'father' thing?"
Ari tried to ask in a casual tone, but there was nothing casual about "the father thing." It was an important tradition on Hay Tor- one that Sage intended to keep.
"What?!" the other two girls asked in unison.
"I have to tell you guys something, but you have to promise not to tell anyone, especially my mum."
Ari and Jaylana both agreed to the promise. Sage scooched to the foot of her bed, lifted the mattress, and pulled out something from underneath.
"This," she said, "is Mum's old journal."
Although paper books were becoming less and less rare since the Restored Republic took power, they still weren't terribly common in the Outer Rim.
"How did you get that?" asked a wide-eyed Ari.
"Uncle Chewie gave it to me. He said my mother tried to throw it away a long time ago, but he saved it. Anyway, a few months ago, I was telling Uncle Chewie how sad I was that I wouldn't have a mother and father to present me at my Prodos Ceremony. I told him that we just learned about how babies are made," the girls giggled, "and I asked him if he knew who Mum was with nine months before I was born. And that's when he gave me this."
She opened the journal and continued to address her ever-captive audience.
"This is what Mum wrote nine months before my birthday:
'What a night! Something crazy just happened. I didn't think I'd ever use this thing, but if I don't write it down, I'll think I made it up. I ran into Finn today here on Catara. We almost died (long story). We got to talking, and, well… I let him drop it into my Sarlacc pit. I can't believe it!'"
Jaylana raised an eyebrow. "'Drop it into my Sarlacc pit?'"
Sage nodded. "I had to check with some older kids at school, but it means what you think it means."
"Hm," said Ari, looking pensieve. "Does it say anything else?"
"Not on this page. The bottom is torn off." Sage turned the journal around so her friends could see the damage.
"Then that's it!" Ari clapped her hands together. "This Finn guy is your father!"
Rey turned the half-page quickly. "Not quite. The plot thickens almost a week later:
'I'm dumbfounded. I never thought I'd say this, but I actually care about Ben. More than I'm probably willing to admit. I found him here on Hay Tor. We had a rough start (long story), but he's really opened up to me. I've never felt a connection like this before. I almost don't care about everything that happened in the past. People change, right? I want him to stay. I've never wanted anything so badly. We had dinner together last night, and he kissed me. It was perfect. One thing led to another and, well… let's just say he really knows how to get in a good jab with his lightsaber, so I let him. Several times.'"
"That means his penis, right?" asked Ari
"I'm pretty sure," Sage confirmed.
"Grown-ups are so weird," said Jaylana, whose hair was looking more and more ridiculous. "Why do they have to make up stupid names for things? Why can't they just say S-E-X?"
"Yeah," Ari agreed, before turning back to Sage. "So which one is your father? Finn or Ben?"
"Hang on, there's one more! This is from a week after that:
'Ben is gone. I was wrong about him (long story). I was left wallowing in my heartbreak when who should show up? Poe! He's visiting Hay Tor City on leave. He turned on his usual charm, and well… I let him charge right up my landing pad once again. I feel a little bit better, but he's leaving in the morning. Maybe I'll invite Rose and Feena to come for a visit. I really don't want to be alone right now.'"
"Is that all of them?" asked Jaylana.
"That's it," said Sage.
"Wow, incredible!" said Ari, her palms on either side of her face. "You have three possible dads. So how will you find out which one it is?"
"That's the second part of the plan," Sage said with a grin. She closed the journal and tucked it back underneath the mattress and pulled out something else of the same relative size.
"I showed Uncle Chewie what I found. Luckily, he knows all three of these guys! He said he'd go find them for me and deliver these invitations. They think they're from Mum, but she doesn't know a thing about any of this!"
Sage pulled the HoloCard from its envelope and opened it. A holographic image popped up from the base of the card. It featured lines of words surrounded by intricate decorations of vines and flowers. Sage read the words aloud:
"'Rey Paier cordially invites you to the Prodos Ceremony of her daughter, Sage Paier. Please join us as Sage takes the Vows of the Seven Values and becomes a Young Woman in the Flam community.'"
Sage closed the HoloCard and returned it to its home as she finished her explanation. "Then it lists all of the information and tells them how to submit their response."
"Sage, you're a genius!" exclaimed Jaylana
"Ok, but even if they all come for your Prodos," Ari reasoned, "How will you know if it's Finn, Poe, or Ben?"
"I think I'll just know," Sage shrugged.
A rustling of pebbles interrupted the scheming pre-teens. Sage looked out the window and gasped when she was Uncle Chewie walking up the pathway to the small guesthouse he called home.
"It's Uncle Chewie! He's back!"
"Let's go!" Ari and Jaylana whisper-shouted.
Not wanting to risk waking her mother, the trio climbed out the window and made the small leap to the ground. They ran to Uncle Chewie as quietly as their little feet would allow. Sage attacked him with a hug, which he returned with matching enthusiasm.
"Before you make it home and fall asleep, I need to know. What did they say?"
He responded in Shyriiwook.
"Well? Will your father be coming to your Prodos?" asked Ari, unable to understand anything that wasn't Torese or Basic.
"Yeah," Jaylana chimed in, "What did he say?"
Sage turned to face her friends. She didn't need to say anything, really, because the look of absolute elation on her face gave it away.
"They all said yes!"
Sage got her name because both "sage" and "sophie" (her Mamma Mia! counterpart) mean "wisdom." Paier is a personal, familial last name.
- Ari and Jaylana are named after two of my nieces.
- Haytor is a place I visited in England and completely fell in love with. However, the landscape of the planet Hay Tor is based off the country of Norway.
- "Prodos" is based off the Greek word for "progress." This fictional ceremony is loosely based off the Mormon religion's program for teenage girls, called "Personal Progress." Each girl ("young woman" once they turn 12) is to complete certain tasks that are designed for seven specific values. (There used to be seven; I believe they've added one.) This is where the "vows of the seven values" comes from.
- The sex euphemisms came from the internet and a good friend of mine. :)
Chapter 2: When I Kissed the Teacher
Moods for Chapter 2:
"22"~ Taylor Swift
"Where Do I Go From Here?"~ Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (Motion Picture Soundtrack)
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"~ Cyndi Lauper
"Raise Your Glass"~ Glee cover
*The song featured in this chapter is "When I Kissed the Teacher" from Mamma Mia Here We Go Again, with slightly altered lyrics*
Chapters 2&3 were written as one complete chapter, but I split them due to length.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For the most part, the war had ended.
It'd taken the Resistance some time to re-build. Though the Battle of Crait was internally publicized as a victory, it was difficult to bounce back from the losses suffered during the events that immediately followed the destruction of Starkiller Base. Nevertheless, General Organa persisted. She worked endlessly to make sure her old friends in the galaxy viewed the Battle of Crait as a way to say, "We are not going anywhere," instead of the demoralizing blow it actually was. Her optimism seemed to permeate through her measley ranks, stoking the fires of rebellion until the Resistance burned so bright in the minds of their would-be allies, they could no longer be ignored.
The most significant help came in the form of a young lady whose extended family ruled Tuggatae, a notoriously neutral planet in the Mid Rim. She believed in the Resistance; so much so that her uncle, King Harold Blake, agreed to host a meeting with the General. Leia worked her diplomatic magic, and suddenly- the Resistance had a new home base.
Everything seemed to move along seamlessly after that. With resourceful new allies, growing numbers, and priceless help from their resident Jedi (though she still hesitated to call herself one), the Resistance practically obliterated the First Order, leaving only remnants behind. It would take some time to clean everything up, of course, but the war was essentially won. It had taken a year, approximately, from the Battle of Crait.
A couple of months later saw Rey in her little room (more of a closet, really) on the Resistance base, preparing for a night out with Rose and Feena. Rey wasn't particularly excited for the outing, but the other two insisted. And besides, anyone with Feena always drank for free, so it wasn't like she'd have to spend any of the money she didn't have. Being friends with royalty had its advantages.
Rey stared at the dress that lay on her bed. This was the most revealing thing she'd likely ever wear, but Feena sounded sure it would look good on her. The silvery blue color was pretty enough, but she could have done without the sparkle. Oh well. She was certainly no fashion expert.
She was surprised by a knock on her door. When she opened it, she saw a pale pink droid that stood almost as tall as she did. The droid held a silver case and wore a bright expression.
"Hello, Rey. I am MM382, and I am here to get you ready for Girls' Night Out."
"May I come in, Miss Rey?"
"Unfortunately, I was getting ready to take a shower. Can you come back later?"
The droid shifted uncomfortably. "I... I have very specific instructions to not leave your room until you are properly made up."
"Of course you do," Rey laughed. Damn you, Feena.
Rey stepped to the side to allow MM382 to enter. She watched as the droid surveyed the space it had to work with. It wasn't much- just a bed and a side table. But it was enough. And, with the exception of the common latrines and showers, it was private. Rey really appreciated that bit.
"Please, Miss Rey," MM382 began, "have a seat. We have much to do!"
"I'm sorry, I really do need to take a shower." Rey reached under the side table and pulled out a clear container. She opened it and grabbed the necessary undergarments while she listened to the droid protest.
"You're welcome to wait here until I come back," she said, despite knowing it didn't have a choice in the matter anyhow. "I won't be long, I promise."
She snatched her dress off the bed and hurried out the door before MM382 could say much else. She did feel bad for leaving the droid by itself, but there was no way she was going to wear that dress in her current state.
Tuggatae was dotted all over with dense forests. Now that the war was over, she finally had the time to take advantage of the planet's peaceful landscape. She knew it might seem silly to others, but the girl from Jakku couldn't get enough. Tuggatae had the most trees she'd seen since Takodana, and she enjoyed taking hikes to explore them. During one such hike, she'd found a spot a few miles into the Eastern Forest where the ground met a narrow river. It was shallow enough to wade through; the water didn't even reach her knees. It was the perfect place to meditate and consult with the Force about the decision she'd soon have to make.
While this morning's hike had left her slightly less anxious, it'd also left her sweaty. Very, very sweaty. And while she secretly enjoyed the feeling of the wind blowing through the hair on her legs, she had no intention of being compared to a Wookiee that evening. A shower was definitely in order.
The once-busy halls of the female barracks had steadily grown more and more sparse in the last month or so. It bothered her to see them so empty. Apparently, everyone else was having an easier time with this decision than she was.
The empty hallway leading to the washroom was suddenly filled with a freshly-showered Rose running up to her, donning the fluffy white robe Feena had given her for her birthday.
"Is that it?! Let me see it!"
She was referring to the dress, no doubt. Rey held out the dress with both hands and let it fall so Rose could get a proper view.
"Wow," Rose breathed, mouth agape. "You're going to look amazing! Feena picked this out?"
"She did. She stopped by earlier today."
"Have you tried it on yet?"
"Not yet. I'm going to shower first."
Rose looked concerned. "Will you have enough time to get ready? I hear this is the most popular cantina in Tuggatae…. I think it's pretty upscale."
Rey laughed as she lay the dress back over her elbow. "I'll be fine. Believe it or not, a Madame Makeover droid just happens to be waiting for me in my room."
"Feena is a genius," Rose giggled. "I'll let you go then. See you soon!"
After a quick parting hug and several more steps, Rey reached the washroom. She was pleased to find that she had the whole place to herself, save for the steam Rose left in her wake. She grabbed a towel from the linen closet and hung it on the hook that resided next to her favorite stall (the one that offered the most hot water). She pushed the necessary buttons and waited until she was satisfied with the temperature. Then she stripped off her clothes and hopped in, humming a tune to keep her company. Once her hair and skin were washed to her liking, she looked down. It was time to take care of her legs.
After pressing a couple more buttons, the stall dispensed a razor and shaving froth. The bottom half of her legs were easy enough, but she rarely ever shaved above that. She cursed her inexperience with this area when she accidentally sliced right through the skin above her right knee.
"Shit," she hissed. She didn't even need to look to know it was bleeding; she felt something that wasn't water make its way down her shin and ankle. It stung, but there wasn't much she could do about it at the present time. She continued gliding the razor over her legs (more carefully now) until not a follicle of hair was left standing.
She turned the water off and stepped out of the stall, noticing the considerable amount of steam she'd added to the room. She took the towel from its hook and wrapped it tightly around herself.
That's when she felt it.
It took her completely by surprise, for she hadn't felt this presence since Crait. The Force flowed through her, along with a feeling she couldn't quite describe. Or maybe it was more than one feeling. In the same nanosecond, her breath caught in her throat and her stomach sank.
"Rey. It's been a while."
Kylo Ren's voice was controlled, though she suspected he was just as confused as she was. Again? Really?! The war was over- what could the Force possibly want with their bond now?
"So you survived," she said casually. Of course he did. That was the idea.
"You didn't know?"
She found the sound of his deep baritone oddly soothing. She assumed that's why she momentarily forgot where she was and turned around to face him.
He quickly averted his eyes. "Don't you have something you could put on?"
It was hard to tell from that angle, but it almost looked like his lips were just beginning to form something that resembled a cocky grin. She rolled her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself, securing the towel in place for however long she would have to endure this conversation.
"Where are you?"
He gave a half-hearted laugh. "Who's asking? You, or the Resistance?"
"The Resistance doesn't exist anymore. We won! The Republic is Restored."
"Hm," he said, moving his eyes to meet hers. She followed his glance down her face and neck. She felt herself grow warm when it traveled down her torso and stopped on the Resistance emblems that were embroidered along the bottom edge of the towel. "Then why are you still there?"
She didn't have an answer for that- not an easy one, anyway. So she said nothing.
The small trail of blood from her careless shaving had continued to run down her leg and was beginning to create a small pool around her foot.
She looked up from her wound and caught Kylo staring at her with an intensity she had seen before, during a previous encounter through the Force. It was slightly different, though, in this instance. There was a darkness there she didn't recognize.
"I can heal that for you." His voice was low, almost a whisper.
"I'm fine," she repeated, though she wasn't sure she meant it this time.
"How much longer do you think this is going to last?" she asked, cutting him off. "I have things to attend to."
"Well that and… not that it's any of your business, but if you must know- I'm going out with friends tonight."
She wasn't sure why she felt the need to tell him this. Perhaps she was more excited about Girls' Night Out than she thought, or maybe she just wanted to see him genuinely shocked. Either way, she instantly regretted it, fearing she had revealed too much. The perplexed look on his face didn't change as he let out an amused exhale through his nose.
"Rey of Jakku. The Scavenger. No longer alone."
Without warning, the Force broke their connection, and his image disappeared.
What the actual fuck was that?
MM382 pulled a mirror from the silver case and handed it to Rey. She had to admit: this droid was certainly programmed well. Her makeup was simple but stunning. Who knew what a difference some eyeliner and smokey eyeshadow could make? Her foundation was light and looked natural, not caked on like she'd observed on some Tuggataen women. Her hair was a simple half up/half down, made ornate by the double braids that circled each side of her head like a loose crown Overall, she liked it!
"Now let's do something about that," the droid said, motioning to the small bacta bandage above Rey's knee. Her dress stopped about three-quarters of the way down her thighs, leaving her cut unfortunately displayed. It wasn't particularly long or wide, but it was still bright red and very noticeable. The snowy white bandage only made it moreso.
MM382 dug around in the case, pulled out a small box, and set it on the bedside table. "These are disappearing bandages," she explained. "When you put one on, it changes to the exact color of your skin. It doesn't take but a minute. They're only cosmetic, so there's no healing properties, like with bacta. But they'll do for tonight."
"That sounds perfect. Thank you."
"And with that, I believe my work here is done. Thank you for your time, Miss Rey. I've enjoyed having you as my client today."
"It's been a pleasure," Rey said sincerely. She walked the droid out and returned to her bed. She applied one of the bandages to her skin and was impressed to see it begin to change color immediately. A few seconds later, it was completely camouflage.
Rey glanced at her alarm clock. It was 20:56. She was supposed to meet Rose and Feena at the base entrance in four minutes. Where had the time gone?
She'd spent almost the entire makeover session re-playing her encounter with Ben. Kylo Ren. Whoever he was now.
"I can heal that for you."
Just thinking about the way he said it and the way he looked at her... she shivered. It made her uneasy. It made her wonder if he could actually do it. A Dark Side user who could use the Force to heal? Yeah, right.
Still, she wondered how he would look while he tried: how his hands would shake as he struggled to use the Light, how his fingers would feel as they pressed against her bare skin...
Woah. She needed to get out of here.
She raced down the various hallways that lead to the exit of the female barracks and into the main courtyard. She waved to the guard in the watchtower, and the front gates opened. There to greet her were the smiling faces of her two best friends.
"It appears my MM droid was well worth the price," said a woman with brown skin and dark curly hair.
"I shockingly don't hate it, Feena, I'll give you that," Rey replied.
"I knew it!" said Rose. "I knew you'd look amazing!"
"Okay, okay," Rey blushed. "Quit your gushing, and let's get on with it."
The ride to The Oxford didn't take too long. She'd never ventured into the capital before; all of her previous adventures on Tuggatae involved either the barracks, the hangar, or the Eastern Forest. She'd never seen Sen, certainly not Sen Marketplace, and she was in awe. There were buildings everywhere. Loud music on street corners were accented by beings of many species laughing and dancing like they'd just won the war that morning. Bright lights were strewn about the city almost carelessly, as if there were too many for the builders to know what to do with. It was no Coruscant, sure, but it was spectacular nonetheless.
Their private speeder stopped in front of a large, circular structure, obviously new. As Rey stepped out, she heard Feena thank the pilot and tell him to return at 01:00.
"Feena, I know you like to arrive in style, but we could have borrowed a Resistance transport. It's not like they need too many of them nowadays."
"Oh, little Rey," laughed Feena. "By the time we're ready to leave, you will not be in a state to pilot any type of vehicle. Trust me."
Rose giggled, and Rey glared at her. "I told you, I'm only going to have one."
"Yeah, alright. It's your decision, love."
Feena led the women passed the entrance (without paying, Rey noticed) and into a large room lined with deep, purple curtains. There were round tables scattered about The Oxford's three stories, some with chairs and some without. A stage was displayed at the front of the room, and a long bar ran across the back. Rows and rows of bottles towered above the employees behind the bar. Displayed on these shelves were beer, wine, and liquor from all over the galaxy. Rey wondered, for a moment, which of these bottles would have been her parents' favorite.
It was hard to keep up with Feena and Rose as they snaked through the crowd. She followed them up the stairs to the second floor, and they stopped at a table along the right side that was covered in a dome made of light. Darker light particles revealed the word "reserved" in large letters. Feena pressed her palm to the dome; it dissipated, allowing the trio to sit down.
"First thing's first. What are we drinking?" said Feena, pulling up the menu.
Rose shrugged. "You already know what I'm having."
Rey scanned the menu. She recognized some names, but this was beyond her realm of knowledge. The only alcohol she'd ever tried was a sip of sparkling wine to celebrate the Resistance's victory.
"Um, well… what are you two getting?"
"I'm getting a Sen special and Rose is getting a mandel sour."
"But you wouldn't want to start with those," Rose chimed in.
"That's true; you'd be out before the real fun begins. Why don't you try a cider? They're made from fruit and have a lower alcohol content than liquor."
Rey looked at the menu again, still feeling lost. "Can you choose for me?"
"Sure! I know just the thing. It's a cider made from eps grown right here in Sen!" Feena excitedly pushed the button to call over the server. In a matter of seconds, a droid that looked no wider than a lightsaber floated over to get their orders. As it left to retrieve the libations, Rey looked over the railings as the guests piled in. Seats were filling up quickly, and Rey noted that everyone had turned their chairs to face the stage.
What in the galaxy has Feena gotten me into this time?
Before she had too much time to dwell on the thought, she spotted two familiar faces near the entrance; they were the faces of two men she knew well. One slapped the other on the back and looked practically giddy while doing so. The other one, like Rey, looked a bit uncomfortable but was being a good sport.
"It looks like the boys have decided to join us."
Rose and Feena followed Rey's glance to see Finn and Poe surveying the room. Clearly unsatisfied with the number of available seats, Poe motioned toward the staircase. Rose jumped up from her chair.
"I'll go get them!"
"So much for Girls' Night," said Rey.
She didn't mind their presence at all, though. Finn and Poe were two of her most favorite people in the entire galaxy. But due to differing missions and a new base with separate barracks, she hadn't been able to see them nearly as much as she wanted to in the last several months.
Feena smiled with a dreamy look in her eyes. "That's perfectly fine with me. He's nice to look at, yeah? And," she grinned, "rumor has it that he's nice all around, if you know what I mean."
Rey did know what she meant. She heard the talk around the barracks; everyone did. It was no surprise, given how charming a personality he possessed. No Jedi mind tricks required.
"Behave!," Rey said, slapping Feena lightly on the arm. "He's my friend. And our superior."
"He's not my superior anymore." Feena wiggled her eyebrows, which caused Rey to shake her head in response. "Come on. Are you saying that you've never thought about it?"
"Not even once." Not with him, anyway.
The droid returned with their drinks before Rose returned with their friends. Rey could hear Feena order two more drinks as she stared at her own. The dark pinkish liquid looked bubbly and actually quite inviting. Rey heard a chuckle and looked up to see Feena watching her with interest.
"Go on, give it a try."
Rey took a small sip and winced, expecting to feel a burning sensation, as it was often described to her that way. She was surprised, however, to taste a flavor that was sweet and bitter. It was an interesting combination.
"What do you think?"
"I think I like it!"
Feena looked especially pleased. "Well, drink up! There's plenty more where that came from."
Rey was about to take a second sip when she saw Rose and Finn heading toward the table, with Poe trailing right behind, checking out the various cantina-goers. The two in front were laughing about who-knows-what.
"It's so nice how the two of them still get on so well, isn't it? I don't think I've ever become good friends with someone I dated. I don't think I ever could."
"Yes," Rey laughed. "I imagine it's difficult to become good friends with someone you only see for one night."
Feena grinned proudly. "You're not wrong about that."
"Besides, it wasn't so much a 'date' as it was 'two close friends go out together and realize they are just friends.'" It was then Rey heard Finn call her name, so she stood up and braced for impact.
Finn barreled right into her, catching her in a tight hug which immediately warmed her heart. There was nothing like a hug from Finn; there just wasn't.
Poe and Feena exchanged greetings that were dripping with the kind of sexual tension that arises when the two most charming and attractive people in the room pretend to be coy. Rose had to clear her throat to remind the duo there were other people present. As the five friends took their seats, Finn looked at Rey, surprised.
Rey grinned. "I am. And it's not too bad."
"I've ordered you gentlemen some drinks as well, courtesy of the King. They should be here soon."
"Wow! Thanks, Feena!"
"Trying to get us drunk, are ya?" said Poe with a wink.
"If we're trying to get anyone here drunk, it's definitely Rey," Rose piped in. "Well, not drunk, just tipsy enough to sing with us."
"Sing?!" Rey asked. What could she mean by that?
"I bet you've got a lovely voice," Finn said, giving Rey a friendly smile.
"That's what we thought, too," agreed Feena.
"What are you guys talking about? What do you mean, 'sing'?"
Poe, who very clearly saw the confusion on Rey's face, was laughing. "You guys didn't tell her about karaoke night? Oh, Rey, you're in for a treat!"
The serving droid delivered the Sen specials to Finn and Poe- who immediately took a few healthy sips.
Karaoke. The word sounded familiar, like she'd heard it around the barracks at some point, but she wasn't sure what it meant. And she was curious to know what it had to do with singing.
"What is karaoke night?"
"It's an old Tuggataen tradition that's become popular since the Restored Republic took power. It's where you pick any song in the galaxy, and the cantina provides the lyrics and background music while you sing it!"
"Sign ups start in fifteen minutes. We were kind of hoping you'd want to trio with us," said Rose with a sheepish grin.
Rey didn't know what to think. She liked to sing to herself, sure, but she didn't know if she was any good. It sounded fun, actually, to be on stage with her best friends. It was just…
"I'd be too nervous in front of all those people!"
"That's what the alcohol is for," giggled Feena.
After Finn and Poe chimed in with their thoughts ("Do it! Do it!"), Rey took a gulp of her cider and said, "Alright. Which song should we choose?"
Thirty minutes later saw the group working on a second round of drinks while being completely enraptured by Rose's explanation of the latest novel she was reading.
"...so it's like an analogy of how we- the citizens of the galaxy- let the First Order take over due to our apathy."
"That sounds absolutely incredible," said Rey, who was quickly reaching the bottom of her glass. Her face began to feel warm well into the first drink. Now, it felt like all her senses were heightened, and she couldn't stop smiling. She'd increased her limit to two drinks for the purposes of easing her stagefright, but now she was considering upping it to three, just in case all of her built-up confidence was shot when she put the microphone in her hand. Also, well, she found that she was enjoying this pink drink. She wanted more. After all she had been through, wasn't that reason enough?
"It does," agreed Finn. "I need to start reading some books, since they're all over the place now. We never would have been able to do that in the First Order."
"Seems a little overrated to me," said Poe, who had moved on from a Sen special to a double Sen special. "Why waste time reading some made-up story when there's so much going on in real life?"
"Are you kidding me? Overrated?" Rose set down her glass, preparing for a speech. "Stories are our way of looking at real life from an outside perspective. They show us where we went wrong and how things could be in the future. They make us feel and sympathize with others whose experiences are different from our own. And we're seeing more of them now than we ever have in our lifetime. Years from now, we'll look back at this time and call it a great renaissance. How can you not want to be a part of it?"
Poe was silent for a moment, then smiled. "You know, it's that passion of yours that helped us win the war, Private Tico. Here's to you." He took another long sip of his drink.
Rose blushed and took another sip of her own.
"Look! We're up in three songs!" shouted Feena. She was pointing at the holographic list projected above the center of the table.
Rey stared at the list for longer than she realized, an idea forming in her head.
"You okay, little Rey?" said Feena, with an amused expression.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm okay. I just… can we change the song?"
"To this," she said, pushing buttons on the table edge to edit the entry. Rose and Feena looked at each other and nodded.
"You would choose that one," said Rose.
Rey submitted the edit and felt her cheeks flush even more. What Ben would say if he saw me choose this song…
"Speaking of choices," said Poe, "Rose, have you decided yet if you're going to stay?"
"Oh yeah… your deadline is coming up soon, isn't it?" said Feena. She had the luxury of sounding casual about the decision, for she had resigned almost as soon as the First Order had been blown to smithereens. She'd joined the Resistance with the clear intention of returning to her royal duties as soon as the war was over, so it came as no surprise when she did so. For most of the other fighters, however, the choice was not so easy.
"Yes, I've made a decision." This got Rey's attention. Rose hadn't told her anything about it yet. "I loved my place in the Resistance, but I know they don't need nearly as many soldiers as before, so… I've decided to accept an offer from the royal family of Tuggatae to stay here and help upgrade the royal homes. I'm actually going to turn in my resignation tomorrow."
"Yes!" said Feena. Apparently, Rose hadn't told her about her decision either.
"We'll miss you, but it sounds like a great opportunity," said Poe. "I'm sure you all know that I'm going to stay on with the Restored Republic Guard. There's still a few First Order remnants out there, and I intend to help General Organa bring them down. But my buddy Finn here- he's got some pretty exciting news, don't you?"
"Uh, yeah," Finn said, scratching the back of his head. "I got accepted into Coruscant University. I just signed all my resignation paperwork today. I… I'm leaving next week."
"That's fantastic news, Finn! You'll be reading lots of books now," said Rose.
Rey felt a tinge of sadness that she knew was completely selfish. Finn was the first friend she had ever made. Ever. Full stop. It wasn't like she wasn't happy for him, but-
No. No but's. She was happy for him, and that was that.
"That's wonderful, my friend. You'll be great."
"Thank you, Rey. Maybe it sounds naive, but I really want to learn all I can and make a difference."
"Something tells me you will."
"We're next!" Feena squealed.
"What about you, Rey?" said Poe, pushing the 'reorder' button for another round. "What are you going to do?"
Oh great, just what she needed. As if she didn't already feel enough pressure about the upcoming deadline; her four closest friends had already chosen their paths. To be honest, Rey was no closer to making a decision today than she was when the deadline was announced. Thirty-six days. That's all she had left.
"I'm not quite sure."
Feena interrupted her. "This girl's got a minute left; we need to get down there!"
She looked at the participant currently singing on the stage. Maybe it was because she was a little tipsy, but the girl sounded good. There was no way any of them could compete.
Feena grabbed her hand and darted toward the staircase, with Rose following close behind. Her coordination was only slightly off, but she managed to wobble down the stairs without tripping over anything. As they approached the stage, Rey was filled with... was that excitement or dread? She couldn't exactly tell. All she knew was that her heart was beating faster, and she couldn't wait to get up there.
"Hey, guys," Rey said, addressing the other members of the trio. "I can sing the lead."
"Are you sure?" Rose asked, surprised.
"Yeah," Rey giggled.
"Stars, Rey!" said Feena. "Remind me to take you out drinking more often."
The short, green being with a long nose announced that "Rey and the Resistance" would be up next and invited them onto the stage. Rey walked up the small steps and stood at the center, with Rose and Feena on either side of her. A stagehand gave her a microphone, and she looked out to the crowd.
The Oxford was full. She imagined they would have hit capacity and closed the doors by now, but still more guests drifted in. And all eyes were on her. She called on the Force to help calm her, but the alcohol was doing enough of that on its own. She heard the first few notes of the song and began:
When I kissed the Jedi
And they must have thought they dreamed
When I kissed the Jedi
All my friends at school
They had never seen the Master blush
He looked like a fool
Nearly petrified cause he was taken by surprise"
Rose and Feena joined in when the tempo picked up, and the audience cheered. They liked it, it seemed. They obviously hadn't rehearsed any dance moves, so Rey just performed the small movements that came to her in the moment. By the second verse, Rey looked down from the lyrics projected in mid air and into the faces of the audience. Every single person was smiling and appeared to be having fun. And, to her surprise- so was she.
"I was in a trance
When I kissed the Jedi
Suddenly I took the chance
When I kissed the Jedi
Leaning over me
He was trying to explain the laws of Force energy
And I couldn't help it
I just had to kiss the Jedi"
The song continued seamlessly; when the final note faded out, the audience erupted into thunderous applause. Rey looked over the crowd, shocked and dumbfounded at what she found.
They were standing up and cheering for them. For Rey and The Resistance. For her.
It was a rush.
- Feena, Sen, and Tuggatae are all based off people/places in an original novel I'm writing.
- In the second movie, Donna graduates from Oxford, which is where The Oxford gets its name. The interior, however, is inspired by Rising Star- the karaoke bar at Universal Orlando CityWalk.
Chapter 3: Why Did it Have to Be Me?
Moods for Chapter 3:
"The Show"~ Lenka
"We Go Together"~ Grease (2007 Broadway Cast)
"We Are Young"~ Glee cover
"Edge of Glory"~ Lady Gaga
"Roots Before Branches"~ Glee cover
"I Wonder"~ Mamma Mia Here We Go Again (Motion Picture Soundtrack)
This chapter is really Part 2 of Chapter 2. Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Rey felt something poke her on the left side.
"Come on. Let's take a bow!" said Feena, whose face was practically glowing.
Rey grabbed the outstretched hands of her companions, and the trio bowed dramatically. With a final wave, they walked off the stage and returned to their spot on the second floor. (This process took a while due to their constantly being stopped and complimented.) When they arrived, Finn, Poe, and a third round of drinks were eagerly awaiting them.
"You all were seriously amazing!" said Finn.
"Yeah!" agreed Poe. "I didn't know we had superstars in our ranks!"
The five friends continued to down their beverages as they listened to the next few singers try (and fail) to replicate their success. Each cider, Rey noticed, was easier to finish than the last. She also noticed that her laughter was getting louder and her words were getting ever-so-slightly ridiculous. But her ability to care, however, was quickly fading into the background, along with the rest of her surroundings. For the briefest of moments, she allowed herself to wonder if this feeling, this sense of just being… was this what her parents had really traded her for? And, before she could stop herself, she wondered if it was worth it.
Before she could dwell on the thought, the alcohol made it far enough through her system to overwhelm her with a feeling that had nothing to do with emotions.
"I need to pee," she announced to the table.
"Very subtle, Rey," laughed Finn.
Feena nodded. "Ah, you're finally breaking the seal."
"I'll walk you down there," said Poe. "I have to go, too."
Rey pinched onto a piece of the Poe's shirt as he led her through the sea of sweaty bodies. The stairs were not as easy to descend this time, so she gripped the side railings for dear life as she stepped down as fast as she could. After weaving a bit more through the crowd, they were able to do their business and meet back up at the washroom entrance.
Without the pressure on their bladders, the return trip was much more relaxed.
"How did you become so amazing?"
Rey snorted. "What are you talking about?"
"You can use the Force, you can save the galaxy- and now you can sing! I had no idea you were so talented!"
She wasn't sure about that "save the galaxy" bit. It was the will of the Force, really, that made her privy to that vital, war-winning information. She was sure that anyone in her position would have also shared this information with General Organa- probably even sooner than she did. And, if she was being honest with herself, they probably would have done it with more honorable intent.
"You're talented, too! I wasn't the one in charge of the final battle. You're the hero here, Poe."
He smiled. "Thanks, Rey."
She knew he wasn't looking for a pep-talk, but he seemed to appreciate it anyhow. Still, she felt kind of silly trying to build up the confidence of a man who had so much that it oozed from his pores. But for some reason (oh, right- booze), her lack of filter wouldn't let her stop.
Besides," she smirked, "I hear there's some stuff you're good at that has nothing to do with blowing things up."
She'd meant that as a joke. (Maybe.) He looked surprised, though, but... surely he was familiar with the rumors. It wasn't like he tried to hide it.
"You do, eh?" He chuckled.
Rey chose to interpret that question as rhetorical. That was her plan, anyway. Poe, it seemed, had other ideas.
"So what do you think about them?" His pace slowed considerably as they approached the staircase.
"About the rumors, all the things you've heard about me. Do you think they're true?"
"Oh!" She could feel the blush creep up her already-flushed cheeks. She wasn't sure what to say. With how rampant the talk ran and how casual everyone (including him) seemed about it, she'd always assumed they were true. But she hadn't really given it that much thought. It's not like she had the experience to know which stories were accurate and which sounded a bit far-fetched.
"I, um… I don't know. I've never- we've never… I wouldn't know about that."
She turned her head and looked down so she could ensure her foot made actual contact with the first step. As her other foot followed suit, she felt a hand ever-so-gently touch her arm. She looked back and saw Poe still standing on the floor, looking at her with an intensity not unlike the one she had experienced only hours before. Recalling that encounter sent chills all across the surface of her skin, save for the section of her arm that felt particularly warm from Poe's touch.
"Would you like to find out?"
He removed his hand and stepped back. He was a statue after that; he just stood there with that same look on his face. She may have been inexperienced, but she wasn't completely naive. She understood what he was asking, and she knew him enough to know that he was serious.
She still couldn't believe it.
This was Poe. Major Poe Dameron. Her friend. A man she'd known for over a year and fought alongside. They'd killed together; they'd saved each others' lives countless times. He commanded an entire fleet of Resistance ships and earned the respect of every military and political leader in the galaxy.
And here he was, standing below her, asking if she wanted to get to know the other side of him.
She stepped back down to the floor, minimizing the space between them. She scanned his eyes, searching for an answer, because she couldn't seem to come up with one on her own. Instead of an answer, though, she found something else. Something hidden behind the confidence and charisma that never failed to keep his bed warm. It was some type of drunken desperation. Some type of plea.
Without any further thought, she placed her hands on his shoulders and kissed him.
He didn't seem to mind. His arms found their way to her waist, and they stayed there for a moment before she pulled her face away, covered it with her hands, and laughed.
"Thats, uh... that's not the reaction I usually get," he said with an amused expression.
"I'm sorry Poe. It's just- I have no idea what I'm doing!"
His laughter joined hers until both had tears in their eyes. They stumbled up the stairs together, still chuckling.
"Well, when you decide you want help figuring it out, you let me know." He winked, causing them both to erupt in another round of laughter.
Rey and Poe returned to the table to find Rose and Finn discussing all the books the latter would need for school and Feena sitting very close to a gentleman they did not recognize, whose hand was placed on her knee. When Feena noticed them, she facilitated the necessary introductions (he was some well-to-do businessman in Tuggatae named Ulysses Brin) and announced she was putting in another drink order.
"Another one, Rey?"
"Actually, I think I'd like to try one of those," she said, pointing to the drink Finn was finishing off.
"A Sen special?"
"Yeah!" Rey said, perhaps a little too excitedly.
Feena looked weary. "Well, ok. But I'm limiting you to just one. They're strong. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you didn't eat dinner this evening, right?"
She was right. Between her hike, the eventful shower, and the MM droid, she hadn't eaten anything since lunch. "You're right. I haven't."
"Then I'm also order some snacks. You other-planet fools can't hold Tuggataen liquor like we can." She was right about that, too. The mannerisms being displayed by Poe, Finn, Rose, and her especially, were growing more overstated and obnoxious by the minute.
Rey giggled. "Okay. I'll go for the one."
The one proved to be all she needed. It wasn't too long before her surroundings became fuzzy and her head became light. And she wasn't the only one; all six of them were having very loud, very pointless conversations and laughing about who-knows-what. At one point, someone decided they should get up and dance, which they did (though not very well). Their moves were clumsy and uncoordinated and somehow resulted with Rose toppling over, taking Poe and Finn down with her. As the other three tried to help them back up, they lost their balance, too and also ended up on the floor. The addictive laughter was interrupted by the sound of Feena's time alarm.
"Oof- time to go!"
Luckily, Feena had planned for two speeders to pick them up. Feena took Mr. Brin in one that was headed to the royal homes, while Rey, Rose, Poe, and Finn piled into the other. The pilot was equipped with bottles of fresh water for their inebriated passengers (he was no stranger to these types of pickups, it seemed).
Rey and Rose leaned on each other as they navigated through the corridors of the female barracks. They reached Rey's room first. Rose gave her a pill and mumbled a reminder to drink lots of water before saying goodnight and stumbling down the hall to her own room.
Rey had just set the bottle of water and pill down on her bedside table when she felt it.
"It's not a good time now."
"You've been drinking."
It must have been her voice that gave her away, not that she really had the wherewithal to tell.
"That's what people do when they go out," she said defensively. She turned around and noticed Kylo Ren was dressed in dark pants and a loose-fitting tunic. His sleepwear, she assumed.
"I'm not scolding you. Just surprised."
Rey sighed and shook her head (which ended up going in several directions, as she still didn't have complete control over her motor functions).
"This would happen. Of course I would have the most fun night I've ever had in my entire life, and then you show up. And completely ruin it." She could feel the tears start to prickle her eyes. She was not doing a good job at keeping her emotions in check. It was another side-effect of the alcohol, she knew, but good heavens- why did this have to happen now?
"You know I can't control this. Neither can you. The Force is bringing us together; you have to accept that."
"Or," Rey sad, taking a step forward, directly into his personal space (or what would have been his personal space, had he actually been there), "It's a sign. This is the Force telling you to turn yourself over to the Restored Republic. You and the other little remnants of the First Order who are in hiding."
"I'm not with them."
"You can't run forever," she said. Her hand was in the air now, finger pointed directly at him. It was a bit wobbly, as she currently lacked the ability to hold it still.
Kylo stared down at her finger in confusion and looked at her with one eyebrow raised. He took a step back. "I'm not running."
"You are. You've been running this whole time." She moved her arms out in front of her to illustrate what, 'this whole time,' looked like, almost unaware of the small smile that was threatening to show on Kylo's mouth. "You ran then, and you're running now. The First Order lost. The Resistance won, and the Republic is restored. You have to accept that."
"You didn't win, you got lucky."
No. That was only half-true. It was fortunate that the Force chose to show Rey what it did, but it was her strength within the Force that allowed her to see it; it allowed her to sense the information that let them win. No. It wasn't just luck. He didn't get to win this round.
"It wasn't luck, it was the will of the Force! It was Leia's plan. It was Poe's execution of that plan. It was our allied resources. And it was me," her voice broke. A single tear ran down her cheek, and she took a breath to steady herself. "You were wrong about me."
Any hint of amusement on his face vanished when she began to cry. He was all seriousness, now. She wasn't sure, but she could almost make out a little concern there, too.
"You once told me... that I didn't have a place in this story." The tears were falling more freely now. "But I was the one who figured out when to strike the First Order. It was me who knew when they'd be vulnerable. So you were wrong. You said I was noth- ouch! Shit!" While speaking, she'd taken a step forward and hit the side of the bed with her leg, right on the spot that housed her shaving mishap.
She sat on the bed and inspected the once-camouflage bandage. The blood was soaking through it now. She wiped the tears from her eyes and peeled it off, wincing slightly.
"You're bleeding again," he said, sinking down to kneel in front of her. He looked down at the cut and back up to her eyes. "I can heal that for you. Let me." It was a question. He was staring at her again but without the darkness from before. He did look concerned after all. Rey wasn't sure what to make of it.
She nodded and watched, heart beating heavily, as he moved his hands to hover above her knee. She held her breath as he slowly lowered them. The moment his skin touched hers, she felt a wave of energy travel through the Force and hit her, forcing the air out of her lungs. This was more than what she'd felt when they touched fingertips all that time ago on Ahch-To. More. But also less, as there were no visions this time around.
His head was bent down, so she couldn't quite see his face. All she could see was the blueish-green light emanating from his hands, sneaking out of the miniscule spaces between them and her skin. She was shocked. He was struggling to use the Light, but he was doing it. And, like she'd suspected, his arms were starting to shake from the effort.
Something familiar itched at the back of her mind. It was a voice, almost, and all it did was whisper:
Maybe he can still be saved.
No. No! She had been down that road before, and it quite literally almost killed her. He'd made his choice.
After a few moments, it was over. He pulled his arms back, and they both examined the wound. It was completely healed, not even a scar remained. They both looked at each other. Kylo seemed impressed, like he hadn't actually been sure it would work. He cleared his throat and stood up.
"I was mistaken." His voice was quiet. It was so quiet, in fact, that she stared at him for a long moment before she realized what he said.
"You were, clearly, very useful to your side. But I always knew you could become more than just a Resistance sheep."
Her instinct urged her to argue, to defend the Resistance and all the good it fought for. But that's not why he was saying this. His tone was not argumentative; it was sincere.
He was apologizing.
"You were never 'nothing' to me, Rey. I hope you know that."
She did know that. Among the extremely poorly-chosen words he'd used that day, he did manage to say that much.
She didn't know how to respond. She was much more alert now; the healing and his admission seemed to sober her right up. A thousand thoughts were running through her mind, but none of them were useful. If she was being honest, some of them seemed down right inappropriate.
He must have interpreted her silence as a drunken stupor (not completely inaccurate), for he shook his head with an almost-smile on his face and said, "Make sure you take a razza pill, or you'll feel like hell in the morning."
And then he was gone.
Rey wasn't sure how much time had passed, but she sat on her bed for almost all of it. She forced herself to move so she could take her pill (which had already started to help things come into focus) and went right back to sitting.
Kylo Ren claimed he wasn't with the other remnants. Ha! She didn't buy it. But wherever he was, he was hidden away carefully. She could feel that much. She could feel when he was away.
Ugh. Their Force connection. She once foolishly believed she was rid of most of it, but here it was again. Twice in one day. Was the Force trying to show her where he was? She knew that she should probably tell General Organa, but the logical side of her knew that she didn't have much to tell. As with their connections of the past, she couldn't see his surroundings. Just him. There wasn't any information she could give the Restored Republic about his actual whereabouts, except that he was far away. It was nothing more than what they already assumed, so there was really no need to tell them anything at all.
For that, she was relieved.
It would have been hard to explain this interaction to them; she couldn't even explain it to herself.
He had actually apologized. He'd used the Force to heal her (it was a small wound, but still). Through their connection, he'd touched her skin. It was the most of him she had ever felt, and when he was done and withdrew his hands, she wanted them back where they had been.
No. Not where they had been. She wanted them everywhere.
Rey felt a familiar ache start to grow within her. Not that she would ever admit this out loud, but she was no stranger to these kinds of thoughts where Kylo was concerned. It was harmless, she'd reasoned over and over again, because it was just a fleeting fantasy. Ben Solo was truly dead, she'd come to terms with that. It was perfectly fine, however, to muse on what might have happened if he'd returned to the fold and helped them take down the First Order: He could have joined her on missions. They could have fought side-by-side, as they had one precious time before. Their time together would have certainly perfected their bond in the Force as they grew closer in every other way...
It was perfectly harmless. Right.
But after today, after she saw the way his eyes took in her towel-clad form, after she felt the heat behind his words, she felt a little… silly.
"I have no idea what I'm doing!"
But she knew who could help her figure it out.
She was inside the male barracks and at Poe's door before she could ask herself if this was a good idea. She knocked and heard his voice through the small speaker.
"Rey? What are you doing here?"
It didn't sound like he had just woken up. Good. She would have felt guilty about that.
She looked at the spot above the door where she knew the camera resided, as it did above the door of each military officer.
"I need your help," she said, with all the fake confidence she could muster. "I'm ready to figure things out." She was positive she was blushing. She couldn't believe she was saying this.
The door hissed open to reveal a very confused Poe Dameron standing at the entryway. As if Rey needed more reason to feel inadequate, he was conveniently shirtless.
"I didn't expect to see you so soon. Have you had anything else to drink?" Poe asked, skeptically.
Rey laughed and shook her head. "No. And I took a razza. Believe me, I am incredibly aware of what I am doing right now."
Poe nodded, understanding. "You sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. I have much to learn. Besides," she added with a grin, "how else am I supposed to find out if all those rumors are true?"
Poe's face lit up as he chuckled and grabbed Rey's hand. "Well, in that case…" He pulled her into his room, and the door hissed shut behind her.
An hour or so later, when all was said and done, Rey lay in a blissful haze as she felt Poe's damp body collapse down next to hers.
"Well," he began, still breathing heavy, "I was going to ask about the rumors, but you've already expressed how you feel about them. Very loudly, I might add."
Rey gave a sheepish grin and covered her face with her hands. "Do you think anyone heard?"
"Oh, most definitely," Poe laughed at her horrified look. "But they're used to it, so don't worry. We can still keep this between us."
Rey was happy to hear that. They'd decided, in between the removal of various pieces of clothing, not to tell anyone about their tryst, their friends included. It would be simpler all around. And Rey wasn't too keen on having to answer others' inevitable questions about what she'd just done.
She smiled to herself. She'd done it! And it had gone well. She couldn't have imagined it going any better, really. Poe Dameron was the ideal choice for such an event; he was experienced, thoughtful, giving, and very patient with her. And most importantly, she trusted him. She knew that he would help her navigate her awkwardness and ignorance without pushing her too far or making her feel uncomfortable. And he had.
"Poe," Rey said, turning on her side to face him, "this might sound strange, but I just wanted to thank you. There's no one else in the whole galaxy I would have trusted to, you know, help me out with this," she giggled. "So thank you."
Poe smiled up at her, and then turned on his side so they were face-to-face.
"I feel like it was me who got the better end of this deal," he said, placing an arm around her lower back. "But you're welcome. It was my pleasure."
Feeling more confident after having round one under her belt, Rey winked and said, "And mine as well."
Poe chuckled and pulled the lower half of her body close to his. "Well, Rey, the night is still young. And I have much to teach you, my young padalong."
Rey snorted a laugh and lay back down, pulling Poe on top of her.
After helping to see Finn off to Coruscant, the following weeks continued in a similar fashion. Rey and The Resistance returned to The Oxford several times to sing karaoke, and they remained a crowd favorite. The night usually ended with Feena leaving with some guy they'd just been introduced to, Rey and Rose returning to the barracks together, and Rey sneaking out to Poe's room at various levels of sobriety. Once Rose was officially moved out, Rey's ride back to the base was filled with silence, which allowed her more time to meditate on the decision that was coming at her with ever-increasing speed.
Before she knew it, it was thirty-six days later.
Rey sat across from General Organa, listening to her explain how difficult a decision she knew it must be: to choose between staying and hunting down First Order remnants, or leaving and returning to normal civilian life. That's when she paused her speech and looked at Rey, seriously.
"It must sound ridiculous to you, Rey. Your civilian life was far from normal."
Yes, she definitely agreed.
"I imagine this decision is even more difficult for you than most. Everyone else gets to return home; to you, this probably is home."
She wasn't wrong about that.
"You're skills were invaluable to the Resistance. Because of you, we knew when Kylo Ren had left the First Order open to attack. Because of you, we won the war. I have no doubt that you would be just as vital to the Restored Republic Guard."
Rey felt her eyes start to water. She knew that, due to her strength in the Force, the Restored Republic would likely try to convince her to stay on with the military. But it still touched her that General Organa complimented her so sincerely, even if was just to try and influence her decision.
"However," she continued, "there is something to be said about leaving."
That certainly got Rey's attention.
"Your whole life has been about waiting around and surviving, hasn't it? When you were on Jakku, you were a lone scavenger waiting for your no-good parents to come back. No offense."
"None taken." Her parents had traded their own child for drinking money. 'No-good' was putting it nicely.
"And then you joined the Resistance, fighting for the survival of democracy, waiting for orders to tell you on what adventure to go next. Those things were necessary in their own time, but now you have the chance to not just survive, but to live. The galaxy is wide. There is so much potential in you, Rey of Jakku. Luke saw it, too. I don't believe you were born to just wait around and do what your superiors tell you, like a… sheep."
Rey's breath caught in her throat as Kylo's words resurfaced in her memory, coaxed out by his own mother.
"What about the remnants?"
General Organa smiled gently. "You don't have to be concerned about them. There's not too many left. We will find them either way."
Rey bit her lip. Could she really do it? Could she really leave the base? Her friends? Home?
"So, Rey, what's it to be?"
The General was right. She'd had enough of waiting around and just surviving. She loved what the Resistance stood for, of course, but it was gone now. If the last few weeks had taught her anything, it was that there were a lot of things she longed to experience, many of which she'd didn't even know existed. How could she do all of these things if she didn't go out and find what they were? Maybe she deserved to partake in the freedom she'd fought so hard to give the galaxy.
"General Organa, I have to resign."
She flashed a small smile and then went back to business.
"Now here comes all the boring nonsense," she said, plopping a stack of papers on the desk. "You'll need to read through all of these and sign were it says to. Then we'll take you to the medbay for a final check up. After that, you'll have some time to collect your things and then, well, what's next is up to you. But before we get to that, I have some important financial information to go over with you."
"Yes! What? Did you think you were working for free? You built up a lot of time in the Resistance, and the Restored Republic is finally in a position to compensate you."
The General continued in her explanation, but Rey couldn't quite hear. Her eyes went wide as she realized that, for the first time in her life, she was going to get paid.
"They were very generous with their compensation, weren't they? I couldn't believe how much they gave us!" Rose said before taking a sip of her wine.
"I'll say!" said Feena, pouring her own glass.
"What do you need more money for?"
"I don't, Rosie-Posie. I donated it to the families who lost loved ones in the war. I was the one who got us involved, it was the least I could do."
Rose smiled warmly. "You're a good one, Feena."
"That's because I hang out with you sentimental fools."
Rey laughed along with the other two, but her mind was somewhere else entirely. Feena had invited Rey along to take a proper tour of the royal palace with her and Rose, to whom she pointed out all the needed upgrades. Rey had a sneaking suspicion that Feena invited her along not just to be nice, but to tempt her to come work for her family, too. "There's a variety of positions that need to be filled," was a phrase she'd woven into the tour several times.
It wasn't like it was a bad option. Feena's extended family was nice enough, and the staff seemed amiable. The payment from the Restored Republic was more than enough to purchase a home in the same neighborhood as Rose. She could get a job, perhaps as a member of the royal guard. She could continue to shine as the lead singer of the appropriately-named "Rey and the Resistance" until Rose and/or Feena decided to meet a good man and settle down. She could do all of those things.
But there was something else. Something was out there, calling her through the Force. She didn't know what it was yet, but she knew she couldn't stay.
And she didn't know how to tell her friends.
"Rey?" said Rose, gently. "Are you okay?"
Rey looked up. She hadn't realized that she'd been staring down at her wine glass for the last who-knows-how-long.
"Sorry." She laughed and took a sip. Now was as good a time as any. Might as well get it over with. "I have something to tell you both."
Feena gasped. "You're pregnant?!"
Rose giggled as Rey threw Feena a deathly glare.
"No, no, no. Absolutely not. It'll be a long time before that happens, if ever."
Feena laughed, satisfied with her own teasing. "Then what is it?"
Rey stood up from her chair, stepping toward the elegant railing that enclosed the balcony of Feena's old room. She'd insisted on showing them the comfy space that 'defined her childhood.' It was decorated as if a ten-year-old child still lived there. In some ways, maybe she did.
Rey looked out over the city. To the East, she could see the forest in which she'd come to find solace, but it was too dense to see the river. She knew exactly where it was anyway, of course. In the other direction, she could just make out the form of downtown Sen, whose lights were beginning to illuminate the dusk-covered city. This feeling of both wanting to stay and wanting to leave was incredibly confusing; she didn't know how it was even possible. In the end, though, one had to win.
Rey faced her friends and cleared her throat. "You both know that Tuggatae is the closest thing I've ever had to a real home. You two, Finn, Poe, and all of our friends from the Resistance- you are my family. But Leia pointed out something to me during our meeting. The galaxy is wide, and there's so much I want to see. She believes I'm meant for something else. I'd really like to find out what that is."
She could tell by the looks on their faces that she didn't need to explain further. They understood exactly where she was going with this.
"So you're leaving us?" Rose said with a sweetness that shattered Rey's heart.
"For a bit."
"Where will you go?'" said Feena.
"I'm not sure. I can feel the Force pulling me somewhere, so I'm going to try and follow its lead. Once I find a place to stay for a while, I'll comm you my coordinates."
"But until then, you'll be all alone?" Rose seemed concerned.
"Well, kind of. Leia is gifting me the Falcon, so Chewbacca will be joining me as soon as he's fixed it up."
"That could take a while. It was hit pretty hard in the final battle," said Feena.
"They're letting me use a Resistance transport in the meantime."
Rose looked at Rey in awe. "I can't believe she gave you the Falcon. I mean, it's such an important ship. And it's yours. That's amazing!"
"I almost couldn't accept it, but she said it's what Han would have wanted. And Chewie wanted to go with me the second he heard I might be leaving Tuggatae. He's so protective of me, that Wookiee."
"You'll have to write down all of your adventures in your journal!" said Rose excitedly.
"Your journal: the little book General Organa gave you when you resigned. They're giving them to everyone to promote healing and, well, the written word in general."
"Oh, right," Rey said, recalling the burnt orange book currently buried at the bottom of her belonging bag. "I'll try to remember to do that."
"Well, Rey," said Feena, raising her glass into the air, "I propose a toast. To you. To us. And to our uncertain futures. Let's vow to always be there for each other, no matter what insanity life throws our way."
Rey and Rose raised their glasses and nodded.
"To Rey and The Resistance," Rose said proudly.
"To Rey and The Resistance," the other two repeated before all three clinked their glasses. They then drank Tuggataen wine together for the final time as a trio of young karaoke singers who thought they had a clue of what their lives had in store.
- I've had my fair share of tipsy nights at Rising Star, the bar on which The Oxford is based. None of them ever ended as excitingly as Rey's, though. :)
- A Sen special is my idea of a Long Island.
- The conversation Rey has with Kylo is reasonably similar to a conversation I had with a friend while sitting on the floor of Rising Star, but it took place after that scene was written. Peculiar.
Chapter 4: Money, Money, Money
Moods for Chapter 4:
"Consider Yourself"~ Oliver! (1994 London Cast)
"Someone in the Crowd"~ La La Land (Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Now, twenty-two days later
It was late afternoon when the ship finally landed on Hay Tor. Finn tipped the pilot a few credits and stepped off the loading ramp, his travel case in tow. The trip had taken longer than expected, and he knew that Flam was still more than an hour away. By watercraft, no less. He certainly didn't want to miss the last passenger ferry. He used his best speed-walk to weave through the crowded travel bay, wondering why exactly he'd thought this would be a good idea in the first place. He rarely ventured off Coruscant; and when he did, those who had invited him to come speak planned every last detail of the trip, so he didn't have to. And he never, never visited the Outer Rim.
His first instinct was to decline, for these very reasons. But when Chewie hastily dropped off the invitation, he mentioned that it was important to Rey that he be there.
Rey. That's why he'd agreed to come. She was the first and only woman he'd ever loved. He was shocked to learn from the HoloCard that she had a daughter.
A tinge of sadness crept into his mind. They were so close once upon a time, but the last time he'd heard from her was years ago on Catara. He used to worry that he'd done something wrong. As time went on, however, he realized it had been years since he'd spoken to Poe, Rose, Feena- to anyone from the Resistance. Perhaps it was just the natural order of things; life gets in the way. Still, he regretted not staying in touch with his friends.
He raced to the docks and searched for the ferry that would take him down the river to Flam. Unfortunately, all the signage was written in Torese.
Great. One of the few languages he didn't speak.
He spotted what he assumed was an information booth and ran over to the window.
"Which is the ferry to Flam?" he asked the man inside, panting.
"That's the last one, there." The man pointed to a passenger ferry at the far end of the dock. A ferry that had already departed.
Already out of breath, Finn groaned and ran in the direction of the ferry, losing hope with each step. His pace slowed as he neared the edge of the dock, silently accepting his defeat, when he noticed another man shouting "No! Come back!" at the very same ferry. His shouts were echoed by the beeps of the round droid by his legs.
Poe's entire face lit up, and he pulled Finn in for a crushing hug that might have been unpleasant, had Finn been paying attention to anything other than the pure joy and shock he felt in that moment. His friend was here- a friend who he missed terribly. This friend had also apparently missed the ferry, which meant that he wasn't alone.
A few angry beeps broke Finn from his reverie.
"BB-8! It's good to see you, too! What are you guys doing on Hay Tor?"
"It's the strangest thing. A few weeks ago, Chewie dropped off this invitation, said that Rey wanted me here, and left before I could ask any questions." Poe opened his travel bag and pulled out a HoloCard identical to the one he had received.
"Ha! The same thing happened to me. I've never heard of this Prodos ceremony, but it must be pretty important."
"Sounds like it," Poe said, putting the invitation back in its place.
Finn looked longingly at the ferry, which was getting increasingly smaller. "I was hoping to make it to Flam tonight so I wouldn't be in a rush tomorrow, but it looks like I was hoping for too much."
"Same here, buddy. I know Flam only allows foot traffic and watercraft, but I'm tempted to just hop on my own damn ship and fly there myself!"
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," said a deep voice from behind them.
Finn turned around to see Kylo Ren (was that still what he was calling himself?) standing on the dock, his own travel bag strapped to his shoulder. He looked a bit older now; a few grey hairs were beginning to peek through his dark locks, and some wrinkles surrounded his eyes. But it was him, without a doubt.
"The Torese are very protective of their natural landscape. Their enforcement ships would be onto you before you even left the ground."
Finn took a few steps back, but Poe held his ground. BB-8 rolled in front of him, defensively.
"A little bird told me you were sent to prison." Poe put his hands on his hips and puffed out his chest.
"No. I served my time."
"Seems to me like you should've been in there a bit longer."
"Probably. But I served my seven years, and now I'm here."
Finn was confused. While Poe sounded surprised just to see Kylo Ren out of prison, he was surprised to see Kylo Ren alive. He had been told nothing about him since the obliteration of the First Order. Finn had kind of assumed he'd been killed in the aftermath, or had at least exiled himself to the Unknown Regions. He never expected to encounter him on a somewhat-developed planet. Luckily, he didn't seem angry or vengeful. His voice sounded… almost resigned. Unimpressed. Knowing what the former Supreme Leader could do with just a wave of his hand, Finn was fine with that.
"Why is that? Why are you here?" Poe said, narrowing his eyes at him.
"For the same reason you're here, I assume." He opened his bag and pulled out another HoloCard like the one he and Poe had received. "Rey invited me. Via Chewie."
"Why would Rey want you here?" Finn heard himself say.
Kylo shrugged and put the invitation away.
He and Poe looked at each other and then at BB-8. There was not one bit of this that was adding up. There was no way that Rey, hero of the Resistance, invited Kylo Ren, Supreme Leader of the First Order, to a ceremony for her own child. Not a chance.
Kylo sighed and pulled something else from his bag. Apparently, he was used to this type of questioning. "If it makes you feel better, here's my Release Papers."
He handed Poe a thin pile of papers and continued to explain himself as Finn and Poe examined it. "As you can see, I admitted my guilt and denounced my Dark Side name. I was in prison for seven years and will be on parole in the Outer Rim for the rest of my life. Maybe it's too light of a sentence, but that's what the Restored Republic saw fit to give me. Now, I don't blame you two for not trusting me, given the way I've treated you in the past. But I intend to make it to Flam tonight. And if we were to rent one of those," he said, pointing at the smaller watercrafts on the other side of the dock, "I could use the Force to push us there faster, but it would still require rowers. What do you say?"
Several minutes later, the three men and the droid pooled some money together and handed it to the man in the booth. Finn still felt uneasy about sharing a small space with Ky- er, Ben Solo, but the papers he'd presented to them had an authentic Restored Republic seal on it. This didn't mean he was completely changed, of course, but it was enough to sound like a better option than rowing all evening.
Finn stepped onto the watercraft carefully, extremely mindful of its instability. Poe followed right after, but not as carefully. As Poe stumbled around to try and steady himself, something slipped out of his bag and hit the floor. Finn bent down to pick it up and was surprised to find that the item was a book.
"You read books now?" he said, glancing at the spine as he held it out to Poe.
"They're not so bad. Some women find it impressive, actually," Poe replied nonchalantly. He took the book and quickly stuck it back in his travel bag.
"Hm, Tria L. Thorn… it sounds familiar, but I don't think I've read anything by her."
"She's become my favorite." Poe turned his attention to the man currently stepping into the watercraft. "Say, Ben, how long do you think it'll take us to get there with you doing all of your Force business?"
"Oh, about ninety minutes, I think. Maybe seventy-five, if you row fast enough."
After helping BB-8 board, the three men took their seats, with Finn on the left, Poe on the right, and Ben in the middle, behind the other two. Ben closed his eyes for a few seconds and stretched out his hand. Finn was amazed to feel them begin to move before he or Poe had done a damn thing.
"Now, this is cool!" said Poe.
Ben exhaled and opened his eyes, still concentrating on the water. "Now would be the time to do your part."
It still made Finn a little uneasy to see Ben utilizing so much of his Force strength, but he wasn't going to argue. It took several attempts, but it wasn't too long before he and Poe found a rhythm that kept them in a mostly-straight line. With Ben's assistance, they were cutting through the water fast enough to leave a wake.
Finn found himself actually enjoying their little journey, despite the near-crisis of having missed the last passenger ferry. He'd heard of how beautiful Hay Tor was in passing, but to see it in person was absolutely breathtaking. The mountains that towered over him on either side were green and luscious. In some spots, the river narrowed so much that he could almost reach out and touch the grass beside him. As he took it all in, he felt so small and insignificant, yet so dignified and important. He could see why Rey would want to live here.
"Hey, uh," began Poe, breaking the silence, "have either of you spoken to Rey recently?"
"No," Ben said without breaking his focus.
"I haven't seen her in years," said Finn.
"Me neither, that's why I asked. I didn't realize she had a kid."
Finn was relieved that Poe brought it up. Until he received the invitation, he wasn't aware of that information, either. He didn't want to say anything, though, for fear of discovering that everyone knew something he didn't.
"It was news to me as well," he admitted.
"I'm just surprised. Not that she wouldn't be a good mom, I'm sure she's great at it. It's just… it's Rey. She's one of us. And now she has a little human. It's kinda hard to wrap my head around."
"I can't believe she's married."
Finn turned his head to peek at Ben behind them.
"Married?" The Rey-having-a-daughter thing was enough to take in; Finn didn't even consider the possibility of Rey having a husband. It did make complete sense, after all. If that was the case, he was happy for her (even if he had to wonder why she didn't invite him to the wedding).
"According to the HoloCard, she has a last name, and it's the same as her daughter's. She's most likely married."
Finn noticed that Ben's tone had changed slightly and- though he couldn't be certain- it almost seemed like their speed had slowed down a bit.
Why in the hell did Rey invite Ben Solo?
Sage closed the Jedi text delicately and looked up at the hairy Wookie who'd just growled an announcement in Shyriiwook.
"Ari and Jaylana," he responded.
"Oh." She was excited that her friends had arrived, but they weren't the "they" she was most hoping for.
"And Mum's friends? Any word on them?"
Chewbacca shook his head sadly. That wasn't a good sign. But there was still one more passenger ferry left to arrive that evening, so it wasn't time to lose hope just yet.
She ran passed Uncle Chewie until she reached the end of the ep orchard that grew behind her house. She returned the sacred text to its spot on the bookcase and darted up the stairs to her room. Her two best friends sat on her bed, laughing about whatever silly thing was displayed on her HoloPad.
"Sage!" the girls squealed. They exchanged hugs and discussed how awful it was that they hadn't seen each other in forever. A knock at the door paused their conversation. A second later, they saw Sage's mother standing in the open doorway, a smile on her face and some type of tool in her hand. Her hair was pulled into her usual triple-bun style, but the buns were a mess. Little wisps of hair stuck to her sweaty forehead and cheeks. But her eyes were bright, as always, because her smile actually reached them.
"I thought I heard more voices up here. Ari, Jaylana, it's good to see you!"
"Hello, Ms. Paier," the guests replied.
Her attention then turned to her daughter. "Sage, love, I could use your help. I'm still working on that door in Room 17, but your aunts' ferry should be docking any minute now. Could you go meet them and show them to their rooms?"
"Sure, Mum." This was a task she genuinely didn't mind doing. Auntie Rose and Aunt Feena were her favorite grown ups. Well, so far.
"Thank you! It'll be a big help. You two," she said, addressing Sage's friends, "you know the drill. Make yourselves at home."
Once her mother was gone and the door was shut, Sage looked at her friends, who she knew were expecting some news.
"He's not here yet."
"Ugh," Jaylana fell back on the bad dramatically. "It's killing me, Sage. I need to know!"
"They're on their way, right?" Ari asked.
"I hope so. They might even be on the same ferry as my aunts!" Sage's eyes went wide; she hadn't considered that possibility before.
"Do you want us to come with you?" Jaylana sounded hopeful.
Sage pondered about it for a moment. She could use the extra help in greeting all six adults, but one look at her friends' faces told her she'd better fly this mission solo if she wanted to keep everything a secret.
"No, that's okay. You guys stay up here. I'll figure out which one is my dad, so I can point him out to you tonight."
Exactly how that would happen, she still didn't know. She was still hoping she would see him and somehow just know. That's how it worked, right? Especially if the Force decided to be of any assistance.
She hurried out of the house, along the pathway passed The Grecian, and then continued down the incline until she reached the shore. The ferry was just reaching the main dock. Perfect timing.
Even if they hadn't been the first to step off the ferry, she would have spotted them without any issue. Well… she would have spotted Aunt Feena, that is. She was always wearing something that, as she put it, 'made a statement.' And Auntie Rose was right next to her, dressed pristinely, though a lot less flashy. Sage beamed when she saw them. As ridiculous as they could be sometimes, she loved them.
"Auntie Rose! Aunt Feena!"
She couldn't contain her excitement as she crashed into the women, squeezing them tightly around their torsos.
"Who told you it was okay to grow up?" said Feena after kissing her on the top of her head.
"We're so excited for you, sweetheart!" said Rose. "How does it feel to almost be a Young Woman? Are you nervous?"
"A little," she shrugged. "Mostly about giving a speech in front of everyone."
"You'll do just fine, Little Sage. If you're anything like your mother, you'll wait until the last minute and pull something completely out your ass that will somehow be the exact right thing to say."
"Feena!" Rose whispered, as she lightly pinched her friend on the arm.
Sage giggled. "Mum has your rooms all ready. Numbers nine and ten. I'm going to stay down here for a bit, but I'll be up later." She tried to sound as casual as possible. What she really wanted to say was, "Get out of here so I can look for my dad," but she didn't feel like dodging their questions.
"Okay, sweetheart, we'll see you later." She heard Auntie Rose mumble something about how Aunt Feena needed to "watch her language around the kid" as the pair continued up the dock and onto the beach.
Sage frantically scanned the crowd, trying to find any sign of a grown-up man (or three) looking lost. Unfortunately, all she saw were couples and families heading toward the land low-speeders that would take them to the other side of the mountains where most families resided.
It wasn't unusual to see tourists trekking toward The Grecian, but that wouldn't happen tonight, as her mother had closed the tavern to regular guests to make way for the festivities, for her Prodos: the ceremony where she'd take The Vows of the Seven Values and tell everyone what she wished to accomplish as a Young Woman; the ceremony that would begin with a walk down a long aisle, as both her mother and father presented her to the community on her 12th birthday.
She needed to find him.
Her heart continued to sink as the number of disembarking travelers dwindled. She saw a member of the crew untie the ropes that held the ferry in place. It drifted away from the dock until the engines revved up, and it sped down the river.
There was a chance, of course, that they would arrive in the morning, but that would be cutting it close. The more likely option was the one that caused her eyes to water. They weren't coming. Ben, Poe, and Finn weren't coming to her Prodos. And she would never get to find out which one was her dad.
She tried to blink the tears away; she tried not to give up. But the passenger ferry was curving around the big bend now, and it wasn't coming back.
That's when she saw it: a small, manual watercraft approaching the dock faster than any vessel of that kind was meant to go. She saw movement first. It looked like something was rolling around the deck- a droid, maybe. And then she saw people aboard. Two looked like they might be rowing and one was sitting in the middle, still as could be.
The excitement she expected to last was replaced by incredible nervousness. Her father was on that watercraft, and she was going to meet him for the very first time in a matter of seconds. She bit her lip.
Here we go.
- The village of Flam is based on the Norwegian town of the same name. It's probably my favorite city in the entire world. The river the men travel down is inspired by the Songefjord, which ends in Flam.
Chapter 5: Mamma Mia! (I)
Moods For Chapter 5:
"...Baby One More Time"~ Britney Spears
"Break Free"~ Postmodern Jukebox cover (feat. Morgan James)
"Your Eyes Don't Lie"~ David Archuleta
"You can go easy now, Ben," Poe warned, translating BB-8's loud beeps.
"Right. Of course." Ben seemed to come out of a trance as he took his eyes off the water and they slowed to a more natural speed. Finn let out the breath he had been holding since he registered how close they were to reaching the dock at full speed. When they reached the edge, Kylo hopped out and began tying them in place. As Finn stepped off, a small voice greeted them.
"Hi! Welcome to Flam."
Finn lifted his head and almost thought he was dreaming. Before him stood a little girl (she couldn't have been much more than nine or ten) staring up at him and his travel companions like she had never seen another human being before. Her eyes were wide and she looked a bit scared. He also had to do a double- take because, apart from her skin being tan and her hair being a bit darker, she looked exactly like-
"You must be Sage," Ben said, obviously making the same connection he did.
"I am." At last, a smile started to form on the little girl's face.
"I'm Ben Solo. This is Poe Dameron, and this is Finn. We're here for the ceremony."
BB-8 rolled to the front of the group and beeped.
"And this is BB-8, my droid," Poe added.
"Nice to meet you all. I'll show you where you'll be staying." She turned around and began to walk toward the beach. The men looked at each other and shrugged.
Sage was surprisingly fast for a little girl; Finn struggled to keep up with her pace. As they walked, Sage seemed pretty content to play tour guide. She pointed out all of Flam's important landmarks and explained its history. It was mostly a tourist town, she explained, where guests went if they wished to experience true seclusion. There was only one small restaurant, one tavern complex, and a few small farming residences. Most visitors just stayed for the day.
"This is The Grecian," she said, pointing at a modestly-sized building that looked brand new. "My mum owns it, and I help her run it sometimes."
So… Rey owned a tavern in a secluded village on a remote planet in the Outer Rim. Finn wasn't sure when the surprises would end.
"Uh, Sage," Ben said, in his best I'm-talking-to-a-little-kid voice, "where is your mother?"
"We're really looking forward to seeing her!" said Poe.
"You three will be staying at the old cottage. This way!"
Finn glanced at Poe and Ben with a knowing look. Something felt funny about this whole thing, and Sage clearly ignored the question about her mother. What was she hiding?
She led them into the cottage, which seemed to be the only building surrounding The Grecian that hadn't been fixed up yet. It looked old and worn-down. And there was only one bed (they'd have to sort that out later). A few blankets were lazily spread on the floor, which was damp and quite possibly growing mold.
"It's not much, but it'll work for one night, right?"
Ben set his bag on one of the blankets. He gave a heavy sigh. None of them wanted to be the one to do it, but he decided to take the reigns.
"Sage," he said with a serious, but gentle, tone, "When do we get to see Rey?"
She bit her lip and looked to the side. "Um-"
"Your mother doesn't know we're here, does she?" Ben asked, though it was more of a statement. He wanted to spare her the trouble of coming up with a lie.
Sage looked down. "No. It was me who invited you."
Poe looked confused. "But Chewie-"
"Please don't be mad at Chewie. He did it for me because I wanted you to come."
"Yeah! As a surprise for Mum," she said, her face brightening up a bit. "She's always saying how much she misses her old friends, so I asked Chewie to track them down for me. And he found you. She'll be so happy!"
It was still a bit odd, but it sounded reasonable enough. Finn was never really a kid, but he knew they did stupid, impulsive things sometimes. He thought it was cute, in a way.
Ben, however, did not seem to share this opinion. He ran his fingers through his hair a few times before taking a seat on the bed. He then buried his face in his hands and remained eerily still for a moment. If Finn hadn't just traveled down a river with the cool and collected Ben Solo, he would have been scared for his life- and for Sage's life.
"Sage," Ben said calmly, "What you did for your mom was very nice, but she and I haven't said a word to each other in years. Actually, the last time she saw me, she said she never wanted to see me again."
Well. That was interesting.
Finn's last encounter with Rey had maybe resulted in a little awkwardness, but she certainly never said anything like that to him. Then again, he had never murdered his own father and tried to take control of the entire galaxy, either. So maybe that phrase was more than warranted.
Sage seemed to consider this for a moment. "But that was a long time ago. She probably doesn't even care anymore."
"I wouldn't bet on it," Ben said under his breath.
"When do we get to reveal the surprise?" asked Poe, who seemed to enjoy the idea of giving Rey a shock.
"Mum's having a big pre-Prodos party tonight at The Grecian. Grown-ups only. You can see her there. But please promise me you won't tell her that I invited you. Don't tell anyone. Promise?"
Finn didn't like the idea of lying to Rey, but how could he say no to a little girl? Especially one that was staring at him with pleading eyes that completely melted his heart. And judging by the looks on Ben and Poe's faces, they were done for, too.
Finn spoke for the group. "We promise."
Sage beamed at them and turned around to exit the cottage.
"Wait, Sage. One more question."
"Yes, Mr. Solo?"
"Your father. Is he here?"
"Oh, yes," she nodded enthusiastically. "He's here."
Stressed, stressed, stressed. Rey was very stressed.
Along with everything else she had to do to prepare for the celebration that evening and the ceremony tomorrow, she had to fix the door to Room 17, which was proving to be a big pain in her backside. It normally wouldn't have been such a big deal; she could have just moved the guests to another room. The Grecian's rooms, however, were completely full that night, as no one seemed to want to wake up early to travel to Flam for the Prodos. She couldn't blame them. The ferry filled up quickly and took over an hour, and the hike from the other side of the mountains was no joke. Still, she was annoyed at the thought of having to do one more thing. And, for the last few hours, she'd been feeling an odd shift in the Force that put her in an even worse mood.
She pressed the button again, but the door remained open.
She was about to take the tool in her hand and slam the button into oblivion when she heard voices coming from down the hall. She stepped into the hallway and saw Feena and Rose heading toward her. Thank goodness. Just knowing they were there immediately lifted her spirits.
"Oh wow, am I happy to see you two!" she said, hugging them. It was then she noted the lack of a smaller person with them. "Where's Sage?"
"She met us at the dock but told us to come up here," Feena said.
"That little devil. She was supposed to show you to your rooms," Rey shook her head. "I have too much to do to worry about that right now."
"Anything we can do to help?" Rose said, eyeing the broken door. "It's been a while, but I still know what I'm doing."
"No. You shouldn't have to work; it's your holiday!"
"Come on Rey," said Feena, "we all know it's been a while since Rose and I have gotten our hands dirty."
She had a point. Rey had no doubt that Rose and Feena worked extremely hard in their respective fields, but they didn't have to do any manual labor. And when she thought of all the preparations still left on her list…
"Okay. If you two work on this door, I can help Chewie downstairs. He's not used to preparing that much food."
Rose clapped her hands together. "Alright!"
Rey thanked her friends and headed downstairs, but not before she heard Feena ask Rose, "Which end do I hold?"
Chewbacca was relieved to see Rey. When she entered the kitchen, chunks of eps were spread all over the counter as the Wookiee struggled with the human-sized knife. Rey offered to take over that particular task and sent Chewie to the dining room to set the tables. In a matter of minutes, the eps that once remained in the barrel were passably sliced, so she went to the back of the kitchen to collect another barrel. As she squatted down to pick it up, she glanced out the window and noticed something by the old cottage up the hill.
Rey narrowed her eyes. That can't be right.
She peeked out the window again and gasped at the sight of the little white-and-orange droid, rolling up the hill and into the cottage. If BB-8 was here, then that meant his master couldn't be far.
Why would he be here? Poe knew about Hay Tor, but she didn't think a place as rural as Flam would be his cup of tea. Maybe he'd stopped by to say hi? That may have made sense, if he had any clue she lived there. From what she gathered from Rose and Feena over the years, they hadn't kept in touch with him either. Because life got in the way.
And because you don't know how to tell him he might be the father of your child.
Yeah there was that, too.
Rey exited through the back and cautiously walked up the hill to the cottage, walking next to the pathway so as not to make any noise on the pebbles. She crept around the side until she was next to the window. It was closed but was covered with slits (an outdated aesthetic) which allowed her to hear what was going on inside.
"I told ya, BB-8, it's not a good time to go exploring. We'll get to see more of the village tonight."
Poe was here. That was his voice, without a doubt.
"Yeah, wouldn't want to spoil the surprise."
This was a different voice, but she knew it just as well.
Finn? What in the galaxy was he doing here?
She couldn't make heads or tails of that one.
"Woops, sorry," said Finn, at a lower volume.
"Oh, I doubt he even notices us," said Poe. "Our talking isn't bothering you, is it, buddy?"
"See, Finn? What'd I tell ya?"
Rey was even more confused. Who were they worried about bothering?
Rey closed one eye and turned her head slightly so she could see through one of the slits. She saw Poe and Finn sitting on the bed. BB-8 seemed to be unpacking things from a travel bag on the floor next to them. She shifted the angle of her head so she could scan the other side of the room. That's when she saw him.
Ben Solo, the man who lied to her and broke her heart, was meditating on the floor of her cottage.
Her hand instinctively went to the lightsaber at her side as an all-encompassing rage tore through her body.
He must have felt her anger because he was already standing, blue lightsaber ready at his defense, when she barged into the cottage.
"You've a lot of nerve showing up here!" She was in an attack position. "Why have you come? Tell me the truth."
Of all the things she expected him to do, chuckling was not one of them.
He deactivated his lightsaber and put it back in the holster.
"Do you really think that's a good idea, Rey? Trying to fight with me here? We both know how that ends," he smirked.
Rey rolled her eyes and returned to a relaxed position, keeping her lightsaber on and at the ready. She turned her attention to Finn and Poe, who were watching the scene play out with nothing less than complete shock.
Seeing them in person helped her anger subside, but she kept her face and voice stern.
"Will one of you please tell me what's going on? Why are you with him? He's a criminal."
Finn spoke up first on Ben's behalf. "That's what we thought at first, too. But the Restored Republic says he's a free man. Well, more or less."
"What are you talking about?"
"He showed us his Release Papers and everything," he added. "He did seven years. Now he's on parole for the rest of his life in the Outer Rim."
She narrowed her eyes. "I never caught wind of any of that."
"It wasn't exactly advertised," said Ben. "Can you imagine? The Supreme Leader getting such a lenient sentence? The galaxy would have been in an uproar."
"It would have been justified," Rey snapped.
"True," said Poe, snatching a book out of BB-8's grasper and shoving it back in his bag. "But we just spent over an hour alone with him on a watercraft in the middle of a secluded planet, and he didn't try to kill us. So that's something."
Ben cracked a smile at Poe and gave a small nod.
It was something, she had to admit. If both Finn and Poe were speaking on his behalf…
Hold on a moment.
She switched off her saber, robbing the room of its deep purple light, and put it away. "How exactly did this," she motioned to all three of them with her hand, "happen? Why were the three of you on a watercraft together?"
"We missed the last passenger ferry and happened to see each other on the docks," said Ben.
"We didn't come to Hay Tor together, though. That was just chance." Finn spoke a little too quickly for Rey's liking.
"I see," Rey looked up, trying to put all the puzzle pieces together. "But why are each of you here?"
Poe spoke up first. "I'm just here to visit. I didn't get to see Flam the last time I was here, so I thought I'd make a stop. I had some free time, ya know?"
Rey nodded and looked at Finn.
"I'm...on a short vacation. Yeah. And someone on Coruscant told me about Hay Tor and how beautiful it is, so I thought I'd come here."
Before Rey could even give him a cue, Ben spoke.
"And I just wanted to see the village, the cottage. You know how much they meant to me."
'It became my escape.'
She shook her head. She wasn't willing to let her mind go back there, regardless of how badly it wanted to.
All of their stories were possible, but it was too much for Rey to believe it was all simply a coincidence.
"Bullshit," she said. The men started to protest, but she continued. "You all are complete idiots if you think I don't realize that there's something funny going on here. I haven't seen any of you in years, and suddenly-"
She gasped. Oh no. No, no, no. It couldn't be that.
She was the only being in the galaxy who knew about Sage's possible sperm donors. And she was one of the few who even knew where she lived now. Although there was a slight chance Rose or Feena told one of their old comrades, they certainly would have had no interest in telling Ben. As far as they were aware, he and Rey had always been enemies.
"What's wrong, Rey?" Ben stepped forward and stared at her with a concerned expression.
"Nothing. It's nothing, I'm fine. There's just this big community ceremony for… one of the little girls in the village, and I just have a lot to do because I own the tavern. Actually, I own this cottage now, too."
"It's okay if we stay here, right?" said Finn.
"Um." She didn't particularly enjoy the thought of having Ben Solo on her property, but Finn and Poe had done nothing wrong. It wasn't fair to punish them, too, she supposed.
"You're welcome to stay here, but please understand that I'm not in a position to entertain company. I really do have a lot of work to get done." As if her own words had suddenly dawned on her, she quickly turned around and opened the door.
"Poe, BB-8, Finn- my dear friends, it's lovely to see you." She smiled and gave them a nod before addressing the other visitor.
"Ben- please, stay out of trouble."
She didn't pause to witness any reactions as she hurried away.
Chapter 6: Waterloo
Moods for Chapter 6:
"Here I Am"~ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Original Broadway Cast)
"Fish and Get Fat"~ Gaelic Storm
"Baby, Come On Over"~ Samantha Mumba
"One Night Only"~ Dreamgirls (Motion Picture Soundtrack)
"Oh, What a Night"~ Jersey Boys (Original Broadway Cast)
Ah. Now this was relaxation.
Rey didn't initially plan to end up on a little planet in the Core, surrounded by sparkling ocean and serving droids who couldn't wait to do her bidding. But she was here now, and she did not mind it one bit.
When asked for their suggestions on where Rey should go first, Feena and Rose both agreed that she should visit a place where she could relax and, as Feena put it, "treat herself." Not for too long- just a few days or so. She deserved this, her friends explained. She'd gone from a lone scavenger in the desert to a Jedi war hero in just over a year. It was time to take a step back and really enjoy all the galaxy had to offer.
She'd considered starting on Coruscant to visit Finn, but the hustle and bustle of the big city didn't sound very appealing. She'd make it there in a few more stops.
It was Feena's aunt, Queen Beatrice, who'd made the suggestion of visiting Parstran. It was a popular destination for politicians, rulers, and other dignitaries. She'd described it as having the most pristine beaches and eager-to-please citizens who were well-versed in the art of pampering.
Rey found that she agreed with the Queen's assessment. A few days had turned into a few weeks. Wherever she went, droids and native Parstranians kept bringing her food and drinks and more drinks; she was sure her clothes were getting a bit snug. She wasn't used to this level of hospitality, but she was prepared to milk it for all it was worth.
After a long day of reading and pondering one of the Jedi texts, Rey found herself sitting on the beach, aimlessly running her fingers through the sand. She wasn't alone on the beach, not by a longshot, but it didn't feel crowded enough to make her uncomfortable. She felt at peace here and found that she completely understood why Parstran was such a popular getaway for galactic leaders.
A serving droid wheeled its way over to her, with a tray full of colorful beverages.
"A drink for you, Miss?"
"I'd love one!" Rey said, without hesitation. She looked at the offerings and noticed there were two different kinds of drinks; one was bright blue and the other was milky white. She didn't recognize either. She asked the droid to explain what was in each one. As it did so, she heard a voice murmur her name.
The voice grew louder, drowning out the droid's explanation.
"...one would you like?"
She stared at the tray with wide eyes. She hadn't paid attention to anything the droid said, and she felt that it would be rude to ask again.
"Choose the white one. It's much more refreshing," said a voice to her left.
She turned her head and saw a young man taking careful steps in her direction, his own drink in hand. Having no other basis on which to choose, Rey took one of the white beverages and left a few credits on the tray in its place. The man reached the spot where she sat in the sand and looked down at her with a quizzical brow.
"Hm. You're one I don't recognize. I'm Tav. May I sit?"
He spoke with such confidence and charm that she was immediately reminded of Poe, but she still had to think logically. She didn't sense any darkness or danger around him. That was a good thing, at least. Plus, there were way too many high-ranking officials closeby for him to try anything stupid.
And he was handsome, too, she noted. (Not that it made a difference, but she did note it.)
Tav sat down next to her, leaving enough sand between them to not impede on her personal space, which Rey appreciated.
"I know every politician, ruler, and associate on this beach right now. See her? The nopre wearing the silver earrings?" He briefly pointed to a short, svelte being with an almost-rectangular face and scale-like skin. "That's Jaz Yimah. She's the daughter of the Princess of Alta's favorite lady-in-waiting."
She looked at the nopre in question and then back at Tav with an expression that said, And why are you telling me this?
"There's very few here who would know that information. I don't mean to brag; it's just part of my job. I'm supposed to know who everyone is. But I don't know you."
He stopped talking. It took Rey a moment to realize that was her cue to introduce herself.
"I'm Rey. I'm not a noble or a senator or anything. I'm just traveling to a few places in the galaxy, and this was my first stop."
"Oh! Where else do you plan to visit?"
"I'm not sure yet." There was no reason to lie about that, but she refrained from providing him with any further explanation. Just incase.
"Well, Rey, if you're enjoying it here, you will love Catara. Have you ever been there?"
She shook her head, and he continued. "It's got the best food in the galaxy, I can personally attest to that. And if you're into natural wonders, they have a long river, filled with dozens of waterfalls... you will want to stay there for hours. Since it's one of the oldest planets in the galaxy, there's some ancient buildings you can tour, too."
Rey listened with interest. She liked the sound of this Catara place; so much so that she put it at the top of her mental list of destinations.
"Catara actually sounds lovely, I'll have to go. Thanks for the suggestion."
"No problem! If you need any more travel tips, let me know. I've been to a lot of places."
He didn't sound smug about it, but she was jealous anyway.
"What makes you travel around so much?"
"I do it for work, mostly. I'm the assistant to Senator Gruklo from Hay Tor."
That name sounded familiar. As soon as the words left his mouth, Rey felt the Force surround her, like it was pulling her to them. Her heart picked up its rhythm.
Hay Tor. It was important.
"Where is Hay Tor?"
"It's in the Outer Rim. It's a relatively underdeveloped planet, but it's the most beautiful. And the people there are the nicest in the galaxy. I'm biased, of course," he said, grinning ear-to-ear.
"I need to go there," Rey said quickly, more to herself than to Tav. But he responded anyway.
"You should. Senator Gruklo is on a diplomatic mission, so it'll be a week or two before I'll be available to show you around. In the meantime, however, we're both here now." He lowered his voice a bit. "I have my own suite, so if you wanted to come by later, we could… get to know each other."
She was right- he did remind her of Poe. She'd seen that face, heard that voice before. Many times, in fact. She understood what Tav was implying right away.
Tav seemed nice enough. He was attractive, and he wasn't being pushy. He seemed to draw her in, for whatever reason. And after a few weeks without them, she found that she missed her times with Poe. They were fun (among other things), and one night with a handsome stranger sounded like it had the potential to be the same.
There was one glaring downside, however. Though she didn't know exactly why, Rey felt no desire to engage in any physical activities with this man. None whatsoever.
She giggled and took a sip of her drink, pretending to mull it over.
"It's a fine idea, but I'm afraid I'll have to pass. But it was very nice to meet you, Tav."
"And you as well," he said, standing and wiping the sand from his trousers. "I need to get to dinner with the Senator. Enjoy the rest of your travels, Rey."
"Thank you." She smiled warmly at him as he walked away.
Rey downed the remainder of her drink, excited to finally have somewhat of a plan. Catara was nearby, so she'd visit there next. Then, she'd make a pitstop on Coruscant and see Finn (if he wasn't too busy with his studies, of course). And then Hay Tor.
She knew virtually nothing about this place, despite how familiar it sounded. But she knew the Force was calling her there.
She had to go.
Catara was everything Tav had described. The food was expertly crafted, and the waterfall-lined Coban River was truly incredible. Rey had gone there once each day so far. On her fourth and final day, she decided to forego her usual training and meditation routine for a trip to the Mahri Temple. It was rumored locally to be an ancient Jedi temple, but Rey found no references to Mahri, nor Catara, in any of the texts. She thought she'd pay it a visit to see for herself if the Force resided there.
It was certainly impressive. It was almost similar to the temple on Ilum, though this one was covered in leaves and vines, as opposed to ice. The growth only added to its mysterious grandeur. She felt a sense of awe, but that was all she felt.
There was no trace of the Force here- at least, there was no more than in any other building. Still, she was interested enough to spend an hour or two exploring the temple and its surrounding structures. At the end of her self-guided tour, she noticed a small group of people exiting the temple. Each one was dressed in grey trousers and a dark blue tunic with a silver vest.
And one of them was Finn.
She yelled out his name as she ran across the empty field and into his embrace. She smiled. It felt like home.
"Rey! What are you doing here?"
"I'm just here for a visit. You?"
"I'm here with some other students from the university. We're studying ancient cultures and religions."
"Oh," she said, trying to hide her disappointment. "You go on, then. Don't let me keep you from your studies."
"Are you kidding me?!" Finn turned his attention to the rest of the students, who were watching the scene with interest. "Guys, this is my friend, Rey, Hero of the Resistance. And a damn good Jedi. I'm going to spend the rest of today with her, but I'll catch up with you tomorrow morning."
The students, who stared at Rey with wide eyes the second they heard 'Jedi,' bid Finn farewell and left the two friends on their own. It had barely been two months since they'd last seen each other, but it felt like much longer. She had so much to tell him!
"It looks like we have a lot to catch up on. Unfortunately, there's no karaoke cantinas around here, so we'll have to pick somewhere else." Finn said.
Rey laughed. "I know the perfect place."
It took less than ten minutes to walk to the portion of tropical forest that contained the Coban River. A few steps into the forest revealed a steep, rocky riverbank. Straight across from them, a waterfall thundered down onto the surface of the river, forcing Rey to practically yell as she told Finn of her decision to leave Tuggatae and explore the galaxy.
"Are you happy with your choice?" Finn asked, crouching down so he could more easily reach the next rock.
"Very. I've learned so much already… and I suppose you have, too. How's the University?
"Oh, it's the best!" He smiled brightly, then frowned. "Hm, where should we leave our shoes?"
They had reached the point where the rocks became slippery. If they wanted to continue into the water with better traction and dry footwear (and they did), they needed to proceed with bare feet.
Rey looked around and shrugged. "Pick a rock."
They spotted a larger one that had a conveniently flat surface. Rey and Finn removed their shoes and any unnecessary layers of clothing and placed them on top. Finn stuck his toe into the water to test the temperature, but Rey already knew it would be perfect- cool but not cold- like it had been the last three days.
"I'm so pleased to hear that you're enjoying school, I really am," Rey said, wading through the water.
"It's one of the best decisions I've ever made. Being raised by the First Order, we didn't get to learn anything Phasma didn't want us to know about, which was pretty much everything," Finn laughed. "But now, it's like I'm seeing the galaxy for the first time. I love every second. I think I already know what I want to do when I'm done."
"I want to help people like me: former Stormtroopers who are trying to adapt to Restored Republic life. I have no idea how I'm going to do that, but that's what I want to do."
"I think it's wonderful." She really did. Not that she was surprised. This sounded exactly like the type of goal Finn would come up with.
"Thanks, Rey. I feel like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders because I've finally discovered my destiny."
"I'm still looking for mine." She gasped as the water reached her chest. "But I think it might be on Hay Tor. I can feel the Force pulling me there."
"Is that where you're going next?"
"Yes, actually. I'm leaving tomorrow morning. I was going to make a pitstop on Coruscant, but I found you here instead!"
Finn smiled. "It's a good thing, too," he chuckled. "You would have hated Coruscant."
That's what she suspected.
"So where is this 'Hay Tor' place? I don't think I've ever heard of it."
"It's a planet in the Outer Rim. It's fairly remote, from what I understand. Although, they must be represented in the Republic because I met their senator's assistant on Parstran. He's the one who told me about Hay Tor. And about Catara, too."
"You met a politician?!"
"A politician's assistant, but I wouldn't be surprised if he became a representative someday. He certainly knows how to read people. He's a smooth-talker, that one." Rey shook her head and smiled as she remembered Tav's loaded invitation. If they'd met on a different day, or maybe even at a different hour, she might have said yes.
"Well, what did he say?"
"After only talking to me for a few seconds, he was able to pick up on what types of places I would like to visit. And he, um…"
Rey looked away and blushed, unsure if she should continue the sentence. Finn was her friend, her close friend, her first friend, but they had never discussed anything even remotely related to sex. That topic was reserved for Rose and Feena, and even then, Rey seemed to do more listening than talking. She'd never spilled the beans about her relationship with Poe, nor did she ever mention who it was she pictured having his way with her when she was alone at night.
But she didn't have to tell Finn any of those things. This was much simpler information. He was an adult; he could handle it.
"He asked me to meet him at his place so we could 'get to know each other,' as he put it."
She looked at Finn for a reaction. He seemed surprised but quickly morphed into concerned. And then angry.
"Finn, it's completely fine. He wasn't pushy about it. And when I declined, he left me alone."
He seemed to relax after that but still looked confused. The water level was now high enough to reach their chins, so the pair lifted their legs up and lightly paddled around in the water, allowing the current to ease them downstream.
"You weren't... offended by him asking you?"
"No, not at all. Like I said, he was really nice about the whole thing. It was kind of cute, actually. The only reason I said no was because it didn't feel right at the time."
"I see. So-" He closed his mouth and audibly exhaled, clearly having some kind of internal debate. "So, what if I asked you the same thing?"
Despite the pounding of the large waterfall, Rey heard every word perfectly. Still, it was better not to make assumptions when it came to matters such as this.
"What exactly are you asking me?"
"Rey, you were the first real friend I ever had. You mean a lot to me. And we're both here, on this beautiful planet. We're both leaving tomorrow. Sounds to me like there's virtually no downside."
He wasn't making eye contact with her (she didn't blame him). She never imagined he'd ever be so bold. Not about this.
"You make some very valid points, but I just don't know. I've never really thought about it before. You're Finn, you know?"
"I get that. But you would also- I can't believe I'm saying this- but you would also be doing me a huge favor. Because. It'd be my first time."
He'd mumbled through that last bit, but she'd heard it anyway.
Rose, of course, had informed her that nothing ever happened between the two of them during their "hangout," but Rey had never considered that Finn was as inexperienced as she had been been two months ago.
"You've never? Are you sure?"
What kind of question is that?! Of course he's sure! He's the one who would know.
Thankfully, he laughed. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure. Call me crazy, but I think I'd remember doing something like that."
"I know. Silly question," she grinned. "It's just… I'm surprised. With all of the people on the base, I just kind of assumed you did."
"Yes," she answered firmly. She didn't want to give any details and was grateful he didn't ask.
"Okay. At least one of us would know what they're doing. That's a good thing. See? No downsides. Except for maybe one. I'm staying in a room with two other students, so that might not be ideal. But we could always go wherever you're staying, if that's okay. You could kick me out whenever you wa-"
Almost as soon as he'd said 'no downsides,' Rey began to sense a disturbance in the Force. After weeks of peaceful bliss, she was once again filled with the feeling she'd grown accustomed to during her time with the Resistance.
Her hand went directly to her lightsaber as she scanned the water for any sign of a potential threat.
"Rey! Look out!"
She felt Finn push her to the side and heard him yell as a blaster bolt grazed the side of his neck, in the exact spot her head had been blocking just a moment before. Rey whipped around in the water and ignited her lightsaber, using it to block each subsequent bolt.
The blaster fire was coming from near the path they'd just taken down to the river. A man stood several meters above them, on the edge of a large rock. It jetted out slightly over the water, allowing him close enough range to get a good shot. He'd almost succeeded.
He was still determined to, it seemed. The blaster fire wasn't letting up, even though Rey was deflecting each shot with relative ease. He eyed her with a sickening grin. He was waiting for her to make a mistake.
She felt the water start to shift. "Stay behind me," she ordered Finn.
She could feel his intention to move, to swim to the shore and sneak up on their attacker. Unfortunately, the enemy had a good vantage point, and Finn didn't have any way to defend himself. Even if he swam straight underneath the rock and climbed up the side, there was still a high probability he'd be seen before he could do much damage. She was not willing to take that risk.
But it did give her an idea.
With one hand still wielding her lightsaber, the other hand reached out in front of her. Before the attacker could realize what was happening, the natural platform under his feet began to shake. He tried to back up, but it was too late. Rey closed her hand. The piece of rock that once stretched over the river was now plummeting down into it, the man in tow.
He fell close to the shore, where it wasn't yet deep enough to save him. Rey winced as she heard a loud crack. She and Finn swam over to his lifeless form, trying their best to ignore the top of his head, which had made fatal contact with a particularly pointy rock that lay in wait on the riverbed.
"Yeah," said Rey, "It's Captain Yuri." He was an officer in the First Order who had somehow escaped from the final battle unscathed.
"How did he know we were here?"
She shook her head. "I don't know. It seemed like it was me he was after."
Rey and Finn searched him for something, anything that might give a hint of information about the rest of the remnants.
"Damn it," Finn said, "He's got nothing on him. I guess he prepared for this outcome."
Rey walked a few paces upstream, until Captain Yuri's body was out of view, and sat down on the bank, letting the water run over her legs.
This wasn't the first time she had almost been killed. It had happened many times, but she'd expected it back then. This time was different. She hadn't been actively engaged in any type of combat; she'd been leisurely swimming in a river with her friend. She'd been having fun. But she let her guard down. If Finn hadn't pushed her out of the way, leaving himself open for impact, she'd be dead right now. Dead. From a blaster bolt to the back of the head.
Finn plopped down beside her and put his arm around her shoulders. She leaned into his chest, realizing full well how close the bolt had been from doing much more than merely grazing his neck. The thought made her angry. How dare the First Order try to kill him (even if they were aiming for her)! This was a man with a heart of gold, who had decided his purpose was to help other people.
This was a man who had just saved her life. He could have lost his.
But he didn't. He was here.
Thank the stars.
"Poe and General Organa will want to know about this," she said, looking up at him. "We can comm them when we get back to my room."
Finn nodded and then looked at her in shock when he fully realized what she'd said.
"You heard me," she smiled. "I suppose a favor is in order. You did just take a blaster bolt for me, after all."
Finn was speechless, like he couldn't believe she was actually agreeing to this. To be honest, she almost couldn't believe it, either.
"I do have one condition, though," she said, offering her hand to him as she stood up. "Drinks are on you. I'm going to need at least two before anything happens. No offense, it's just… you know…"
Finn smiled warmly and took her hand. "Yeah, I get it. I'll need some, too."
Rey lay in bed with Finn curled up next to her, his arm wrapped around her torso and head on her chest. She bit her lip and giggled softly, careful not to disturb his innocent snoring.
It hadn't been anything like her sessions with Poe. While the Major knew exactly what to do to make her grip the bed sheets and yell out in sweet, agonizing bliss, Finn was just trying to learn where everything was. She didn't blame him for not knowing; at least he'd tried. Besides, it was kind of fun to switch things up a bit and be the one in charge, even for the short time it lasted. And it was special, in its own way. Because it was Finn.
She wondered if she would look back on this night years from now and think she had made it all up. That's when she remembered the orange book that was still buried in her bag.
She carefully moved Finn's arm and rolled out of his embrace. She pulled the journal out from the bottom of her belonging bag and opened it to the first page. She paused for a moment, hesitant to put down on paper something so personal. It wasn't like anyone would ever see it, she reasoned.
After writing the date in the top corner, she logged her very first entry.
- Parstran could really be any pretty beach, but I was mentally on Castaway Cay when I wrote it.
- Tav is based on a fellow I know, who shall remain nameless incase he ever comes across this :)
- The planet Catara is based on Guatemala. When I was there, I visited a gorgeous place near the city Coban called "Las Cataratas," which literally translates to: "the waterfalls." It is indeed a long river with several waterfalls, and it's just as serene as it sounds. Unfortunately, I was never able to visit the ancient Mayan temples in Guatemala, but they are what inspired the temple Rey visits.
Chapter 7: Chiquitita/Our Last Summer
Moods for Chapter 7:
"Energy"~ Keri Hilson
"It's Only Life"~ Kate Voegele
"I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair"~ South Pacific (2008 Broadway Revival)
"Shake It Out"~ Glee cover
"Try To Remember"~ The Fantasticks (Original Off-Broadway Cast)
Rey rushed from the back door to the main dining room to find Chewie meticulously (as meticulously as possible for a Wookiee) setting tables. She managed to keep it together until the very moment he saw the look on her face and growled, "What's wrong?"
She broke. She wrapped her arms around his furry body and sobbed into his chest. Chewie was well-versed in this subject; he didn't say anything. He just held her and let her cry.
She heard footsteps on the staircase as Rose's voice called out, "Rey! We finished the door. We're ready for another project."
"Speak for yourself," Feena said, before gasping softly. "Oh! What's wrong?"
"What happened?" said Rose, taking the final step onto the floor of the cantina.
Chewie excused himself to work on something in the kitchen, leaving Rey in the care of Rose and Feena. They took her hands and led her over to a table with a long bench. They sat in silence for a moment, with Rey in between them, unable to speak.
"We're here for you, no matter what," said Rose, wiping a tear from Rey's cheek.
"Ditto, said Feena, "You can tell us anything."
Rey looked at them both and sighed, trying to calm herself down enough to get the words out.
"It's Sage's father. He's here. And I don't know why."
"He's here? For the Prodos?"
Rose brought up a point she hadn't considered. Rey inhaled sharply.
"Stars, I hope not. I don't think that would even be possible. He doesn't know that Sage exists, and I don't need them crossing paths and realizing what's happened. Sage has enough to worry about tomorrow."
"Do you think she would figure it out?" asked Feena.
"She very well could. I've always told her what I told you two: it was a short romance. He was gone before I even knew I was pregnant. But I know they've been discussing these topics in school, and Sage is very clever. If she didn't sense it through the Force, she'd probably put two-and-two together."
"When do we get to see him?" If Rose was trying to disguise her excitement, it wasn't working.
"That's the thing. It's not just a 'him,' it's 'them.'"
Rose and Feena looked at each other and then back at Rey.
"Everything I told you about Sage's father is true, except… he might not be her father." Rey looked down, suddenly feeling ashamed. "There were two other men around the same time."
Feena's mouth dropped open.
"That's right. Sage has three possible fathers. And all three are here, on Hay Tor. Here, in Flam. I swear, it's like the Force is trying to play some cruel joke on me."
"Three?!" squealed Rose.
Feena laughed and patted Rey's shoulder. "I don't think I've ever been more proud of you. Why didn't you tell us this before?"
Rey held her breath. There was no use in hiding it now. They were all in the village. Feena and Rose were bound to see them sooner or later.
"Because you know them. All three of them."
Feena blinked several times. "Yeah, I'm going to need to know who they are."
"Let's try and guess!"
"There's no time for that now, Rosie-Posie. We could be here all day. Rey, love," Feena said, laying a hand on Rey's knee, "if you want us to know, please tell us their names."
"Okay, okay. I'll tell you. But before I do- prepare yourselves. You're going to have a lot of questions about each one, but I'm not ready to answer any of them right now. I have too much to do. Do you think you can live with that for now?"
Rose and Feena nodded enthusiastically.
Rey cleared her throat. "One of them is Poe Dameron."
"Aha! I knew it! I told Rose there was something going on between you two, didn't I, Rose?"
"You maybe mentioned it once, don't get ahead of yourself. The next one, Rey?"
"The second one is..." she looked at Rose hesitantly. She didn't think it'd be a big deal, especially after all these years, but one just never knew. "It's Finn. I'm sorry, Rose."
Rose laughed. "Oh, you don't have to apologize. We barely went on a date, remember? We were strictly good friends after that. I'm just surprised he had it in him. Who knew?"
"Wait," said Feena, "But Finn is…" She pointed to her arm. "I mean he's… even more than me, you know? I guess it's hard to tell because Sage is the spitting image of you, Rey, but still."
This was something Rey had considered several times before. The thought used to fill her with dread because, if she had to pick which one of the three would be the best father, it would be Finn. Hands down. Luckily, he was still in the running.
"I understand what you're saying. Whoever the father is, she certainly didn't take after him. As you said, she looks like me. And the timing is right. Finn is definitely within the realm of possibility."
Feena and Rose considered this for a moment and then seemed to agree.
"Ok. What about the last one? Please don't tell me you and Luke had some weird ghostly sex through the Force."
Rey looked at Feena incredulously. "Ew! What in the galaxy is wrong with you? And why would you say that in front of Rose? She doesn't need any more ideas."
Rose giggled. "I'll pretend I never heard it if you hurry up and tell us the third."
Rey was, understandably, the most nervous about this one. "You have to promise me you won't freak out. This one is… well, he's currently on parole. That should tell you enough about him as it is."
"Oooo, a bad boy! I can't wait to hear!"
"The third one is Ben."
"Ben?" said Feena.
"Yes. Ben Solo. You know… Kylo Ren."
They were silent, like they were waiting for a punchline. It never came.
Rose was the first to speak. "So you mean to tell me that Finn and Poe, our old friends, and the former Supreme Leader of the First Order are all in Flam- and one of them is the father of your child?"
"Yes," Rey sniffled. Hearing it out loud was a lot to take in. "My past has come back to haunt me. And I deserve it! How could I have been such a fool?" The tears were beginning to make a comeback.
"Aww, sweetie," said Rose, bringing Rey's head to her shoulder. "We've all made mistakes. I'm happy you told us, though. It must feel good to get that secret off your chest."
That was true. As much as it'd hurt to admit everything out loud, she felt relieved.
"Now," said Feena, "I'm going to assume there's a really juicy story that goes along with each of these names, especially that last one. But what's important right now is that you feel better, and I think I have just the thing that will cheer you up." She ran up the stairs and emerged a minute later with a spherical object in her hands. Its presence seemed to excite Rose, but Rey didn't recognize it.
"What is that?"
"This," she said, smiling mischievously, "is a karaoke machine."
"Oh, yes! It's the newest model on Tuggatae. This one actually projects the lyrics!"
"And what exactly are we going to be doing with this machine?"
"Feena and I both agreed that tonight's pre-Prodos would be the perfect time to bring back Rey and The Resistance!"
"I'm not sure I share in that opinion."
"Well, you should because Rose and I are going to perform either way. And 'Rey and The Resistance' will seem pretty silly without the 'Rey.'"
"It'll be fun," said Rose. "Show these people what you can do!"
It had been years since Rey had sung in front of anyone. There was a time in her life when the thought of doing so would have filled her with a rush of energy, not made her shy away, as it was doing now.
"I can't do that. Rey-almost-thirteen-years-ago could, but I'm not her anymore."
Feena set the machine on the table. "Whatever happened to that Rey?"
"She got her heart broken. She had a baby. She grew up."
"All the more reason for you to sing with us," said Feena. "You've been through so much, aren't there some pent up emotions you want to let out? There's a song that will help you vent, I know there is!"
Rose looked at Feena proudly. Rey wouldn't have been surprised to learn that she'd given her a similar speech before.
She was a single mother; of course there were emotions she held inside. Raising a daughter and running the tavern had given her enough to keep her occupied. She had to be strong. She didn't have time for any nonsense- like dwelling on the fact that she'd been completely cheated and played for a fool, by a man who had decided to return to the complex that very day. Uninvited, no less. Ben-fucking-Solo.
Maybe she could make a little time. Just for tonight.
"You're right, there is a song. I just thought of one."
"Thank the stars!" Rose said.
Feena turned on the machine. "Let's start practicing! We can get in two good rehearsals before we help you set up."
Sage ran as fast as her adolescent legs would let her. No! Come back!
She'd spotted the watercraft from where she, Ari, and Jaylana were playing on the beach. It hadn't left yet, but she could see the three figures moving around, preparing to depart. After a quick goodbye to her friends, she raced toward the dock.
Finn, Poe, and Ben lifted their heads as she approached the watercraft. "Why are you leaving? You just got here!" Without invitation, Sage stepped on board and folded her arms. She was out of breath, but she didn't care. This was too important. There was no way she was going to let them miss her Prodos.
Poe chuckled. "We're not leaving for good, kid. Ben here is just taking us to Undredal so we can grab some dinner."
Oh. That was fine, then. Undredal was just a five minute ride down the river. It was a tiny village like Flam, but the residents were excellent farmers. Undredal was the location of the galaxy's largest herd of yites, which produced a rich milk used to make several varieties of the most delicious cheeses in Hay Tor. Normally, it would have been the ideal place to stop for a quick meal.
"But there'll be lots to eat at the party tonight! Mr. and Mrs. Venn are bringing appetizers from their restaurant, since we don't offer much food at The Grecian. You can eat dinner there."
After a few moments of silence, Finn spoke. "I don't think we'd be welcome at the party, sweetheart." He sighed. "We saw your mother today."
Her eyes went wide. Oh, no!
"Don't worry, we didn't tell her anything," he continued. "But she wasn't exactly… happy to see us. She basically told us to stay out of her way."
"She seemed fine with you two, it was me she wasn't happy to see."
Sage looked at Ben, who was sitting on the seat furthest back. His voice was soft, perfectly even. And almost sad. Sage wasn't surprised; based on what she'd read in the journal, he was the one who'd made her mother sad. So maybe he deserved it. There was something about him, though, that she liked. Something that seemed familiar.
She wasn't sure if it was because he was the one. Unfortunately, her plan of "just knowing" hadn't exactly panned out. Meeting them hadn't made any difference whatsoever; she still had no idea which of these three men was her father. And it wasn't because none of them felt special. It was because they all did.
"I don't have to be home for another thirty minutes. I'm coming with you!"
She expected to hear some protests or pushback, but the men said nothing. Instead, they nodded, amused, and Poe said, "Yes, Captain," as she untied the rope from the dock and stepped quickly back onto the watercraft. Finn and Poe returned to their rowing positions from earlier as Ben focused on the water and held up his hand. They began to move.
"You can use the Force?!"
"Yes," he grinned. "So can you."
Sage looked up at him in amazement. "How did you know? Are you a Jedi?" She heard Finn and Poe laugh; she wasn't sure what was so funny about that.
His grin widened. "Not exactly. Here, why don't you try and help me move us through the water? Let's see what you can do."
She wasn't sure if she was actually any help at all, but the short trip to Undredal seemed to take less time than usual. She heard the yites bleating as soon as they stepped onto the mountainside. Ben led them to a small building with a thatched roof. Sage had been here a few times before; it was a deli the farmers used to serve small meals to outsiders who wanted to taste their products in the freshest form possible. Ben ordered a case of berries (which he let Sage pick out) and four slices of bread and cheese. They returned outside and sat down on the first flat patch of grass they could find.
"You were right, Ben," said Finn, taking another bite. "This is the best cheese I've ever had!"
"It's the best when it's fresh from the deli like this," said Ben, perking up a bit.
"Thanks for bringing us here, buddy," said Poe.
"Did you ever bring my Mum here?"
Poe and Finn stopped chewing and looked at Ben, who had stopped moving altogether. Sage bit the inside of her lip. She suddenly got the feeling she'd said something she shouldn't have.
Ben blinked a few times and cleared his throat. "Um. I did, yes. Once."
Sage was old enough to recognize an awkward silence, even if she didn't fully understand why it was happening. She saw Finn and Poe exchange glances; she didn't understand what those meant, either.
"Does she… ever talk about us? Specifically, I mean." Ben was staring at the ground, his head tilted down.
Sage wasn't sure what to say. Her mother would talk about her "old friends" from time to time, but she rarely mentioned any names. She'd heard Auntie Rose and Aunt Feena mention Poe and Finn a few times, but the first time she'd heard of Ben Solo was when she read the journal. She couldn't tell him that, of course.
"Sometimes. Not a lot. And it's usually when Auntie Rose and Aunt Feena are here. They talk about the old Resistance days and how much fun you all used to have. I think they've mentioned your names before."
"Hold on," said Finn. "Did you say 'Auntie Rose and Aunt Feena?' As in... Rose Tico and Lady Feena Blake?"
"Yeah, they're Mum's best friends. They come every year for m-" she paused, "for a visit. They just got here today!"
"Ha!" said Poe, grabbing Finn's shoulder. "Isn't that something? Maybe we should stop by that party after all. It'll be just like old times!" He was practically giddy, and Finn wasn't far behind.
"Hopefully almost like old times," Finn said, with a hint of weary laughter. "I'm not sure I could handle 'just like.' We're not in our twenties anymore, remember? That one night almost did us all in."
Ben, who had looked neutral for the entire exchange, gave a little smirk.
"But you have to admit, it was a great night." Poe turned his attention directly to Sage. "That was the first time we heard your mom sing: the night Rey and The Resistance was born."
Sage knew about the old karaoke group; her aunts had brought it up several times before. She'd never seen them perform, but she suspected they were wonderful. Her mother had been singing her lullabies since before she could remember and was constantly singing while doing work around the tavern. It was a family gift, she'd been told.
Finn nodded. "It's a night on Tuggatae I'll never forget, I'll give it that. I've gone back there for work once or twice, but," he sighed, "it's just not the same."
Tuggatae. She remembered hearing it before, but it wasn't the planet from the journal. What was that one called?
"Catara. Mum said she met up with you on Catara. Is that where you live?"
He looked at her curiously and tilted his head. "No, I was there as a university student. We were studying ancient cultures. I did reunite with your mom there, though, just for a day. It was… eventful, but it was memorable." He looked thoughtful, then added, "That was the last time I saw her, actually. All those years ago." In his reverie, Finn failed to notice something sneak up from behind him.
"Hey! That was mine!" Finn pointlessly scolded the yite who had snatched the remaining half slice of bread and cheese from his hand.
Sage laughed along with the other two men and reached back to pet the animal who couldn't care less that he was chewing on someone else's food.
"Yites may look stupid, but they're conniving little animals. I asked Mum if I could have a few at my Prodos, but she said they cause too much trouble."
"Sage," Ben said as he brushed the breadcrumbs off his hands, "I wanted to ask you about that. I've been to Hay Tor before, but I've never come across a Prodos. What type of ceremony is it?"
Sage quickly popped some berries into her mouth. She was usually excited to talk about her special day, but this instance was different. She'd have to choose her words carefully.
"It's a ceremony all the kids on Hay Tor have to go through to become Young Women or Young Men in the community. It was passed down from the ancient Torese religion. No one really follows it anymore, but we still do the rituals and stuff."
"What happens during the ceremony?" asked Poe, before taking the last of the berries.
"First, your parents walk you down a long aisle and announce that they are presenting you as a member of the community. Then, you give a really long speech where you say what your goals are and what good things you want to do on Hay Tor. And then you take The Vows of the Seven Values and become a Young Woman. It's like you're an adult! Well, kinda."
"Wow! That sounds like a lot for a kid," said Poe. "What are the Seven Values?"
"They're just these things we believe are important. Once you understand them, they're supposed to help direct and guide you on your path. They are: Hope, Divinity of Nature, Individual Worth, Education, Choice and Accountability, Service to Others, and Integrity."
"And you have to give a speech about all of that?" Finn sounded impressed, so she blushed and gave a proud nod. "Well, Sage, I don't have any kids, but if I did- I'd want them to be exactly like you."
"As would I."
Poe shook his head. "Ben, buddy, you're supposed to say 'me, three!'"
Sage giggled softly but felt her eyes water. She wasn't sure if she was happy or sad (maybe it was a bit of both). She felt so many emotions swimming around inside of her, she didn't even know where to begin. One of these men would soon be pleasantly surprised, but which one?
Ari and Jaylana were already waiting for her on the dock. After a quick "see ya tomorrow," Sage hopped off the watercraft and made a mad dash toward her friends. Once the men were well out of earshot, they were free to engage in proper preteen girltalk.
"How'd it go?!" asked Jaylana.
"It was great! They weren't leaving after all, just stopping in Undredal for dinner."
"So…" She didn't need to elaborate. Sage knew what she was asking.
"No, I don't know which one it is yet. I guess you'll just have to help me figure it out tonight when we spy on the grown-ups."
Ari's face lit up. "Oh yeah! Guess what we overheard your Mum and aunts talking about when they got to the house!"
Sage didn't have a clue. Ari was smiling, so at least it wasn't bad news. At least Mum hasn't figured out what I've done.
"They were talking about a song they just rehearsed for tonight."
Her mother and her aunts were rehearsing a song? But that must mean...
"We're going to see Rey and The Resistance sing! Finally!"
- Undredal is a real village in Norway that really does make its own brown goat cheese. You can get to it by taking a ferry from Flam. I have yet to visit there, but it's on my priority list.
- Yites are basically goats. The word comes from "geit," which is Norwegian for "goat."
- The seven values that Sage recites are pretty close to the actual seven values in the Mormon Personal Progress program: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, and Integrity.
- I should also mention that the completion of the Personal Progress program does not require a big speech (not that I can recall, anyway), but one does begin working on the program requirements when she turns 12. At that age, females in the Church are considered "Young Women," until they turn 18.
- And, since I know people are wondering, I was raised as a very devout LDS (Mormon), but I no longer practice.
Chapter 8: Super Trouper
Moods for Chapter 8:
"Something's Coming"~ Brian Stokes Mitchell cover
"Take a Bow"~ Leona Lewis
"Best Thing I Never Had"~ Beyonce
*The song featured in this chapter is "Solo" by Demi Lovato, with slightly altered lyrics*
Rey felt guilty for leaving without a proper goodbye, but Finn looked so serene as lay in bed without a care in the galaxy. She'd woken up much earlier than she anticipated, still slightly shaken from their encounter with Captain Yuri. The evening with Finn had been enjoyable (despite all its awkwardness), but she wanted off Catara as quickly as possible.
She looked around for something on which to write. On Tuggatae, paper was readily available; it appeared the 'great renessaince' hadn't reached the Core yet. Fortunately, she was traveling with a journal full of blank pages. She opened to the first one and quickly tore off the bottom half, fondly reviewing her entry from the previous night. She scribbled down a quick farewell and left the note on the pillow next to Finn's head. She watched him sleep for a moment, wondering how long it would be before they shared another exciting adventure together.
She brought her fingers to her lips, kissed them, and placed them on his cheek.
"Thank you, my friend."
If the Outer Outer Rim had been a defined region, that's where Rey would say Hay Tor was located.
It was a beautiful planet. She could tell that much before she entered its atmosphere. It was covered in shades of all kinds of colors; unlike Jakku, very few of them were brown.
Its capital, Hay Tor City, was encircled by seven modestly-sized mountains. Between each mountainside ran either a river or a road. One way or another, they all lead back to the sea. Several buildings were scattered around the city, though none of them were as attractive as the landscape that surrounded them. It almost reminded her of Tuggatae- or perhaps Tuggatae fifty years prior.
Rey landed in the travel bay and exited her transport. A man with a HoloPad was there to greet her. He smiled and said something in a language she didn't understand. When she didn't respond right away, he spoke in Basic.
"You're a visitor?"
"Full name and length of stay?"
"Rey. No last name."
The man looked skeptical but said nothing, so she continued.
"I'm not exactly sure how long I'll stay. A few weeks?" How long did it usually take to find one's destiny?
The man typed something into his HoloPad. "If it's more than a day, you'll have to rent a spot in the hangar."
Rey gathered her belongings from the ship and paid the man enough for a month, just incase. When she stepped outside, she noticed that everyone was going in one of two directions: right, towards a long dock; or left, towards something that almost resembled an outdated, mini version of Sen Marketplace. She couldn't feel a strong pull either way, but her body made the decision before her mind could think too much on it.
Her stomach growled. Loudly.
Oh right. Food.
The last time she'd eaten was at dinner with Finn the night before. She'd left too quickly for breakfast, and the trip to Hay Tor had taken a while, as her solo-transport was only able to make small jumps through lightspeed.
It was well after lunchtime, but the various restaurant windows displayed full dining rooms. Most diners were finished with their meals, but they remained sitting at their tables or counters, laughing and mindlessly picking at the last few bites of dessert or nursing their final beverage. This was not like Sen Marketplace. Everyone there had seemed to be in more of a rush.
She liked this place already.
Rey wanted to venture a little further down the cobblestone streets, but something stopped her.
It wasn't a murmur like she'd heard on Parstran. It was clear this time, and it almost sounded like-
It feels like you're… where are you?
It was Kylo Ren. She couldn't see him, but she could feel something reaching for her through the Force.
She hadn't been bothered by him in months. She'd been hoping that the night a couple months ago had just been a fluke and the Force was done with their connection. No such luck. She darted into the nearest building, Turf Tavern, hoping the energy of the crowd would aid her in blocking the connection.
It worked. The feeling of him was gone with another rumble of her stomach.
The tavern was small, cozy. But full. She spotted an empty stool at the bar (thank goodness) and began to look over the menu. Unfortunately, she didn't understand Torese.
"Basic is on the other side, dear," said a sweet-sounding voice next to her.
The voice belonged to an older woman with platinum-blonde-but-turning white hair. It was tied in a braid so long and elegant that Rey suddenly felt ashamed for leaving her own unstyled. She flipped the menu over and was relieved to see that it was written in Basic. She gave her order to the gentleman behind the counter, feeling eyes watching her the whole time. She turned her head to find the woman staring at her, perplexed.
"Forgive me, dear. Have we met before? You look familiar."
Rey didn't recognize her at all. "I don't believe so. This is my first time on Hay Tor."
"Hm." The woman looked her over for a second longer and shook her head, snapping herself out of some thought. "Welcome! What brings you to our lovely planet?"
"I'm here for a visit. I've been told that Hay Tor is the most beautiful planet in the galaxy." That was how Tav had described it. So far, she wasn't disappointed.
"It is! And Flam is the most beautiful village. That's where we're from. I'm Edna, by the way. And this oaf here," she said, pointing to the man sitting beside her who was taking a swig of beer, "is me husband, Miles."
Rey introduced herself and exchanged pleasantries with the friendly couple, but she was distracted by a word.
It kept repeating itself in her mind, picking up speed along with her pulse. Like when she'd first heard about Hay Tor, she knew Flam was important. And she knew she had to go there.
"Where is Flam? I'd like to see it."
"It's at the end of the Sogn River. There's not much there: a few shops and our restaurant. But it's peaceful. Most who come through are just visiting for the day or trying to get to the other side of the mountain. There's many a town over there."
Miles took a break from his drink to add, "There's no lodging in Flam anyway, hasn't been for years. Not unless you're keen on sleeping on the ground."
That idea didn't bother Rey. She'd slept on the ground many times before.
"How do I get there?"
Edna glanced at the clock above the bartender's head. "The last passenger ferry just left. They don't allow ships, just watercraft. You could walk, of course, but it's not a journey I'd want to make on foot. But don't worry, I'm sure you can stay here for the night and catch the ferry tomorrow."
"Shame you won't get to eat at the restaurant," said Miles. "We have to close it when we're away."
"But," said Edna, smiling, "if we run into you when we get back, we'll make you something special. We proudly serve the best food on Hay Tor."
The last sentence was said as a whisper. Edna did not want to be overheard by the gentleman who chose that exact moment to bring Rey her dinner.
Rey enjoyed chit-chatting with Edna and Miles as she ate. They lived Flam but were visiting their daughter in Hay Tor City, as she was due to give birth soon. They were an old-fashioned sort of couple with a healthy sense of humor, and Rey liked them immensely. When the meal was over, they helped her to reserve a room in the tavern and wished her well on her trip. If they were any indication of what Flam had to offer, Rey couldn't wait to get there!
"Can you tell me which one goes to Flam, please?"
The man in the booth nodded and pointed to the far end of the dock. "Better be quick about it."
Rey looked over her shoulder and noticed a watercraft slowly drifting away from the platform. She frantically ran towards it, almost unaware of how crazy she must look to the other travelers.
"Wait! Stop! I need to get to Flam!"
Her pleas went unheeded. Rey groaned as the watercraft disappeared into the misty river. Rey silently scolded herself for taking too long at breakfast, but the food was so good. She wanted to savor every bite. Maybe Torese culture had gotten to her already.
An elderly man, who had witnessed her mad dash, smiled kindly at her and said something in Torese. He must have interpreted the blank look she gave him correctly because he repeated it in Basic.
"Don't worry, lass. The next one will be leaving here at 13:30."
Rey returned the smile. "Thank you."
The next three hours passed quickly. Rey was well versed in the art of people-watching, but watching travelers was even more interesting, especially on Hay Tor, where no one was in a rush unless they had to be. She'd briefly considered exploring the city a bit more but didn't want to risk missing the next passenger ferry, too.
Finally, she stepped onto the watercraft and climbed the stairs to the upper deck. Even with the overcast sky and misty view, the river was gorgeous. The air was a bit too cool for her liking, but the fog-covered mountains provided a unique atmosphere. It looked like something was coming, or rather- something was waiting for her to come.
Rey shivered as the journey came to an end. The closer she got to Flam, the lower the temperature dropped. And she could've sworn she felt a few droplets of water land on her head as she disembarked, too. Great. Rain and cold. Those were things she was not used to.
Her boots didn't do too well in the sand, but it didn't take long to reach the pebbles, followed by the grassy incline that lead up the mountainside. Most of the other passengers seemed to head straight, where several speeders were patiently waiting for them. She needed to be in Flam, not pass through it, so Rey veered right, towards what looked like a sparse village. The Force was strong here. She knew she was on the right path because it swirled around her like a storm.
Or… maybe that was an actual storm.
The water droplets picked up their pace, and Rey's feet did the same. She didn't know if any of the buildings she'd spotted would offer her shelter, but she didn't have many options. If the people here were like Edna and Miles, surely someone would let her in. Right?
The rain was intensifying; it stung when it hit her skin. Though her visibility was limited, she could make out several small buildings further to her right. Some of them seemed to have lights on, but they were still a ways away. In front of her, however, stood a collection of buildings of varying sizes. They were more than a bit worn down. It was possible they hadn't been occupied in a while- which, Rey thought, might work in her favor. Why leave her fate up to someone else, if she could decide whether or not to enter?
She passed the large structure in the center, deciding to try the one furthest up the mountain. She assumed it'd be the most likely to be empty.
A thunder clap caught Rey by surprise, as did the blinding lightning strike that followed. Her teeth started to chatter. As she stepped under the awning, the reality of her situation finally hit her. Just a few days ago, she'd been sipping adult beverages on a warm, sunny beach. Two days ago, she explored a historical planet with someone she loved dearly (and then let him explore her, actually). Now, every inch of her was drenched. She was freezing. And alone.
But not for long.
The building turned out to be a small cottage, consisting of only one room. It housed a bed that was just barely big enough to sleep two people. The back of the room contained both the kitchen and living area, complete with a fireplace.
And sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace, in the process of standing up and igniting his lightsaber, was Kylo Ren.
Ugh. Why did I agree to this?
Rey looked in the guestroom mirror. Her dress (loaned by Feena, of course) was the same silvery blue as the dress she'd worn the night Rey and The Resistance was born. This one, however, was a bit more revealing. The neckline was lower, and there were see-through panels along the sides that Rey felt were completely unnecessary. At least she'd persuaded Rose and Feena to let her do her own hair. She left it down but added in some elegant waves.
Rey's nerves were getting to her. It had been a long time since she'd sung in front of an actual audience. She supposed she sounded good once upon a time, but it had been… well, almost thirteen years. What if she was complete rubbish now?
"Not so bad, little Rey."
"You look like an angel!"
They were her friends; they had to say that. Still, Rose's voice always had a way of sounding so sweet and genuine, it made her want to cry.
"Chewie just gave me these," Feena announced, setting a tray of shot glasses down on the dresser.
Rey recognized the light amber color immediately. It was a specialty liquor Rey was constantly ordering from Myrdal, a village on the other side of the mountain with an impressive distillery.
They each took a glass. Rey laughed at the faces her friends made as they sniffed the contents.
"This is… potent." Rose turned her face away from the glass and coughed.
Rey was about to show her friends how it was done, when she noticed a fourth shot glass left on the tray.
"Who is that for?"
Feena shrugged. "Chewie said you would need another one."
Rey smiled. Thank the stars for you, Chewbacca.
The crowd on the patio of The Grecian was loud. Rey could hear them from behind the front door, where she, Rose, and Feena waited anxiously for their cue. She heard a tapping sound followed by the voice of Miles Venn asking, "Is this ting on?"
"It is on, ya deaf old man!" shouted Edna from the side of the elevated platform that would serve as their stage. Miles chuckled into the microphone.
"Well then. Welcome, everyone, to the Pre-Prodos of Rey's little girl, Sage Paier, who should be fast asleep by now."
A few guests giggled. Rey assumed the sound had come from Ari and Jaylana's parents. They were well aware of the trio's propensity for sneaking around.
"For those visiting from far away, the Pre-Prodos began many years ago as a party for the adults of the village. It was meant to be a night of drinking and shenanigans before everyone had to be on their best behavior for the young ones the next day. Rey and Chewbacca, along with me wife and I, are here to make sure that tonight won't be any different!"
The crowd erupted into cheers. It was starting out well, and everyone seemed to be in an upbeat mood. That much was a relief.
"Now, before we let you lot inside and start serving the good stuff- and the food, too- we have a rare treat to kick off the evening. When my Edna and I heard this trio sing in our restaurant many years ago, we knew they were something special. I have a good feeling you'll be agreeing with me. And now it's me pleasure to present: Rey and The Resistance!"
When the door hissed open and the girls walked forward onto the platform, Rey exhaled slowly. She wasn't nearly as nervous as she thought she'd be, thanks to the Myrdalian liquor. Actually, she felt pretty damn good. When the music started, she felt even better.
"You speak to me
And in your words I hear a melody
But in the twilight it's so hard to see
What's wrong for me"
Her body eased right back into performing like no time had passed at all.
"I can't resist
Until you give the truth a little twist
As if you're gonna get away with this
You're not sorry
I can't believe I fell for this"
Rehearsing the song had been one thing, but sharing these lyrics in front of a group felt like a release. She hadn't written them, but they were everything she had been feeling since that day and most of the days that followed. She scanned the audience; they were watching her intensely. Rey wondered if anyone was picking up on any of the emotions that flowed through her, telling a hint of the story she could never bring herself to fully explain.
"I fell through the hole
Down at the bottom of your soul
Didn't think you could go so low
Look at what you've done
Your losing me is what you've won
Got me planning to go solo
As her eyes drifted towards the back of the crowd, they stopped on three men standing in a straight line, looking wildly amused. She was able to keep her wits about her enough to not miss any words, though she couldn't seem to move her gaze along. That was fine. If they insisted on hearing her sing, she was going to sing her heart out.
"You sing to me
Too bad you couldn't even stay on key
If your life is such a mystery
Why don't you just stick to acting?
Oh, here we go again
You couldn't reach me at all until when
You thought that you could get to my best friends
Without a script, your game is lacking
I can't believe I fell for this
I fell through the hole
Down at the bottom of your soul
Didn't think you could go so low
Look at what you've done
Your losing me is what you've won
Got me planning to go solo
He could tell she was staring at him, but she didn't mind. His once amused smile had morphed into an uncomfortable frown. Good. It was time he realized how she felt, how much he had completely fucked up. Maybe it was just the liquor. Maybe she would regret it in the morning. But right now, she was angry. How dare he come back after all this time, like everything was somehow forgiven?
"I'd rather go out to a party alone
Than have to walk around with you on my arm
And I'm so proud to admit that we're done
Good luck trying to find me
'Cause I didn't think you could go so low
Look at what you've done
Your losing me is what you've won
Got me planning to go
Now we're done…"
As the song finished and the final notes faded out, the audience cheered. Instead of allowing herself to bask in the applause, however, Rey swiftly turned around and headed back inside and up the stairs to Feena's guestroom.
"Wow, Rey," said Feena, entering behind her friend, "I've never heard you belt it out quite like that before. It was spectacular!"
"You saw them, yeah?"
"We saw," said Rose. "Poe, Finn, and... Ben Solo. I can't believe they're here!"
"Me neither! Why is this happening? What gives them the right to be in Flam right now, the night before Sage's Prodos? What have they ever done for their daughter?"
Rose giggled. "Well, sweetie, it's not like they knew about her."
Okay, okay. She knew she was being ridiculous. It was impossible to know who would have stepped up to the plate, and there was no use dwelling on it now. Besides, it's not like she'd been left completely alone; she'd always had The Venns and Chewie, and Rose and Feena when they came to visit. And now she had Sage, a girl who amazed and frustrated her to no end.
"I know, it's just," she sighed. "I want everything to go smoothly tomorrow. I don't want anything ruining the ceremony for Sage."
"I thought you were against this ceremony in the first place," said Feena.
"I'm not against it. I just wish… I mean, she reads the Jedi texts, but… look, I get it. She wants to fit in with the other Torese. She wants to feel like she belongs, which is something I never felt until I joined the Resistance. And what I want is for her to be happy."
"I'm sure everything will be fine," Rose smiled. "You've been planning this for months. There's nothing the three of them could mess up at this point that we can't fix."
"We'll have to go say hi," said Feena, gently. "They know we've seen them. It would be awkward to pretend we didn't."
"You're right," said Rey, suddenly wishing for another shot of Myrdalian liquor. "But we're going the back way, through the kitchen. I'm going to need another drink before I can socialize."
And before I can face Ben.
- The bit about Rey not wanting to wake Finn because he looked so "serene," is a reference to a scene from She's The Man.
- Hay Tor City is based the Norwegian city of Bergen.
- Turf Tavern is a little tavern I visited in near Exminster, England. It's at the end of a river and you can only reach it on foot or by boat.
- The Sogn River's name comes from Songefjord, which is the Norwegian fjord that ends in Flam.
- Myrdal is another real village in Norway. The Flam Railway connects the two cities.
- I promise I'm not from the Norwegian Tourism Office. I just really love Norway. :)
Chapter 9: I Have a Dream
Moods for Chapter 9:
"I'm With You"~ Avril Lavigne
"I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You"~ High School Musical (Motion Picture Soundtrack)
*The song featured in this chapter is "Heart We Did All That We Could," as featured in the Walt Disney World attraction, The Country Bear Jamboree*
"So you are here."
Rey drew her lightsaber and switched it on, suddenly forgetting how cold she had been only moments before.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "How did you find me?"
The red light from both the fire and his lightsaber illuminated his face in the darkness. One eyebrow was raised curiously.
"I think it is you who found me."
Not exactly. She'd been looking for her destiny, not her enemy.
"Where are the other remnants? Are they here with you, or were you planning to notify them when you caught me?"
"Rey. I told you: I'm not with them. No one else is here. This isn't an ambush."
"Liar! I heard you. Yesterday, in Hay Tor City, I heard you speak to me. And that wasn't the first time. Something has been reaching for me through the Force. It's you. You're the one who's been pulling me here."
As she considered this, her stomach sank. She thought it was the Force telling her to come to Hay Tor, to Flam. But it was a trap. Set by none other than Kylo Ren. How could she have been so reckless, especially after what happened on Catara? There was nothing for her here after all- no meaning, no destiny, no purpose. Just a man who she once foolishly believed she could save.
A man who gave a smug grin and said, "It worked."
That was all she needed to hear.
He shouldn't have looked so surprised when she charged at him, all things considered. If his lightsaber hadn't already been switched on, she might have hit her target. She wasn't trying to kill him, just injure him enough to keep him from contacting any of the remnants; hurt him before he could hurt her.
Unfortunately, he'd recovered from his shock in enough time to block her advance, raising his weapon to meet hers. The angle and speed at which this happened caused one of his normally nonsensical horizontal blades to make contact with her arm.
She howled as he withdrew his lightsaber and backed away. She could feel the blood dripping before she even looked down. Of course I'm bleeding in front of Kylo Ren. This scene was becoming all-too familiar.
A gash of no insignificant size ran along the inside of her left upper arm. She couldn't tell how deep it was, but, judging by the amount of blood and the incredible amount of pain she was in, it certainly wasn't shallow. She'd have to continue one-handed. She called on the strength of the Force to help her ignore the pain as she lifted her other arm to continue the duel.
At least, that's what she intended to do.
But she couldn't move her arm.
She couldn't move anything, save for her eyes.
She looked up at Kylo, who had one hand stretched out in front of him, eyes locked with hers in concentration. Another familiar scene.
She was stronger this time. She knew how to use the Force to fight back. But so did he. Every effort she made to push back against him, he returned tenfold. If only she had a blaster, as she'd had on Takodana, she could maneuver enough to fire. She didn't have a blaster, though. She just had her lightsaber; there was no way she could get close enough to strike him.
"I don't want to fight you, Rey. That's not why I'm here."
She cast her eyes down to his lightsaber. Once he realized what she was looking at, he switched it off and returned it to its holder.
"Your arm was an accident. I'm sorry. I can heal it for you, you know I can."
Maybe. A deep gash was much different than a shaving injury.
"But besides that, I haven't hurt you. And I could have, for the record. With you like this, I can do to you whatever I want."
Huh. She'd imagined him saying this before. Just… not exactly in this context. But this wasn't the time for those types of thoughts. And, surely, he didn't mean to imply that.
"But I won't. I wouldn't. I didn't know you'd be here. This isn't part of some First Order scheme to hunt you down."
"But… you said… worked…" Rey gritted her teeth as she fought to move her lips.
"That's not what I meant. I was trying to-" he gave a frustrated sigh. "Look, there's a lot we could discuss right now, but that bleeding isn't going to stop on its own anytime soon. And I can't heal you and keep you from killing me at the same time. Just turn off your saber, and I'll let go."
He made a good point. He could have done any number of things by now: signaled the First Order remnants, stolen her lightsaber, killed her, ripped her clothes off and taken complete advantage of her- but he hadn't. He'd seemed genuinely confused when she'd asked how he found her, and she didn't feel any deceit from him through the Force. It could have all been an act, of course, but she didn't have any better options.
Her finger hovered above the switch, not able to fully commit to disengaging her main source of protection.
The purple light disappeared, and Rey felt him release her.
He took a careful step toward her, eyeing her arm the whole time. Her instinct was to take a step back, to put more distance between the two of them. She was being silly, of course. If she wanted her wound healed, she was going to have to let him into her personal space. She'd done it before- a couple of months ago, in her room on Tuggatae. Why had it been so easy then? Perhaps it was because he wasn't actually there and posed no real risk to her wellbeing.
You were also pretty intoxicated. Yeah, there was that, too.
He must have sensed her unease, for he took another hesitant step forward, this time with his eyes on hers, silently asking permission. She was going to have to trust him, if only for a few minutes.
She nodded and raised her arm out to her side, parallel to the floor. She turned her head away, clenching her teeth as the pain rudely reminded her of its existence. She heard Kylo approach until she could feel his presence mere inches away. She shivered. She told herself it was just from the cold.
She gasped when his bare hands wrapped around her upper arm and elbow. Like before, a wave of energy flowed through the Force and hit her. Not only did it knock the air out of her lungs, it very nearly knocked her off her feet. She stepped back with her right foot to steady herself, which earned her an admonishment from Kylo.
"Stay still. I need to concentrate."
She wanted to retort, to explain that the action was involuntary; but as she turned her head to deliver her rebuttal, she noticed him smirk. She rolled her eyes in response, though she knew he wouldn't see. His gaze was completely focused on the task at hand.
After a few moments, a blueish-green light illuminated the long fingers that were being uncharacteristically gentle. This surprised her. With how hard his face was scrunched up, she expected his grip to be deathly. It wasn't, not even when his arms began to shake like they had the first time.
The pain began to gradually subside, a relief in more ways than one. If he really did have malicious intent in calling her here through the Force, she doubted he'd have been able to tap into the Light at all. She could breathe a little easier now.
Several beads of sweat trailed down his forehead. One of them ran down the length of his nose and dripped onto his wrist. Rey suddenly felt very useless, but she wasn't sure what to do. She had yet to even attempt a Force-healing. She closed her eyes and searched for the best way to help. Without giving it much thought, her right hand found its way to his left forearm. He inhaled sharply. She looked down to see the healing light glowing fiercely, painting the entire room teal. She could feel her wound closing as she sent Kylo energy through the Force. He looked up at her with wide eyes, just for a second. Are you doing this?
She heard him say it. She actually heard his voice in her head, as she had in Hay Tor City.
With another thrust through the Force, she responded.
I think so.
Her simple reply went a bit further than she intended. She was only there for a fraction of a millisecond, but it was enough for him to notice her presence in his mind.
Before she even had the chance to pull back, he pushed her out.
"Sorry," she whispered. She was. She didn't mean to invade his thoughts. She'd only done so once before, and that had also been an accident on her part (and completely Kylo's fault). She didn't like the idea of forcing herself into someone else's mind, even if for her own benefit. There were just some things no one should have the power to do.
She wondered if he realized what he'd inadvertently revealed. It wasn't much, but that fraction of a millisecond was enough to see a person she didn't recognize. It was a woman- a beautiful woman with golden hair and eyes that had never outgrown their innocent optimism. On her head rested a silver circlet adorned with striped gemstones of varying shades of brown and deep red.
Who was she?
She didn't dwell on the thought, for she shouldn't have had it in the first place.
With the two of them working together, it didn't take long for the wound to close completely. Rey moved her hand, and he followed suit. Both were pleased to see no trace of any injury.
No longer occupied with trying to heal itself, Rey's body suddenly remembered how cold and wet it was. She crossed her arms around her torso and managed to say a quick, "Thank you," through chattering teeth.
Kylo pulled the top blanket from the bed and offered it to Rey. "Have a seat. I'll get the fire going again."
Rey took the blanket and wrapped it around herself. She followed Kylo down to a spot on the floor in front of the remaining flames, of which there weren't many.
"Your lightsaber," Kylo began, using the fire iron to adjust the position of the logs, "Did you construct it yourself?"
"Yes," she said, annoyed. She wasn't interested in making small talk. "I'd like an explanation. You said, 'It worked.' What did you mean by that?"
He looked at her, amused, then turned his attention back to the fire.
"Ever since the night you were… out with friends, I've been trying to contact you through the Force. I wanted to see if we had any control over this connection of ours. It appears we do." He added a few twigs from the woodpile next to the fireplace before continuing. "As far as you being pulled here- I had nothing to do with that."
He punctuated the sentence with a sharp look. His eyes showed no hesitation or insecurity. Though there was no way to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, she felt that he was telling the truth. It was a relief. It meant the Force still had a purpose for her here after all.
"I didn't particularly want you to know where I was. I don't need your little Restored Republic disturbing my peace."
She huffed at his mocking tone. "The Republic isn't mine, it's everyone's. And how do you know I won't just contact them and tell them where to find you?"
"No," she said quickly. Until that moment, it hadn't even occurred to her to do so. "As long as you keep my location a secret from your First Order friends."
"Very well. Shall we drink to that?"
He stood and took a few steps into the tiny kitchen. He grabbed a bottle and two glasses from one of the cupboards and rejoined her on the floor.
"This wine is from a farming village near here called Undredal," he said, removing the cork. "It's the best wine I've ever tasted." He poured a glass and handed it to Rey before pouring his own.
Rey took a sip. "You're right. This is good." She would never tell Feena this, but it was even better than the Tuggataen royal wine they'd had at the palace.
Kylo held his glass up. "I won't tell any remnants I may come across where you are, and you won't tell the Republic where I am. Agreed?"
Rey thought for a moment, suspicious of his careful wording. "Let's just agree to never tell anyone else where either of us are. Yes?"
They clinked their glasses together and sealed their agreement with a drink.
They continued to sip in silence while Kylo tended to the fire. Rey watched him with interest as he gently and meticulously fed the flames until they were roaring. The burning heat, combined with the deep red liquid, eased her shivering.
Kylo stared at the flames for a minute before turning to look at Rey.
"What is it?" she asked, feeling uncomfortable.
He smirked and swallowed down another large sip of wine.
"I'm trying to figure it out. If I didn't know any better, I would guess the Republic sent you on a mission to find me. But, judging by your reactions, I don't think that's the case."
"It's not." Rey realized that he probably felt just as vulnerable and concerned for his safety as she did. She had come barging in unannounced, after all.
"Well then, Rey of Jakku, how did you end up on Hay Tor?" He refilled his glass and topped off hers, waiting for an answer.
She watched the liquid settle into place as she determined which details she should leave out. Her own safety was one thing, but she didn't trust him enough to risk revealing anything about her friends.
"General Organa let us decide whether we wanted to stay in the military or return to civilian life. I chose to leave."
"She let you choose? That's surprising."
Rey sighed. She really didn't feel like getting into this with him. "I can't speak to her abilities as a parent, but Leia is an excellent general and an amazing person. She treated us well."
Kylo didn't offer a rebuttal, which Rey was perfectly fine with.
"Why did you decide to leave?"
"Because I knew the Force had something else in store for me. I visited a few places, but it eventually led me here."
"Hm," he said, taking another drink. "So what now?"
"I don't know." She really didn't. She hadn't planned that far ahead. "I suppose I'll just… wander around here until I find whatever destiny I'm meant to find."
She could've sworn she caught sight of a slight grin as he nodded and looked toward the front door.
"If you need a place to stay while you look, there's plenty of abandoned houses around this complex- and a larger building in the middle, though they're all certainly bigger than this place. Pick whichever one you'd like; I'll stay out of your way."
A clap of thunder punctuated his last sentence. Rey looked up, where the heavy rainfall continued to make its assault on the rooftop.
Anticipating her question, Kylo added, "You can stay here until the storm passes, of course."
Rey took another sip of wine, wondering how long it would be before that happened. "Why are you staying in this cottage if it's the smallest?"
"It seemed the most likely to keep others away. A foolish thought, I now realize."
His tone was dry. If it weren't for the teasing glint in his eye and the smile that was beginning to spread across his face, she might have thought he was angry. (Considering who she was dealing with, it wasn't a far-fetched assumption.)
Rey grinned bashfully, and his smile widened until it turned into a laugh. She realized that it was the first time she had seen him really do either of those things: smile and laugh. Two of the most normal things a person could do, and he was doing them in front of her. She felt like she was witnessing the exception to some arbitrary rule.
Her laughter merged with his, serving as a cathartic release of all the stress the day had provided. And it continued for a few blissful moments, until she remembered where she was and who she was next to.
"It's your turn now," she said between chuckles. "How did you end up here?"
"Oh no," he shook his head. "I'm not telling you that story."
"Well that's not fair then, is it? I told you mine."
He shrugged. "All I did was ask. You didn't have to answer." He grinned and took another large sip of his drink.
"I'll get it out of you," she said, narrowing her eyes at him, "especially if you go on drinking like that."
"Yeah. Everyone's more open to suggestion when there's alcohol involved," she smiled brightly as a memory passed by. "The very first time I drank, my friends convinced me to sing karaoke with them. I was so far gone, I convinced myself to sing the lead," she giggled. "Can you imagine?"
He looked at her, amused. "So that's what you did when you went out that night. You sang karaoke?"
She nodded. She'd almost forgotten the first Force-healing and the birth of Rey and the Resistance had all taken place the same evening. Something else had taken place that evening, too. But he didn't need to know a damn thing about that.
"Let me hear you sing."
"I'm not requesting a full performance. Something small."
Rey thought for a moment. Perhaps she could use this to her advantage.
"Okay then. I'll sing if you tell me why you came to Hay Tor."
Kylo exhaled loudly. "Deal."
Rey watched the fire dance as she went through a mental list of the shortest songs she knew. She decided on a little ditty she'd heard once or twice on Tuggatae. She took a shaky breath (why was she suddenly so nervous?) and began:
"Well there he goes
He hardly knows the heart he's breaking
I talked to him
But I don't think he understood
So just forget
About the plans that we were making
Heart, we did all that we could"
She moved her eyes from the fire to take a peek at his reaction. His eyes were fixated on her, though she couldn't quite make out the look in them.
"Lovely," he said. "I didn't know you could sing. Really sing. You're full of surprises, Rey."
"Thank you," she blushed.
She wasn't used to hearing kind words from him, especially in such a straightforward fashion. She wasn't quite sure how to react. And though the wine wasn't making anything clearer, she took another sip anyway.
She waited a moment, but the silence remained unfilled.
"Yes, about that… I'll save it for another time."
"I beg your pardon? We made a deal." Ugh. Of course. She should have known better.
"And I intend to uphold my end. Just not right now."
Okay, she could deal with that. But she was still annoyed.
"You and I both know that wasn't an option, you gangly nerf herder!"
She moved to strike him playfully (sort of) on the shoulder, but he caught her wrist.
And held it there.
She didn't fight him.
He stared at her the way he had in the washroom on Tuggatae. It was the same look Poe had given her on the stairwell of The Oxford. The one that gave her chills.
The rain was still hitting the roof, but it had died down considerably. She could hear him breathing- or was that her? She couldn't tell. The empty glass in her hand knew very well not to intrude on such a moment. She barely noticed when it casually fell to the floor, followed closely behind by the blanket.
Rey, he said, but not out loud. His lips weren't moving at all.
But, stars. They were close.
I'm here, she replied.
So am I.
Without bothering to wonder if she'd later regret it, she leaned in and met his mouth with her own.
The energy around her exploded into a thousand heartbeats. The hand that had previously held her wrist found its way to her shoulder. Rey hesitated, scared that it would push her away. But it only pulled her closer. She rested her palms on his chest and leaned in further.
She lost her balance, however, and ended up on top of him as he fell backwards. She suspected he didn't mind too much. When she placed her legs on either side of him without breaking the kiss, she could feel that he didn't mind.
She never thought she'd end up here, with her stomach and chest crushed against those of Kylo Ren's beneath her. Well, okay, she had thought about it. It never happened exactly like this, of course, in her foolish fantasies, but it was happening now. Every sigh, every moan, every slight movement vibrated through her skin and into her bloodstream. It coursed through her veins until she wasn't sure how she ever survived this long without it. She needed more.
She felt his fingers move against her scalp, attempting to bury themselves within her hair. It wasn't an easy task; everything was still damp from the rain. And, if she was being honest with herself, that's not where she wanted them, anyway.
She reached up to the side of her head and grabbed his hand, intending to move it… well, she hadn't decided exactly where yet, but it would certainly be somewhere lower than its current location. But if she really wanted that (and she did), she realized a little shift in position would need to occur. She broke the kiss and lifted her body slightly, creating enough space to allow him access.
She did this too quickly, however, and immediately felt the room spin. Dropping his hand, she pressed her fingers to her temple and shook her head to help the spell pass. It did. She opened her eyes to find Kylo looking at her. He didn't look happy.
"Went dizzy for a moment. I'm fine," she smiled.
His facial expression was unchanged, and it broke her heart. He turned his head, and moved his eyes downward. She followed his gaze to their two glasses, which now lay empty on the ground, and the two small puddles of liquid beside them. He turned his head back until he was looking up at her again.
"Not like this."
He sounded stern, if a bit sad. But he was right. Wasn't she just telling him about how it was easier to convince people to do things when they were drunk?
But she wasn't drunk. She knew what that was like, and she was far from it. He hadn't tried to convince her to do anything.
Maybe, she thought, as her stomach sank, Maybe you're not the one who needed convincing.
She pushed the thought away, afraid of the damage it might do. She carefully rolled off of him and stood up, suddenly embarrassed by her own boldness. She picked up her belonging bag and rushed to the front door.
"Thank you for letting me stay here during the storm," she said as the door hissed open.
He inhaled, preparing to respond, but he said nothing. She couldn't bring herself to look at him, choosing instead to keep her eyes fixed on the haze of the post-stormy skies.
After a moment of heavy silence, he said, "There's plenty of food growing around the complex, if you get hungry."
She nodded, still avoiding any eye contact, and stepped forward. The door shut behind her.
Stay out of trouble, Scavenger.
Rey rolled her eyes but couldn't stop herself from smiling as she set out to choose her next temporary home.
- Kylo's statement to Rey, that he "can do to [her] whatever [he] want[s], was inspired by a line from the musical Aida.
- The woman that Rey sees in Kylo's mind looks like Amanda Seyfried, star of both Mamma Mia! movies.
- Kylo's, "not like this," bit was inspired by the end of Season 2, Episode 15 of New Girl.
Chapter 10: Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
Moods for Chapter 10:
"Bruises"~ Train (ft. Ashley Monroe)
Well, this is awkward.
Finn had been repeating that line in his head ever since Rey noticed them in the crowd. Rey and The Resistance were spectacular, that was to be expected. What was not expected, however, was the complete stare-down Rey had given Ben for almost the entire performance. Though it could have been a weird coincidence, he suspected the song choice was no accident. He recognized the tune as one by a professional Tuggataen singer, but hearing it had never made him feel uneasy before. He wasn't quite sure what that meant.
The awkwardness continued when he, Ben, and Poe entered The Grecian. Chewbacca met them at the entrance and led them to a table, where a few plates of sliced fruits and Undredalian cheeses awaited them. That was all well and good… until Chewie returned a few minutes later with the female trio in tow. Finn and Poe were genuinely ecstatic to see Rose and Feena (and Rey again, of course). Ben, on the other hand, didn't seem to know what to say. The pleasantries exchanged were very short, very formal. At least Rose and Feena forced themselves to smile and seem friendly. Rey didn't even try to offer Ben anything other than a nod and a cold shoulder.
"'Did you ever bring my Mum here?'"
Sage probably didn't realize how much her innocent question had revealed: once upon a time, Ben was on Hay Tor. With Rey. They had obviously been on good enough terms to visit Undredal together. Whatever those terms had been, however, they were certainly no longer in effect.
After a quick argument in which Chewie insisted he didn't need Rey's help to get the drink orders started, the Wookiee left the six adults with a large pitcher of cider and uncomfortable tension.
The table was lined with two benches on either side, which the group unconsciously assigned by gender. Ben sat at one end, as close to the wall as physics would allow. Rose (bless her) sat opposite Ben, but squeezed next to Feena as much as she could. Rey sat on the other side of Feena, at the point furthest away from the former Supreme Leader. Finn sat across from Rey, and Poe completed the group by sitting in the middle of the other two men. No one said a thing.
Well, this is awkward.
Finally, Rose broke the silence.
"This is your cider, isn't it, Rey?"
This question seemed to snap Rey out of her angry reverie.
"Yes, it is! Please, help yourself."
"Your cider?" asked Poe, offering Rose his glass to fill.
"That's right. There's an ep orchard behind my house; I use it to brew my own cider."
"Impressive," said Poe. He took a sip. "It's delicious!"
"Thank you," she smiled weakly.
Rose continued to fill everyone's glass as Finn looked around the room. It was large and dimly lit with mock candlelight. The tables and benches were all wooden and looked freshly-stained.
"How long have you had this place?"
"It officially opened about ten years ago. It was completely run-down when I acquired it, but Chewie helped me re-do the entire complex: the tavern cantina, all the rooms upstairs, the guesthouses... two of which we've made into our own homes."
"Except the old cottage," said Ben, quietly. "You haven't redone the cottage."
"Oh," sad Rey, looking down into her glass. "No. We haven't gotten there yet."
Again with the awkward silence.
That was when Feena suddenly decided to perk up. She smiled and, scooting Rose and herself over on the bench, extended her hand to Ben.
"I don't think we've met. I'm Lady Feena Blake of-"
"Tuggatae," he finished for her. "I know who you are. I'm Ben Solo," he said, extending his own hand. His tone was quiet, but not unfriendly. "But I'm sure you already knew that." He gave a small smile. Finn was shocked at his passable social skills.
Feena nodded and gave a short laugh. "So Ben, I hear you're on parole."
Finn's eyes went wide. Feena would say something like that so brazenly. Luckily, Ben looked amused. "I am," he replied. "Banned to the Outer Rim for the rest of my life. We all know why."
Poe snorted a laugh. "Well, Feena, I see you haven't changed much in thirteen years."
"Oh, I've changed. I found my way in and out of two marriages; I just never found a filter."
The resulting laughter of the group eased most of the tension, for which Finn was grateful.
"How goes it on Tuggatae?" said, Poe, still chuckling. "I haven't been back since we moved the base."
"It's better than ever. We've healed from the war quite nicely, I think." Another bold statement, considering who was at the table. "I run the orphanage in Sen, which keeps me pretty busy, as you can imagine. Rose helps me out sometimes because she's an angel."
"Not surprised," Poe said, giving Rose a wink.
"What about you, Poe?" said Rose. "The last I heard, you were made Colonel, but that was years ago."
Rose's voice was as sweet as ever; just hearing it brought Finn a sense of comfort. She was a little older now, though he wouldn't have known it by looking at her. She'd been blessed with good genes, it seemed. Actually, they all had: Rey, Feena, and Rose. They looked just how he remembered; it was the energy that surrounded them that seemed older. That was the effect life experience had on a person, he supposed.
There was still something there in each of them, though. Something familiar. It was funny how much a person could change and still remain the same. Finn felt that this was a sign you really knew the person, really knew their heart. It was a point he often made in his speeches.
"I became General after Leia was elected Senator, but I'll be retiring soon."
Interesting. He hadn't mentioned that.
"That's amazing!" beamed Rose.
"Yeah! BB-8 is pretty excited about it, too."
"BB-8?!" Rey perked up. "Where is he?"
"Exploring the village… probably wreaking havoc," Poe chuckled.
"What will you do after you retire?" Finn asked, genuinely curious.
"Oh, you know… travel, site-see, that kind of thing," he said, re-filling his glass with cider.
"I travel for work every so often," said Finn. "You should join me sometime."
Poe gave Finn a friendly pat on the shoulder. "Yeah, buddy, that'd be great!"
For barely a moment, Finn felt a small flash of how things used to be. It wasn't much, but it was enough to give him some hope for the future of their small group.
"What do you do now, Finn?" said Rey, who was nibbling on a piece of brown yite cheese.
"I help former Stormtroopers assimilate to normal, galactic life. I have a facility on Coruscant, but sometimes politicians or philanthropists will ask me to travel to their respective planets and give speeches. It pays enough to get by, and… I feel like I'm making a difference." He shrugged, not sure that it sounded as important as he felt it was.
Rey smiled at him knowingly. "So you're fulfilling your destiny."
Oh, right. He had told her about his future goals that day on Catara. The day that they'd… yeah.
"I guess you could say that." He felt his cheeks go warm. .
"Wow," breathed Rose. "That sounds like interesting work! You're really changing lives out there."
"And what about you, Rosie-Posie?" Feena suggested. "Your work is way more interesting and life-changing than anything I could ever hope to do."
It was a sweet sentiment, but there was a mischievous glint in Feena's eye. Even Rey, who still seemed annoyed that the man in the opposite corner existed, couldn't suppress a giggle.
"What's your work?" asked Finn.
"It's… uh… I write books," she said curiously. There was something else to it she wasn't mentioning.
"What kind of books? Political? Philosophy? Those are mostly what I read."
"I like reading those, too. But... no, nothing like that. I write novels." She took a large gulp of cider, indicating that no further explanation was required. The royal woman on her right, however, was persistent.
"And she's very successful at it. She's always off on some other planet for a book signing or a special reading. The whole 'renaissance' thing really becomes her."
"Poe reads novels," Ben added. He'd apparently gotten used to Rey's death glares because he seemed completely unphased by the one Poe gave him.
"Oh?" Rose raised her eyebrows slightly.
"It's a new hobby," Poe said a little too casually. "I'm sorry to say I haven't read any of yours. Not yet anyway."
"I don't think they'd be something you'd pick up." Her cheeks were beginning to flush. She inhaled and then said, confidently. "I write erotic romance."
Woah. He had not been expecting that.
"And I write under a pen name," she added quickly, as if she hadn't just dropped a bomb on them. "So you wouldn't have seen my real name on anything."
Poe cleared his throat. "What's your pen name?"
"Tria L. Thorn."
It took all of the strength Finn could muster to hold in the laughter that formed deep in his belly. He was able to hide the bit that escaped by coughing. One quick look at Ben told him he was not alone in the struggle.
As if on cue, Chewbacca chose that exact moment to approach the table with a loud growl to ask for their drink orders. Rey and Ben both chose to stick with the ep cider, while the other four ordered various cocktails. (Poe ordered a double.)
As Chewie walked off to grab their drinks, Finn noted his frazzled demeanor. It was clear he wasn't used to serving crowds of this size. Apparently the ceremony for Sage was quite a draw. Having met the young one in question, he couldn't say he was surprised.
"So, Rey…. I didn't know you had a daughter."
Rey's eyes went wide at his statement. She tilted her head and opened her mouth, but Finn continued before she could ask the question. "The gentlemen who welcomed everyone- he mentioned it before you three performed."
Rey sighed and nodded her head. "That's right, he did. She is mine. And all of this," she said, motioning to her surroundings, "is for her." Her eyes lit up, and her lips curled into a simple, proud smile. Finn didn't think she even realized what her face was doing, which made it all the more precious.
"How things change, huh?" Poe said, looking at Rey in a sort of subdued awe. "All of a sudden, you're a mom. I'm sure you're good at it."
"She is," said Feena. Rose nodded in agreement.
Rey's smile widened, and she shrugged. "I've managed to keep her alive so far, so I suppose I'm doing a fair job of it."
"How old is she? She-" Finn was going to mention that she looked like a nine-year-old version of Rey, but he stopped himself just in time. She didn't know that they had already met Sage, so he opted for a better question. "When do we get to meet her?"
Rey looked taken aback by the question, like it was something she hadn't ever considered. She hadn't known about their presence on Hay Tor for long, sure, but Finn assumed she would want her daughter to meet her old friends, especially if she was "always" talking about how much she missed them, as Sage had said.
But if that were true, why had she never invited them to Flam? They all led busy lives and had failed to keep in touch with one another, but having a child was a big deal. He thought she would have at least sent a comm. She'd certainly gone out of her way to inform Rose and Feena; she'd even invited them to visit. It wasn't like Rey to have kept this from everyone else for… however many years it had been.
Something wasn't adding up.
"Her Prodos is tomorrow; it's a religious ceremony that's become a rite of passage for Torese children," Rey explained, unaware that the men had already heard an explanation from her own daughter. "It starts at noon, in the old church. You are all welcome to attend, if you'd like."
"All of us?" Ben said quietly from the corner.
"Yes," she answered, though she didn't seem particularly enthused about it. "Listen, it's been a real pleasure catching up with everyone, but Chewie isn't used to dealing with this type of guest volume. I need to go help him. I'll see you all tomorrow." She scooted off the bench and left the table without another word.
Her presence was soon replaced by the older gentleman Finn had mentioned just a moment before.
"Rose! Lady Feena! You performed beautifully!" He set a small tray of drinks down on the table. "Chewie asked me to deliver these to you lot when I came by to get your appetizer requests. But before we get to that, who might these lads be?"
Feena took on the task of introducing Miles Venn to each of the men, explaining that they were old friends from the Resistance (there was no need to go into specifics about Ben).
After a short description of each of the four edible offerings, the group decided to try one of everything. After Miles walked away to retrieve the food, Feena and Rose gushed to the men about the dishes they were already familiar with from previous visits to the Venn's restaurant. Finn and Poe (whose stomachs had already forgotten about the earlier snack) hung on their every word. Ben, however, seemed distracted. He stared across the dining room, looking confused.
"Everything okay?" Finn asked.
"Yeah..," he said distantly. "I'm going to go outside for a moment. I'll be back in a bit." Finn and Poe slid out of the way so he could exit, then slid back into place. Poe was now directly across from Rose, but he seemed to be avoiding direct eye contact with her.
"I wonder what that was all about," said Feena, looking back at the door.
"There's no telling," replied Finn.
"He's always been a bit… private, you know," Poe shrugged. "As long as he's not trying to kill us, I won't complain." He unveiled a pleased grin when Rose giggled at his comment.
After a few moments and a few forced question-and-answers, Rose and Poe were engrossed in conversation, which Finn and Feena watched with great interest.
"An interesting development," said Feena. She was loud enough for Finn to hear but not so loud as to remind their two friends that there were others present.
Finn took a sip of his drink, which was much stronger than the drinks they usually served on Coruscant. It reminded him of Tuggatae, of a time when life was more dangerous and more confusing; when plans were hard to make and nothing was figured out.
He missed it.
"What about you?" said the voice across from him. "Are you looking for a nice girl to settle down with?"
Finn chuckled. "Not exactly."
"It's silly, isn't it? I mean, I've been married and divorced twice, and yet… I still feel like he's out there. I can't help it. I'm still looking for the man of my dreams."
"Yeah," Finn nodded. "So am I."
She looked at him blankly until it dawned on her. Her eyes went wide before they were met by an eager smile.
"Finn, my friend, I think we're going to get along just fine."
A short time later, an older woman with long, silvery hair announced that a live band on the patio was about to start playing traditional Torese music. A good portion of the crowd exited through the front door, which the woman explained would remain open for the benefit of those who chose to remain inside.
"Rose. ROSE," said Feena, nudging her friend in the arm. "I need to use the toilet before everyone who just stood up realizes they need to. Come with me?" The girls got up from the bench and walked toward the back of the room.
Finn looked at his friend, who he never imagined would be one to read erotic fiction voluntarily.
"Tria L. Thorn, huh?"
"Shut up." Poe's cheek went a bit pink, but he laughed anyway.
"It sounds like you fellas are having a good time over here," said Miles, who'd returned with the food. "That's nice to see." He laid the various plates on the table, displaying a colorful collection of pastries, mini-sandwiches, and a few others items Finn had never seen before.
"I'm always telling me son-in-law," Miles continued, "that Flam throws the best Pre-Prodos celebrations. He's from another village, you see, and he says I'm biased! So it's good to see you outsiders enjoying yourselves, too. I'll have to brag to him about it; he's around here somewhere."
The aforementioned live band began to play its first notes. It was fun and upbeat, which is not exactly what Finn expected when he heard, "traditional." He couldn't understand any words, though. He assumed they were singing in Torese.
"I've never been to a Pre-Prodos, or even a Prodos, but I can't imagine any of them being this much fun," said Poe. "It's truly a party!"
"We're a small village, so it's not everyday one of our little ones turn twelve. We like to make the most of it."
"What was that?" said Finn. "'Turns twelve?'"
"Aye. The Prodos ceremony takes place on a child's twelfth birthday. According to the ancient Torese, that's when you're old enough to take the Vows of the Seven Values."
"It's been nice chatting with you lads, but there's more folks waiting for the best food on the planet!"
Poe reached for a small pastry on one of the plates, but Finn couldn't move.
Twelve. Sage was turning twelve-years-old tomorrow. That meant she was born twelve years ago, which meant that…
Well, this is awkward.
Chapter 11: Kisses of Fire
Moods for Chapter 11:
"Ready To Go"~ Team Starkid
"Human"~ Darren Criss
"Angry Young Man"~ Movin' Out (Original Broadway Cast)
"Falling"~ Emmy Rossum
"Accidentally in Love"~ Counting Crows
I received a comment that stated there should be tags/labels for the other Rey pairings in this story. While I understand where the commenter is coming from, I feel it is unnecessary, as the very first chapter makes it painfully obvious that Rey will indeed have sex with both of these men. I also feel it would be disingenuous to the nature of these relationships, which are not at all romantic. Many (if not most) women have sexual relations with other men before they find "the one." Many (if not most) people enter into sexual relationships for reasons that have nothing to do with romantic feelings. I apologize if anything in this story causes anyone grief or distress.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
She woke up confused. Her eyes darted around the room for several moments until she remembered where she was and how she'd gotten there.
She'd chosen a modest-sized house on the edge of the complex. It had two stories and an entire orchard of eps behind it (which she'd already partaken in for dinner the previous night). Whoever last owned the place had left everything behind: beds, linen, pots and pans- everything she'd need to hold her over until she found out why the Force had led her here. Perfect.
So it hadn't been a dream. He was really talking to her.
What is it?
He smiled. She couldn't see him, but she could feel him smile.
You survived the night.
I did. She yawned and sat up, reveling in the small cracking sounds her limbs made as she stretched. She'd slept well.
Are you… decent?
Are you decent? He was a bit more clear that time.
She wasn't sure why it should matter. The sun had barely risen; it was way too early for a visitor in her opinion.
I am. But-
And then she felt it, as she had several times before. A fraction of a second later, he was standing in front of the bed. He looked at her and then around the room.
"I can see your surroundings now."
"What's going on?"
He took one more look around the room while wearing quite the satisfied grin.
"I wanted to see how much control we had over our Force connection, remember?"
She gasped. "You're doing this."
Rey knew it was possible to Force-project oneself to another place. Luke had done it once, to save the Resistance from the very man who was doing it now. And it had killed him.
The immediate panic that raced through her mind must have shown on her face because he spoke before she could warn him.
"It's not requiring much energy; I'm right over there," he said, pointing in the wrong direction. Rey smiled, holding in a laugh, but let him continue. "If we were lightyears apart… well, that'd be a different story." He paused, looking down at his feet. "You should try it."
Rey's stomach grumbled. "Maybe after breakfast."
He nodded. She thought she sensed a small wave of disappointment.
"I'm going to Undredal this afternoon. It's a village just up the river from here. They have a much larger selection of food than what's growing around the complex, and it's better than anything you might've had on that desert wasteland you grew up on. Come with me."
She nodded her head, choosing to ignore his scathing review of her home planet.
Then he was gone.
If that was him staying out of her way, he was failing miserably. She threw the covers off her legs, and got out of bed. She was annoyed. It wasn't because he wouldn't leave her alone; she was annoyed because she didn't really want him to.
After a quick breakfast of leftover military portions, Rey got dressed and walked down to the beach, wishing to see it without the covering of dark rain clouds. The grassy incline eventually tapered off into a rocky ledge. She hopped down onto the sand, noticing the docks she'd arrived on the day before to her right. They were further away than she remembered, or maybe she just didn't realize how far she'd veered.
She trained with her lightsaber for an hour or so. She thought she may be getting a bit rusty, considering that yesterday's encounter had resulted in a wounded arm. It had also resulted in-
Her face went warm. She'd kissed Kylo Ren!
It made sense at the time, but now it seemed foolish. This was her enemy. No matter how much he claimed he wasn't "with" the First Order remnants (whatever that meant), he was still the man who'd murdered his own father and tried to take over the galaxy. It was foolish. And she'd done it anyway.
But when she really considered it, she realized that it wasn't Kylo Ren she happened upon in that cottage. It was Ben Solo.
He hadn't harmed her (not on purpose anyway), even though he could have. He'd promised to keep her location a secret; judging by the lack of remnants knocking down her door and taking her away in binders, he had kept that promise. Perhaps more significantly, she'd seen him smile. And laugh. And become almost giddy about their new Force abilities. This must've been the Ben that Snoke and the Dark Side had made him forget about. She was sure he remembered now.
She hoped she wasn't wrong.
The next few hours were spent meditating. She'd removed her shoes, rolled up her trousers, and waded into the water as far as she could. And there she stood, like she had so many times before in her river on Tuggatae. But it was a bit different here, a bit better. The air was salty and easier to breathe. The mountains that lined the riverbank reached into the clouds and spilled their secrets into the waterfalls that cascaded down a select few peaks. It was the most beautiful place she'd ever seen. And if it turned out that this was the grand reason why the Force had called her here- just to see this- she wouldn't have minded at all.
The reality, though, was that the Force had another reason, and it was surely much more important than mere scenic beauty.
She grew frustrated after a while of not finding any answers. Perhaps the Force didn't want her to know yet. If that were the case, there was no use in wasting any more energy. It was time for a break.
She returned to the sand and put her shoes back on. She turned around to head to Ben's cottage but suddenly stopped herself. Maybe she should try something else.
She reached through the Force until she found him, though finding him wasn't the hard part. She concentrated her energy and pushed her thoughts to his.
I guess I have control over this, too.
Where are you?
By the beach; I'm ready to go to that town you mentioned.
A few minutes later, Ben Solo was at her side.
"It looks like there's a small village over there," she said, pointing to the collection of buildings in the distance. "Why don't you go there for food?"
"That's the main village; there's too many people that ask too many questions. The bonnas- the beings who live in Undredal- are used to outsiders stopping in to purchase goods. They don't speak to me any more than necessary."
Of course. He wanted to be left alone, not make friends. He was more like his uncle than he realized.
He led her to the docks and into a tiny vessel fit for no more than two (and even two was a stretch). He showed her how to use the Force to cut faster through the water, reaching Undredal in a time that Rey found impressive. Ben tied the watercraft to the dock, and they walked up the mountainside until the town came into view. Several bonnas were walking about. They were chubby little beings, with square faces and fuzzy skin. Rey liked them immediately.
After determining that they were both hungry, Ben led them to the deli, where they ordered sandwiches and potet salads. They sat on a patch of grass and ate.
"Why does everything on Hay Tor taste so much better than every other food in the galaxy?"
Ben chuckled. "They still use ancient farming methods that other planets have long since forgotten about, or never used in the first place. And it's not just food; they make everything the old way: candles, furniture, soaps-"
Soap. Now that was something she could use.
"Um, Ben. How do you… bathe? I didn't notice any showers."
She felt a tinge of disgust until she noticed his playful grin. She rolled her eyes before she could help it.
"There's a washroom in the large building. No advanced plumbing, of course, but it's built to collect rainwater. It's stored there until you need it. Changing the water is a pain, but it works. You can use the Force to heat it."
Rey nodded and took another bite of her sandwich. He seemed to know a lot about this place; she wondered how long he'd been living in Flam. Perhaps it was time to bring it up.
"You still owe me an explanation."
He looked down. "I was hoping you'd forget about that."
She laughed. "Then you really don't know me at all, do you?"
The mood suddenly shifted. Ben went silent and looked contemplative. If this had been Kylo Ren she was dealing with, Rey would've thought he was angry. It made her uneasy, but she pressed, trusting that he wouldn't lash out.
"Go on, then. Tell me how you ended up on Hay Tor."
He inhaled deeply, eyes still fixed on the grass.
"I came here… to get away from the First Order."
Well. That was a surprising start to the story. She kept her reactions to herself, not wanting to interrupt his tale.
"Not in that way," he clarified. "I'd been brainwashed for so long into believing that I was supposed to rule the galaxy; I never stopped to ask myself what I actually wanted. And then after it happened- after becoming Supreme Leader, I realized that what I truly wanted… was to be left alone."
In another universe, Rey might have felt sorry for him. But not here, not now. She suspected that most citizens of the galaxy wanted the same thing: to be left alone to live their lives freely, in the way they chose. He'd allowed himself to be seduced by the dark side, and in doing so, he'd taken that freedom away from so many. And when he'd had the opportunity to change course, he'd chosen power. Apparently, it didn't turn out to be everything he'd hoped. It served him right.
"So I told Hux I'd be gone for a few days, took a ship, and left. I knew I wanted to go somewhere in the Outer Rim. I ended up on Hay Tor because, like you, the Force led me here. And then to Flam."
She wanted to ask which side of the Force he consulted with. She doubted the Dark would have let him relieve himself of power for any amount of time.
"I returned often. It became my escape: from being Supreme Leader, from the First Order, from my grandfather's legacy. From everything. It saved my life, as it turns out. I was here when The Resistance attacked. It's probably the only reason I'm alive."
So that's where he'd been. All of those times she sensed that he was away, he was here. And now... so was she.
"And I've been here ever since, in hiding. Not a soul knows where I am, except you," he concluded. She knew he was done because he finally looked up.
"What now?" she said. "Are you just going to stay here forever?"
He let out a slight chuckle. "No, I need to keep moving. I shouldn't stay in one place for too long, especially a place as friendly to the Republic as Hay Tor. I expect in a few weeks, it'll be time to leave."
Rey had a very visceral reaction to his statement. She wasn't sure why.
"You're going to get tired of running eventually," she said. "If you just turn yourself into the General-"
"No! Listen to me. I will help you. I can speak for you at your trial, I can… Ben, the Restored Republic needs you. Think of all the good that you could do!"
"'Good?'" he said, shaking his head. "Don't tell me you've fallen for that. You and I both know the Republic isn't 'good.' Those in power will eventually turn to corruption to stay in power. Just like the Jedi. Just like Luke. It will always be that way."
"The Restored Republic is-"
She stopped herself, realizing that she was growing frustrated and defensive; neither of which would help this situation. If she wanted to reach him, she would need to find some common ground. She would need to be vulnerable and admit to him one of the many things that had plagued her heart for the last year.
"I still think about that day sometimes... the day you asked me to join you."
He raised his eyebrows but said nothing, inviting her to continue.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't occasionally wonder if I made the right decision. Sometimes I imagine what the galaxy would be like now if we'd created a new order and ruled together. I'm sure it would've been grand, for a while. But then I remember that, like you said, corruption always sneaks its way in. Whether it would have been us that fell, or… whoever were to come after us, rulers have a way of forcing their will onto their subjects. I've seen such things with my own eyes. That is why I believe in the Republic: it's a battle of wills, with enough players to keep the problematic ones at bay. It's not without its issues, of course, but it's full of leaders who are fighting for their own. It's frustrating and it's petty and stars, does it need improvements! But it belongs to us, to the galaxy. It will never be perfect. That's the price of liberty, I suppose."
She watched his reaction carefully. Except for the surprise at her initial admission, his face remained stoic. His eyes were locked onto hers; it appeared he was listening to every word carefully. When she was finished, he seemed to examine her face, as if he were looking for something.
"Maybe you're right, maybe you're wrong" he said, finally. "But it doesn't matter. It's too late for me now. I can't go back." There was a finality to his statement, a definitive sadness in his tone that told her not to argue.
They ate the rest of their meal in silence.
By the time they made it back to the complex, the weird tension had dissipated. This was mostly thanks to an overly-aggressive yite that decided he did not want them anywhere near his territory. After a chase that left them both breathless (mostly from laughter), the pair headed further into the village to purchase more food and hygiene products before returning to Flam.
As Rey followed Ben into the main building, she felt like she was stepping into the past. Everything was old and run down: half-broken chairs, dust-covered candlelight fixtures, tables that looked like they would give out at any moment. Logically, she knew this was what her eyes were seeing. What she saw, though, was something completely different. It was a bustling dining room, filled with comforting decor and smiling faces. It was gone in a flash.
"Are you okay?" Ben said, sounding concerned.
"I am, I just… I think the Force just showed me what this place used to look like. It was a cantina, yeah?"
Ben nodded his head. "An entire tavern, I believe," he said, crossing to the staircase on the other side of the room. "Washroom is up stairs."
She placed her edible purchases on a table and joined him on the staircase. It led to two long hallways: one to her right, and one in front of her. She followed Ben as he turned right and then left, stepping through a wide doorway into what she assumed was the washroom. It didn't contain much, just a large pool of water surrounded by a square bench made of stone. Towels lay on the bench, neatly placed every few feet, as if they were waiting for someone who never came.
"It's an ancient way of bathing," Ben explained. "Communal. The rest of the galaxy hasn't done it this way in hundreds of years."
"I think it's been more recent than that here," said Rey. Everything did look old, but not that old.
Ben shrugged. "I suppose Hay Tor took a while to catch up, assuming they ever did."
Rey looked at the water, slightly mesmerized by its clarity. She looked up after a moment to find Ben in the same state.
"Um," she said, breaking him from his reverie, "Are you going to-"
"What?" he said quickly.
"-help me warm the water?" she finished.
"Yes," he exhaled.
They both raised their arms, concentrating their energies on the pool. She wasn't sure how long something like this should take, so she kept going until she felt Ben relax.
"That should be enough," he said. "Give it a feel."
She slipped her boots off carefully, fully aware that he was watching her and feeling very exposed because of it.
They're your feet, for Force's sake, she said to herself. Get it together.
She dipped a toe into the pool and smiled. It was perfectly warm.
"That's just right, then. Thank you." She placed the package of soaps and various other hygiene products on the bench and opened them. She started to separate the ones she'd need immediately from the ones she'd use later when she felt his presence still in the washroom.
He was standing halfway between the bench and the doorway, facing her. He wasn't doing anything. He just watched her, almost awkwardly. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but he remained silent. Curious.
"I'm going to wash," she said somewhat slowly, hoping he'd take the hint.
He stood still.
"So I'll need you to leave now."
Unless you want to stay.
The thought came before she could help it, but she kept it to herself. Without the aid of Undredalian wine, she wasn't sure how well it would go over with the man standing before her.
"Right," he said, shaking his head. "Of course."
She expected him to turn around right away, but he surprised her by speaking again.
"It's been a long time since I've been able to practice lightsaber dueling. Train with me tomorrow."
It was a question, even if he had a habit of making everything sound like a demand.
"Very well," she said brightly. "I look forward to it." She meant it.
"Good. If last night was any indication, you need it. You're getting a little rusty."
She rolled her eyes as Ben smirked and exited through the doorway.
"Slow down! I don't even think he saw us!" Jaylana skidded to a halt on the pebbled pathway.
"Yeah," said Ari, slowing to a stop as well. "But if he did… you don't think he'd tell your Mum, do you? We wouldn't be allowed to sleep over again for months!"
Sage stopped running and turned around, panting slightly. She scanned their immediate surroundings, but saw no sign of Ben Solo, who she was sure had caught sight of them spying on her mother's friends through a tavern window. She was supposed to be asleep, and she was not in the mood for a talking-to, especially not on the night before the biggest day of her young life.
"I thought I saw him look at me, but… anyway, now that you've had a good look, which one do you think it is?"
"It's hard to tell," said Ari scrunching her face.
Jaylana shrugged. "You just look like your Mum to me."
Sage sighed. She wasn't sure if she'd ever find out who her father was. She took a few more steps down the hill when she heard footsteps approaching in the grass. She turned to see Ben Solo walking towards them. Ari and Jaylana followed her line of sight and gasped. They both stepped back, leaving Sage at the front.
"How'd you know to go that way?" Sage asked, surprised to see he hadn't used the walkway.
Ben smirked. "I know this place very well. It was my home once." He looked at the girls and raised an eyebrow. "Didn't I hear you three were supposed to be sleeping?"
Sage's eyes went wide, and Ben chuckled.
"Don't worry, I won't tell your mother," he looked down. "I don't think she wants to hear too much from me right now anyway."
He shook his head then looked back up at Sage. "I wondered, though, if I could talk to you for a moment."
Sage's heart went wild. Talk to her? About what? She hadn't the faintest clue, but she nodded her head and looked over her shoulder at Ari, knowing she'd catch on.
"Come on, Jay," Ari said in Torese. "Let's head back."
Jaylana didn't move a muscle, still awestruck at the man who towered over them.
"We'll see you back at the house," said Ari, pulling Jaylana away from the scene.
Ben watched the girls hurry down the pathway with an amused expression. "Good pair of friends you've got there."
Sage nodded in agreement. "They're the best. I've known them since I was five."
"Do they know you can use the Force?" he asked.
"Everyone does; I stick out like a sore thumb." she sighed. "It's so rare here… there were never any Jedi on Hay Tor, just the ancient Torese religion."
"But you are strong with the Force. Does your mother train you?"
"Not really," she shrugged. "I read the Jedi texts sometimes, but-" she bit her lip, too embarrassed to continue.
"But what?" he said, bending down to her level. The concern in his eyes and gentleness in his voice coaxed her to keep speaking.
"But everyone thinks it's weird. They don't say anything about it, but I can tell, ya know? Except for Ari and Jaylana, they like me no matter what. They think my Force abilities are really cool, actually." She beamed as she mentioned her friends.
Ben gave her a soft, almost sad, smile. "I wish I had friends like that when I was your age. It might have kept me out of trouble."
Sage didn't know what he meant by that. Her mother had never mentioned Ben, much less what kind of "trouble" he'd gotten into.
"Is that why you have that scar?" she said, looking at the line that ran down the side of his face.
"It is," he grinned. "As a matter of fact, your mother was with me when it happened."
She watched as he took a seat on the ground and patted the grass next to him. Sage sat down, too and then waited in silence, sensing that he was going to bring up whatever it was he wanted to talk to her about.
He took a deep breath, and said, "Sage, I wanted to ask you about your father."
"What about him?" she said, trying hard to sound casual.
"You said he was here."
"I've seen your mother twice today, but he hasn't been with her either of those times."
"I assumed they'd be together."
She twirled a blade of grass around her finger, suddenly finding it very interesting.
"I think it's been a long time since they've spoken," she muttered, not wanting to lie outright.
"Ah. Are they still… married?"
She looked up at him. Married? Where'd he get that idea?
"Mum's not married," she laughed. "Never has been."
"But your last name," he said, "How did you get your last name?"
He looked as confused as she felt. What a silly question. How did anyone get a last name?
"I don't know," she shrugged. "Our last name has always been 'Paier.' It's been that way since I can remember."
Ben paused for a moment, then let out something that resembled a half-laugh, half-sigh.
"So she's not married."
He sounded relieved, which Sage thought was a nice change. It was different than how people usually sounded upon finding out her mother was an unmarried woman with a child.
His happy face quickly morphed back into one of confusion, as he turned to her and asked, "Sage, how old are you?"
She looked at him in the eye, terrified. She could lie about this; she knew she could easily pass for nine or ten-years-old, but she needed to find out who her father was. And maybe somewhere deep down, Ben already knew... even if he didn't realize it yet.
She couldn't live with the secret any longer. It was now or never.
"Eleven," she attempted to say, but a yawn muddled her words.
"What was that?"
"I'm eleven. I turn twelve tomorrow."
He was processing. She could tell by the way his head tilted to the side and the way his pupils rolled towards his forehead that he was calculating the numbers. It wouldn't be long now.
He inhaled sharply and looked at her with nothing less than shock. She didn't say anything; she just stared back at him. Hopeful and scared. Please.
Please don't pretend like you don't understand. Please don't tell Mum what I've done. Please don't be upset.
Please don't reject me.
Ben cleared his throat.
"Remember how I mentioned that I used to live here?"
"That was almost thirteen years ago, minus a few months. I ran into your mother here, and we… we spent a lot of time together, and- Sage, I think I'm your father."
He didn't sound pleased, but he didn't sound disappointed. He sounded like he was still trying to figure everything out. That was fine; so was she.
"I think so, too."
He shook his head, looking amused.
"That's why you invited me here, isn't it?"
She blushed and gave a sheepish grin.
"You're just like your mother, stubborn and clever."
Mum. Right. She didn't want her to know yet.
"Mr. Solo, Mum doesn't know that I know. It's going to be a surprise for the Prodos, that is, if you wouldn't mind presenting me with her at the ceremony?"
He smiled then. A real smile.
"I honestly can't think of anything I'd rather do tomorrow. For now, though, I think we should get some rest. It'll be a big day for both of us."
She nodded, knowing very well that she had no intention of going to bed quite yet.
A rush of happiness flowed through her. This was the moment she'd been dreaming about for so long. It had gone perfectly, and there was nothing- absolutely nothing- that could ruin it.
- "Bonna" comes from the word, "bonde," which is the Norwegian for, "farmer."
- The idea behind the communal bathing pool came from the practice of public bathing in ancient Greek and Roman times.
Chapter 12: Andante, Andante
Moods for Chapter 12:
"Breathless"~ The Corrs
"One Last Breath"~ Creed
"You Matter To Me"~ Sara Bareilles (ft. Jason Mraz)
"Don't You Wanna Stay?"~ Jason Aldean (ft. Kelly Clarkson)
"Glitter in the Air"~ P!nk
Training with Ben had gone much better than she'd anticipated. No one had been accidentally injured, so it was already more successful than their encounter two nights prior. There hadn't been any arguments, either, and they were both able to teach the other a few tricks. It lasted well into the afternoon. When it was over, she found herself wanting to do it again.
They'd agreed to meet at Rey's current residence for dinner. She would wait until Ben was done bathing; after which, it'd be her turn to wash off all the grossness her body had accumulated as they dueled. And since living on Jakku had never given her the opportunity to learn how to properly cook, Ben would make dinner.
Until then, Rey was quite content to sit on the beach, her legs extended. She was used to meditating with her legs crossed and her eyes closed, but she wouldn't do that here. At the end of the Sogn River, Rey found it more peaceful to keep her eyes open and her feet touching the water.
She breathed deeply, asking the Force to reveal why it had brought her here.
It wasn't like the Force was being quiet; it flowed through her easily, strongly. She could feel its presence all around her, vibrating through the current and into the sand on which she sat. It was there. It was with her.
Then why wouldn't it answer?
It was Ben.
Rey, I'm done. It's your turn.
Okay, she responded simply.
She laughed at the absurdity of it all. There she'd been, asking the Force to show her her destiny, when the former Supreme Leader of the First Order cut in to inform her he was done taking a bath. She wondered what her friends would have to say about all of this. She'd never find out, of course, because she and Ben had promised to never tell anyone where they were. She wasn't sure she'd want to, anyway. It would be difficult to explain, to say the least.
She trekked to the main building and prepared the water, hunger starting to settle in. She took a quick bath and hurried over to "her" house. The smell hit her before she even stepped inside.
She saw Ben in the kitchen, spooning a thick, white-ish liquid into two bowls.
He smiled immediately upon seeing her, making her heart skip a beat.
"What did you make?"
"Purret soup. It's something my mother used to make on those rare occasions when she was actually around."
"It smells lovely," Rey said, choosing to ignore the dig at General Organa.
"Vegetables are still on the fire out back… I'll go get them."
While he was gone, Rey brought the two bowls of soup and a tray of ep slices and yite cheese to the stable-enough table in the living area. Ben returned and added a tray of bread and roasted vegetables to the fray. He told Rey to sit and poured them both a glass of Undredalian wine before taking a seat across from her.
"I must say I'm impressed," said Rey.
"It's not difficult to impress a scavenger," he said with a smirk.
The food was simple, but delicious, though the fact that they'd skipped lunch probably made it moreso. It was certainly more flavorful than the bland portions she'd eaten for years on Jakku. Except for the occasional question regarding ingredients and cooking methods, they ate in blissful silence for several minutes before Ben spoke.
"What were you doing while I was in the washroom? I could feel you pulling energy around."
Rey took a sip of wine and said, "Oh, I was meditating."
He looked at her skeptically.
"I was meditating intensely."
"So, Rey of Jakku," Ben said, finishing his last bite of bread, "Have you found your destiny?"
"It doesn't seem that the Force is ready to reveal it to me yet," she said, trying not to sound as disappointed as she felt.
"So you still aren't sure how long you'll be here?"
She shook her head, swallowing a final spoonful of soup. "At this rate, it could be a while; not that I mind, really. Hay Tor is undoubtedly the most beautiful planet I've ever seen. And Flam is- it's funny, sometimes I think I could stay here forever."
He looked amused; whether by her statement or her excited delivery, she wasn't sure.
"It's nice to know I'm not alone in how I feel about this place," he said, standing up to begin clearing the table. "Sometimes I feel like I'm not worthy enough of even being here."
"What do you mean?" she asked, helping him bring their dishes to the water basin in the kitchen. She left the glasses on the table, which had barely been touched.
"Like you said, Hay Tor is the most beautiful planet in the galaxy. I'd hate to mess it up."
He gave a her small smile and a knowing look, as if she should know what he meant. But she didn't.
"Why would you mess it up?"
His smile fell then, turning into a straight line.
"We both know what I am."
He grabbed a dirty bowl from the counter and placed it in the basin, not looking at her. Rey remained silent, not exactly sure what he was getting at.
"Chaos seems to follow me everywhere. Whatever I touch, I destroy."
Monster. She remembered calling him that once or twice. He'd agreed.
When the bowl was completely free of residue, he grabbed another dish from the counter. He kept his head down, still avoiding eye contact.
"I realize what I've done, things I can't change, but I'm not- I mean, I wasn't always-"
Rey stayed still while he collected his thoughts, worried that even the slightest movement would push him back into his shell.
He took a deep breath, then continued. "I was strong with the Force from a very young age. My parents- they always looked at me like they were afraid of me. They had no reason to be; I was just a child. But they never knew what to do with me. I was the thing that drove them apart. They never said as much, but... it wasn't hard to figure out."
Rey felt her heart ache. She'd always thought Ben was lucky to have been raised by his parents. It hurt to not have parents; she'd never considered the opposite might also come with its own set of hurts.
"And then they shipped me off to my uncle," he said bitterly. "He didn't know what to do with me, either. Luke, the other students- everyone was still afraid of me. Snoke sensed my solitude, he seized on it. And Luke knew. But instead of trying to help me, he…"
He exhaled loudly, releasing some of the frustration. "I didn't want to hurt anyone that night. But when the other students saw the aftermath, they assumed the worst. They looked at me like I was the monster. I tried to tell them what really happened, but the only ones who believed me were the few Snoke had already seduced. The others tried to get rid of us. They failed. And I became Kylo Ren. And I did things to make sure I deserved the fear of others."
He'd had his hands scrubbing away the whole time he spoke, but they stopped suddenly.
"I regret killing my father," he said, voice almost shaky. "I knew I regretted it the moment it was done. He wasn't the best father, but, stars, I could really use his advice right now. But he's gone. Because of me. You know, a part of me wishes that Luke had just gone through with it."
Rey felt tears sting her eyes. It was almost too much to take in. She'd seen this side of him before, to a small extent, but this was on a scale she couldn't have prepared for. He didn't sound like he was wallowing in self-pity or trying to garner her sympathy. She reached out to him through the Force. It wasn't just sadness that she sensed from him, it was… pain, acceptance, truth. It was loneliness. Emptiness. Worthlessness. Things she was familiar with.
She stared at his profile, wondering how to proceed.
And then she knew.
"I have something I need to tell you."
He looked at her, eyes curious and a little apprehensive.
She wanted to look away, but this wasn't about her right now. He needed to know that she was telling the truth.
"All of those times you left the First Order to come here, I knew you were gone. I didn't know where you'd gone or why you left, but I could tell you were away. And I could tell when you'd returned."
He tilted his head slightly. "How?"
"I could sense it; the Force decided to reveal it to me. I kept it to myself, for a while. But after the Resistance found a new base, it wasn't long before we were ready to stage an attack. We had the resources, but the leaders wanted to wait for the perfect moment. So I told them what I knew. I told them that we should strike when the First Order would be the most vulnerable: when you'd be gone and too far away to interfere. I told them that it was the only way we could win."
Ben wrinkled his forehead. "From what little I've heard, the attack was well-planned and ruthless. I'm not entirely sure my being there would have changed the final outcome."
Rey shrugged. "Neither was I, but I didn't mention that."
He looked surprised, rightfully so. "So you lied? To the Resistance? To the General?"
"I suppose, from a certain point of view, yes. I did." This was the first time she had ever fully acknowledged her slightly treacherous behavior.
She didn't need to, but she cleared her throat anyway.
"Because I knew the size of our forces and the power behind them. I knew we were going to practically obliterate the First Order," her voice wavered, but she pressed on. "And I knew that I didn't want you to be there." She felt a tear roll down her cheek.
He seemed taken aback by her sudden display of emotion. "Rey, what are you saying?"
She hesitated. Why did this have to be so difficult? Why couldn't she just spit it out? The truth was so simple; why did telling it have to be complicated?
"I'm saying that while it's true having you out of the way made things easier, the real reason I told the Resistance what I did was because… I knew what would happen to you if I didn't. And it made me sick. I couldn't bear the thought of-"
She inhaled sharply and let out a shaky breath. She blinked rapidly to try and clear her vision.
He was looking at her in a way she'd never seen before. It was tender, almost solemn. Taking a step forward, he brought his hand to the side of her face and used his thumb to gently wipe away a stray tear. He said nothing.
And then he kissed her.
It was soft and sweet, but it was sure. It didn't take long for her body to respond. Rey closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling herself closer. His other arm found its way around her waist, locking her in place. A year ago, she would have felt trapped and gone into a panic. But now, things were different. She was being held against the body of the most dangerous man in the galaxy; it was the safest she'd ever felt.
Two nights ago, the energy had been like an explosion: unstable and erratic. It was much more calm now, but it was no less intoxicating. Her heart danced as a deep warmth radiated from every inch of skin he touched and spread through her entire being. When he was done showering affection on her lips, he moved his mouth down her cheek and then onto the side of her neck. Rey rested her head on his shoulder, perfectly fine to let him take as much time as he wanted. She wasn't going anywhere. She let out a content sigh, which turned into the softest of moans.
He lifted his head back up to capture her mouth once more. And just like that, it was over.
The second he released her, she felt like all the air had been sucked from her lungs. She opened her eyes and saw him take a few steps back. He was breathing heavily.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I should go."
He was apologizing? For what? For starting this, or ending it?
She watched as he walked away, heading toward the door.
He was leaving.
She couldn't let that happen. Something familiar boiled up inside of her, something she couldn't shake. She wanted to… scream.
No! Come back!
He must've sensed her distress. Or maybe she'd accidentally yelled it through the Force. He turned around sharply, looking concerned.
She took a deep breath, knowing full well that she could say nothing. She could let him walk out of the house and sleep in his own bed, never knowing how desperately she wished he wouldn't. They could pretend like the kiss never happened and continue living as neighbors until he left Hay Tor in a few weeks. She could let tonight end just like every other night.
But she didn't want to. She wanted him.
"Wait," she said, crossing the small living area until she stood in front of him. "Don't go."
He looked surprised, which she found absolutely ridiculous. How could he kiss her like that and then be surprised she didn't want him to go?
"Why not? If I stay, I-"
She interrupted him.
"Stay. Finish what you started."
She slowly ran her gaze down his form, and then returned to lock eyes with his. The darkness had returned to them; she didn't doubt that hers looked the same.
There was no hesitation on his part. By the time she could fully register what was happening, she was pressed up against the wall, kissing him once again. But there was nothing soft about it this time; his desire matched her own. She reached for the hem of his tunic and broke the kiss for just a moment to tug it all the way off. She wanted to feel him, every part of him. It couldn't happen fast enough.
She felt his hands roam everywhere- her shoulders, her stomach, her sides, her breasts. He trailed kisses down the front of her neck and onto her collarbone. She tangled his hair around her fingers as he kissed every bit of flesh that her modest tunic made available to him.
When he let one of his hands wander lower, her legs grew weak; she wasn't sure how much longer she'd be able to stand. If she wanted things to continue (and she did), they would need to move on to another location.
"Bed," she managed to pant. She pointed to the small room which housed the only bed on the first floor. After her first kiss with Poe on the steps of The Oxford, her imaginings had often included Ben carrying her up a staircase. However, the present situation was dire and required the quickest solution; they could worry about indulging fantasies next time. If there was a next time.
She hoped there was a next time.
R'iia's shorts, there'd better be a next time!
Ben looked at where she pointed and nodded. He kissed her again and lifted her off the ground without much effort. Rey's legs instinctively wrapped themselves around his torso. He carried her to the bed and set her down gently, pausing for a moment to let her adjust her position. He kicked off his boots and gave her a look that made the Force flee. She blushed and held out her hand, inviting him to join her on the bed, which he did without reluctance. Rey felt Ben cover her body with his, and everything suddenly made sense.
A few hours later, Rey awoke to the sound of a creaking bed. It was pitch black. She felt the mattress shift slightly as Ben laid back down next to her. A sudden wave of panic rushed through her as she realized that she was completely naked.
And then she remembered.
She bit her lip, trying to hold back a giggle as she replayed the events of the evening. She could recall every minute detail and every pleasant, adoring, ravenous thought she'd had. It was much better than any fantasy she'd conjured up over the years. It wasn't flawless, of course, as they were still being introduced to this part of one another. But it was perfect all the same. It was Ben, and he was with her. And in that moment, that was all she needed to know.
She made a conscious effort to keep her breathing steady; she didn't want him to feel bad for disturbing her sleep. As she felt his body make contact with her back, she became very aware that he hadn't bothered to get dressed, either. Part of her wanted to roll over and initiate another round; they were practically halfway there already, and she didn't think he would mind. She was way too comfortable, though, so she settled for being safely tucked away into him, his arm wrapped protectively around her. She felt the rise and fall of his chest slow down as he settled into dreamland.
But before he was gone completely, she heard him say something in a low whisper.
"You are everything."
Rey smiled and drifted off into a blissful sleep.
- Bits and pieces of the sexy time scene were inspired by a Newsies fanficition: Barely Even Friends by Christy.
Chapter 13: Voulez-Vous/The Name of the Game
Moods for Chapter 13:
"Totally Fucked"~ Spring Awakening (Original Broadway Cast)
"Under Attack"~ Mamma Mia! (Original London Cast)
"Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" (slow version)~ Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Original Broadway Cast)
"Follow Through"~ Gavin DeGraw
"Perfect Day"~ Clay Aiken
Finn was grateful for the chance to exit the cantina; he desperately needed some fresh air.
Rose had returned from the washroom by herself, explaining that Feena had been sidetracked by some guy (not surprising). Then she (very boldly, he might add) asked Poe to accompany her outside so they could more easily enjoy the band. He'd agreed, though Finn could tell he was still a little reluctant.
Not that Finn minded being left alone, not after what he'd just found out.
Sage was his daughter. He was a father.
He walked around to the side of the tavern. He could hear the music playing in the background, but it was quiet otherwise. It was really was a beautiful planet. No wonder Rey had never left.
He did feel better about that part, at least. It finally made sense as to why he'd never heard from her after their night together on Catara. She probably thought she was doing him a favor by not disrupting his life. He would have rather known, of course, but it was easy to say that now. There was no way Rey could've known how he'd have taken the news back then.
The real question was… did Sage know?
Hadn't she said her father was 'here?'
You are here!
Of course! She was the one who'd invited him in the first place. Hadn't she mentioned something about her parents walking her down an aisle at the ceremony? It was probably all part of her plan. He wouldn't normally assume a kid could come up with something so involved, but having gotten to know Sage, he had no doubt she could pull it off.
He saw a small figure approaching slowly through the grass, attempting to make it passed him unnoticed. It was dark, but he could tell who it was immediately because of his parental instinct… or maybe it was just because she was the only kid he'd seen on the planet. Either way, he knew it was Sage.
"Does your nighttime routine usually include sneaking out of your house?"
Her shoulders slumped; she knew she'd been caught.
"On a Pre-Prodos night, it does," she grinned.
Finn laughed. She was more like him than she likely realized.
"Have you written your big speech yet?"
"I'm… working on it."
He raised an eyebrow. "Yes, I can see that."
She giggled, and Finn felt his heart swell.
"I finished most of it last night, actually. It just needs some changes."
"I'm sure it'll be amazing," he beamed at her, feeling an odd sense of pride.
"I hope so," she sighed.
There was an awkward silence while Finn decided how to bring up the subject that really needed bringing up. He had to go about it delicately. He strongly suspected she knew, but he didn't want to say too much incase he was wrong.
"I heard an interesting tidbit of information a little bit ago about the Prodos ceremony."
"You did? What was it?"
"I learned that the ceremony takes place on a child's twelfth birthday."
He paused to gauge her reaction. Her face showed the look of shock for the smallest of moments before returning to normal. He continued.
"I'm not sure if your mom ever told you this, but the time she came to visit me on Catara took place almost thirteen years ago, and-"
"I know," she said, interrupting him. "I've known for a while."
"And you know what that means, right?"
"Yes," she said. "I know exactly what that means."
She kept her head down, like she was ashamed. It broke his heart to see her this way. How brave she was to invite him here, not knowing if he'd be happy to find out that he was a father.
He was happy. Shocked, a bit terrified, but still happy.
"You don't have to look so sad, sweetheart. You've done nothing wrong. This is great news!"
Her demeanor changed instantly. "Really?"
"Of course! Now I can walk you down the aisle tomorrow. That's why you invited me here, right? You wanted your father to present you at the ceremony! Does Rey know?"
She shook her head vigorously. "She has no idea that I know anything about this at all."
"Then it'll be our secret until the ceremony."
Interesting. He was curious how she'd found out. Surely, it was with the help of Chewbacca, but how did he find out? Ultimately, it didn't really matter, so he decided to save that question for another time.
"I have to go now," she said suddenly.
He couldn't imagine what could possibly be more pressing at that moment. Then again, he had never been a pre-teen girl, so it could have been anything.
"Don't stay out too late now," he said in his best parent voice. He knew kids didn't like being told what to do, but it was his responsibility. He was a father now, after all. "You've got a big day tomorrow."
She nodded hastily and ran off without another word.
Sage rounded the corner and raced behind The Grecian, careful to avoid being seen again. Uncle Chewie and her mum would be busy in the kitchen, she knew, but they kept all of their extra drinks and supplies out back. The last thing she needed right now was to get into more trouble than she was already in.
She'd been so elated after her conversation with Ben Solo; she felt so sure he was her father. She never thought she'd feel the same way when talking to Finn. And now she'd gone and agreed to let both of these men present her at the Prodos. Her stomach sank.
What had she gotten herself into?
When she was about to round the next corner, she heard two voices.
"I can't." It sounded like Poe Dameron.
"What's wrong? It's just me," said the other voice. Sage knew instantly it was Auntie Rose.
"I'm not sure I can do this right now. I'm sorry."
"'Right now?' If the last fifteen years have taught me anything, it's that all we have is 'right now.'"
Sage wasn't sure what they were talking about, a feeling she was familiar with where grown-up conversations were concerned.
"But the choice is yours," Auntie Rose continued. "I hope you don't end up regretting it. It would have been a lot of fun."
She heard Poe call Rose's name before she looked around the corner to see her aunt leaving the scene in a hurry.
That's when he noticed her.
"What were you and Auntie Rose talking about?"
"Oh! Uh," he ran his fingers through his hair and scratched the back of his head. "Just some boring adult stuff. You wouldn't be interested."
She seriously doubted that. It certainly sounded interesting.
He looked contemplative for a moment before breaking out into the brightest smile she was sure she'd ever seen on a human being.
"I hear you have a birthday tomorrow?!"
"I do," she said cautiously. If Finn knew enough to figure it out, did Poe?
"And I understand you'll be twelve?"
"Yup!" Oh no. She knew what was coming.
"Hm," he said, nodding his head. He then took a moment to look around fondly at their surroundings. "This place is truly incredible. I've been here before; not to Flam specifically, but I've been to Hay Tor. That was almost-"
"Thirteen years ago," she finished for him.
"That's right," he said, surprised. "I saw your mom in Hay Tor City, and… then…"
"Then, twelve-and-a-half years later, I invite you here."
He took a step back, eyes wide. "So it's true then. It has to be. I'm your father."
She nodded, slightly bothered by the fact that she felt just as sure as he sounded.
An eternity passed, or so it seemed. She understood he'd be shocked and need some time to come to terms with it, but he looked downright terrified.
"No one else knows; I don't plan on telling Mum or anyone," she said, hoping to make him feel a little more at ease.
Her voice seemed to snap him out of his trance. He looked down at her and smiled gently.
"Sorry. I'm just surprised, is all. But, Sage, this is incredible! You're very clever- and a little rebellious, too, I must say. Kinda like me," he chuckled. "I guess I should have known."
She was relieved, for a moment.
"Who's presenting you with your mom tomorrow?"
"Nobody," she lied. She'd said it without even thinking and instantly regretted it. But still, how would she have ever explained what was really going on?
"Wrong," he smirked. "I am."
She felt her panic rising. She was suddenly out of breath and feeling lightheaded.
"Okay. I'll see you tomorrow," she said hurriedly. He said something in response, but she didn't hear. All she knew was that she needed to get out of there.
She could hear the band more clearly as she ran towards the front of The Grecian. Everyone was on the front patio, dancing the night away, unaware that the little girl who'd brought them there was several feet away, fighting back sobs.
Great. Now all three men thought they were her real father, and all three had offered to present her at the Prodos. How was she going to tell two of them that she wasn't their daughter after all? Which two would she tell? She wasn't any closer to figuring it out than she was when she'd first read her mum's journal.
Mum. Oh, was she going to hear it from her when she found out! There was no way she'd be able to keep it a secret forever. How could she have been so foolish? How stupid she was to have ever thought this plan could work. The only way to maybe save this was to find out who her real father was. There had to be a clue somewhere, something hidden on a page that she completely missed. She had to think.
She couldn't think.
The music was too loud; the adults were too rowdy. There were so many of them, and they had all come to see her. Of course, she had to go and mess it all up!
The painful sobs that had been building finally let themselves out. She tried to catch her breath, but her body seemed to be working for the opposing team. The usual picture-perfect surroundings steadily became blurry (and only partially from the tears). She shook her head to try and clear her vision, but it only made matters worse.
She swayed ungracefully as she stumbled through the grass, trying desperately not to trip over any rocks on the way. She could barely make out the figures on The Grecian patio, but she knew they were there, and she knew she had to get to them.
Help, she failed to scream.
And everything went black.
Rey woke up with the sun shining directly in her face. She slipped out of bed and got dressed, careful not to wake Ben, who had rolled onto his back sometime during the night. He had his arm draped across his eyes, snoring softly. It was kind of funny to see him like this: completely at peace, not conflicted about the past or the future. And entirely vulnerable. If death was the great equalizer, then sleep was a close second.
She shook her head as she watched him, almost willing to believe it was all just a Force-dream that would end at any second. What she needed to do, she decided, was to write it all down so she'd never forget. She reached into her belonging bag, which was empty otherwise, and pulled out the orange journal she hadn't bothered to unpack. She laughed to herself as she read the first entry, before flipping to the second page and writing the next one.
She grabbed an ep on her way out the door, wanting something to hold her over until she and Ben could eat together. She sauntered down to the edge of the river, to what had become "her" spot on the beach. In the near distance, she could see the passenger ferry beginning its journey to Hay Tor City, where she had been only days before. She smiled. Then she frowned.
She was happy. And that scared her. Happiness, like everything else, had a way of leaving.
There was still so much about the future that was uncertain, especially in regards to Ben and what he might do. She knew what she wanted him to do, but admitting it would mean opening herself up to disappointment, to the possibility of getting hurt. It was all in his hands.
Force be with her.
She felt it then. He appeared in front of her without much warning. He had only bothered to get half-dressed, though she wasn't going to complain about it this time around.
"This is even easier now than it was before," he said.
"Good morning," she smiled.
"You're at the same spot by the river. Let me join you."
"Very well. But bring breakfast."
A little while later, he was sitting next to her on the sand, playfully accusing her of trying to hog the bed.
"At one point, you rolled onto your stomach and stretched out your legs. I almost ended up on the floor."
Tears filled Rey's eyes as she laughed. Poe had complained about the same thing once or twice; she wasn't going to tell Ben that, though.
"I'm happy you find the idea of me falling so amusing." His voice was flat but he was grinning at her. "We'll see who's laughing tonight when I push you off the bed." He picked up a piece of eggy toast that was sitting on the plate in between them and took a bite.
Rey's heart leapt. He was already planning on them spending another night together. That was a good start.
"Ben, I think we should talk about last night."
He raised an eyebrow.
"I mean, really talk about it," she laughed, trying desperately to keep the mood light.
"I see," he said, looking concerned. "Are you having any regrets?"
"No!" she answered quickly. "None at all."
His face relaxed. "Good. Because I thought it was amazing. And not just because… you know… I mean because you actually-" he stopped himself and looked at her, serious. "Rey, I think it may have been the most amazing night of my life."
"It meant a lot to me, too. All of it," she said, smiling. "Which is why I want to say something. And I want you to really hear me out before you respond."
He placed the piece of toast back on the plate and looked at her, letting her know that she had his full attention.
"Last night, when I told you that I could stay here forever... I wasn't kidding. I love everything about it: the landscape, the way of life, the people, the food. I've never felt more connected to a place before. I want to stay here. And I think you should stay with me."
There. She'd said it.
His face didn't give much away, unfortunately. She wasn't able to gauge any type of reaction until he spoke.
"I only wish it were that simple for me."
Her stomach began to sink, but no- she wasn't going to accept defeat that easily. She was just getting started.
"It is that simple. Everything is, at least it can be." She really believed that. She needed him to believe it, too.
He didn't look convinced, though, so she decided to reveal more. "I had an idea yesterday, about the complex. The Restored Republic paid me for my service to the Resistance; I could use that money to fix it up and restore it to its former glory. You could help me."
He gave a small smile. "We could make it the grand tavern you saw in your vision."
"Yes, exactly!" She was pleased he seemed to be coming onboard, but she still had some persuading to do.
"We could stay in Flam and run the tavern. It's a small enough town; no one would ever have to know that you're here."
"Hm," he said. She started to sense conflict coming from him. Encouraged that he seemed to be giving it some thought, she continued. "The Force led us both to Hay Tor, Ben. To this exact village. I know it probably sounds silly, but… I don't think that's a coincidence."
She felt her cheeks grow warm, worried that she had revealed too much. But she wanted to lay it all on the line... well, almost all of it. He now knew that she wanted him to stay but, unless he could sense it through the Force, he didn't know how badly.
Everything was silent for a minute while she let him mull it over. She didn't want to pressure him, but she was growing restless. His face was pensive, but not much else. Whatever feelings he had were now deeply controlled; she no longer felt a smidge of anything coming from him. The Force and its energy were still.
"Please say something," she said. "I've got to know what you're thinking."
"I'm thinking," he smirked, "that you should eat your breakfast."
She rolled her eyes at his reply, causing him to chuckle.
"I'll think it over, I promise," he sighed. "I'm afraid that's the best I can do right now."
"And I don't think it's silly," he said, leaning in closer. "I think it's the best idea I've heard in a long time."
He met her lips with his, and she responded enthusiastically, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him to her. Ben pushed the plate out of the way as he followed her to the ground.
It wasn't exactly what she'd hoped for, but it was enough. For now.
- The exchange where Rey asks Ben what he's thinking was inspired by a similar exchange from the movie, Guys and Dolls.
Chapter 14: Knowing Me, Knowing You
Moods for Chapter 14:
"Stronger"~ Britney Spears
"Wide Awake"~ Katy Perry
"Working My Way Back To You"~ Jersey Boys (Original Broadway Cast)
"Everytime We Touch" (slow version)~ Cascada
"Fine By Me"~ Andy Grammer
"Leave (Get Out)" (2018 version)~ JoJo
"When Your Mind's Made Up"~ Once (Original Broadway Cast)
"There's a Fine, Fine Line"~ Avenue Q (Original Broadway Cast)
"Scream"~ High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Motion Picture Soundtrack)
*The song featured in this chapter is "Dream a Little Dream of Me" by The Mamas and The Papas, with slightly altered lyrics*
Rey was proud of Chewbacca. He'd had a rough start, but he was finally settling into a groove. The Grecian was usually able to keep a rather steady flow of guests, but nothing like this. Rey wasn't sure how she was managing it, either, if she was being honest.
Chewie growled something in Shyriiwook.
"I'll get another keg. You keep serving," Rey said. Apparently, they had underestimated how much ep cider a crowd could drink.
Rey exited the kitchen and stepped outside, knowing immediately she'd made the right decision. She suspected the fresh Torese air would do her some good.
In reality, she'd always known they'd find out she had a daughter sooner or later. She would have rather told them on her own terms, but she never thought they would invite themselves over to the pre-Prodos. She was kind of hoping they'd just… stay in the cottage all night doing nothing.
Okay, so maybe she should have thought ahead a bit more. She'd forgive herself this time, though, given the circumstances. She had been a bit distracted.
He just had to join them, didn't he?
The dinner was nice otherwise. For a few moments, it almost felt like they were back at The Oxford, celebrating the end of the war and the uncertainty of what would come next. She was genuinely happy to catch up with Finn and Poe. For a few precious moments, it felt like everything was back together as it always should have been. She'd missed her friends dearly, and she wanted them to meet her child. After all, Sage belonged to one of them as well. That's why she invited them to the ceremony, all three of them.
There was still anger there; she could feel it. She was sure the others could feel it, too. But once the invitation was out in the open, she had to invite Ben as well, or it would have made the situation even more uncomfortable. Why two men she trusted with her life suddenly decided to include the former Supreme Leader in on their wanderings, she had no idea. It would have been so much better if he hadn't shown up in Flam at all.
And yet, a tiny bit of her was happy he did.
But she didn't dwell on that thought. Oh no. Not this time.
She'd been so close... so close to forgetting. It wasn't fair.
She opened the door to the small shed which housed all the cider and, using the Force, picked one off the ground and set it beside her feet. It landed with a loud thud.
What incredible gall he had! What absolute nerve! She thought she made it perfectly clear when he left that she didn't want him to come back. Ever.
She turned around when she heard pebbles shuffling. It was him. Interesting timing.
"I've been looking for you," Ben said, approaching with caution.
"I went to help Chewie, like I said." She wasn't trying to sound passive aggressive, but she wasn't going to apologize for it coming out that way.
"I guess we kept missing each other," he said, taking a step forward. She stepped back automatically. "I looked around the cantina, the patio. I finally saw Chewie in the kitchen; he told me you'd be back here."
Damn it, Chewbacca.
"You've really done something remarkable with this place," he continued. "Is there still a communal washroom?" He smirked.
She rolled her eyes but smiled anyway. "No. It's been converted into more guestrooms. And each one has its own private washroom. I didn't think communal bathing would go over well nowadays, even in a place as traditional as Flam."
Ben gave a half-hearted chuckle and nodded his head.
Rey didn't have time for this kind of small talk. She needed to get back to her hostess duties.
"Was there something I could help you with?"
He looked hurt, almost.
"It's about your daughter," he said.
"Let me guess," she sighed. "She and her friends are spying on the adult festivities? That's alright; they sneak out all the time during their little slumber parties. I was hoping they'd forgo it tonight, seeing as it's such a big day tomorrow…"
"She's very strong with the Force," he stated.
Strong with the Force? How in the galaxy would he know a thing like that?
"You've seen her?"
"Only briefly, while she was sneaking around," he said casually. "But long enough to sense her potential." He looked at her then, with a certain tinge of sadness behind his eyes. "She looks just like you."
"Yes, I know," Rey said, suddenly wishing he'd look at her in another way. Any other way.
His voice changed its tone. "Do you think it's wise? For her to take vows and commit herself to this place at such a young age?"
She narrowed her eyes at him. "I beg your pardon?"
"She would do well on the Jedi path; you know she would. She should learn it. She has the potential to do amazing things in the galaxy."
Rey laughed. Was he seriously trying to tell her how to raise her daughter?
"None of that is any of your concern, Ben. When she asks about the Force, I teach. But the rest is up to her. You of all people should know that forcing the Jedi path onto someone else never ends well."
He didn't have a response to that.
"And what gives you the right to waltz up to me after all these years and tell me how to raise my own child? You, who knows nothing about love or family, don't have the slightest clue about Sage or what she needs. I've done just fine without you, thank you very much, and I don't need a-"
She felt it then. It was like a punch to the gut.
The band had stopped playing. That was the first thing she noticed. The next thing she noticed was an ear-piercing growl. She raced so fast in Chewie's direction that she didn't bother to be annoyed at Ben's following right behind her.
When Rey arrived at the scene, she was already in tears. She didn't think too much about what she expected to find, but it was much worse than anything she would have imagined.
A crowd of Pre-Prodos attendees were circled around Chewbacca, who was kneeling in the grass with Sage's head on his lap. Blood was everywhere, including on a rock that sat near the Wookiee's leg, no bigger than the head it had injured. Sage wasn't moving.
"No, little Petia, no! Sage!" Rey kneeled next to Chewie, who was trying with all his might to stop the bleeding. Voices from the crowd were trying to tell her that help was on the way. But that wasn't good enough. Sage needed her now.
She didn't even think. She just screamed.
Ben pushed the rest of the way through the crowd and joined Rey and Chewie on the ground.
"Ben," she repeated her desperate plea, unable to say anything else.
Without any hint of hesitation, he gently nudged Chewie's furry paws out of the way and placed his hands over the wound, closing his eyes. In a fraction of a second, the blueish-green light that Rey knew well shot out of his palms and surrounded them.
The blood stopped its steady trickle, providing Rey with an instant sense of comfort. Ben looked at ease; he wasn't struggling or shaking. Still, she placed her hands on his forearm, as she had once before in this very village. This time, though, she wasn't sure if he needed it.
As soon as she touched him, waves of energy traveled through the Force and hit her, causing her to gasp. The light grew more vibrant and spread out further, reaching the crowd of stunned onlookers. She heard his voice through the Force.
The wound is shrinking, I can feel it. She's going to be okay.
Not even a minute later, Ben removed his hands. Besides the residual blood on Sage's hair, on the rock, and on Chewie, there was no sign that anything had happened at all. Sage was still unconscious, but she was breathing. Rey let out of whimper of pure joy, horribly aware of the infinite ways it could have ended differently. She looked at Ben.
"Thank you," was all she could say.
Ben nodded and stood up, after which Miles and Edna approached with a med droid.
"She appears to be healed," said the robotic voice. "She should be taken to the unit just to make sure."
Rey stood to help Chewie and the Venns carry Sage to the medical unit in the main part of the village. As they followed the droid, Rey took an opportunity to glance at Ben, who was slowly walking back to the cottage.
There'd be more time to hate him tomorrow, she reasoned. At that moment, however, she couldn't have been more grateful to see him.
The water in the bathing pool was no longer warm, but Rey didn't care. She was perfectly comfortable.
Ben was sitting in the pool, leaning back against the edge. Rey was nestled into him, her back supported by his chest. They were both relaxing after a long, rainy day of hiking through the mountains (among other rainy-day activities). Her eyes were closed; she suspected his were, too. Neither of them said anything. They just breathed.
Several days had passed since she'd asked him to stay. She hadn't brought it up since then and wasn't sure when she planned to again. As much as she longed for a real answer, she didn't think pestering him would do much good. Though he hadn't announced a decision to stay in Flam, he also hadn't made any other reference to him leaving. He'd actually made a few passing comments about what could be done to fix up the complex. He was thinking it over, just like he'd promised.
In the meantime, she was going to savor each and every blissful moment, like the one she was currently in.
She'd been wrapped up in another person's arms before, but never like this. They had even been people she cared about deeply, people she would have given her life to protect. People she loved. But this was different.
She wasn't sure if she could accurately put a name to this feeling. Maybe it was something just scratching the surface of love, or maybe it wasn't even close. Maybe it was something emphatically more.
Maybe she was too afraid to think about it.
She heard Ben take a loud, deep breath. He let out a yawn just as loudly.
"I'm sorry for waking you up so early this morning." She wasn't really, but it felt like the right thing to say.
Ben chuckled. "Let me make one thing very clear: if you're going to wake me up like that, then I don't care what damn time it is."
Rey laughed and laid back further into him. He unwrapped his arms from around her stomach and traced his fingertips down her wrists. He interlaced his fingers with hers and squeezed her hand gently.
"I haven't heard you sing since the night you arrived in Flam," he said, kissing the top of her head. "Sing for me."
A nervous flutter rippled through her stomach. "Right now?"
"Please," he whispered into her hair.
Once again, Rey found herself making a mental list of the shortest songs she knew. She decided to go with the one Rose always claimed to be her favorite.
"Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper I love you
Porgs singing on the cliffs by the sea
Dream a little dream of me
Say nighty night and kiss me
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me
While I'm alone and blue as can be
Dream a little dream of me
Stars fading but I linger on, dear
Still craving your kiss
I'm longing to linger till dawn, dear
Just saying this
Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries far behind you
But in your dreams, whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me"
She held her breath when she finished, waiting for him to say something.
"Perfect," he said. "I'll never get tired of hearing your voice."
He couldn't see, but she grinned from ear to ear. She couldn't help it.
A little while later, the pair were squeaky clean and freshly dressed. Rey was alone in the house, as Ben had taken off for a quick trip to Undredal. He wanted to make something called a leta for dinner, but it required several eggs, and they were almost out of them. While he was gone, Rey's job was to slice up some vegetables; a task appropriate to her skill level. She opened a cabinet to retrieve a bowl and noticed the barely-touched bottle of wine from days ago. She decided that tonight would be a good night to finish it.
She reached into the cabinet, grabbing the bottle with one hand and its two accompanying glasses with the other. As she pulled her arm back, she accidentally bumped the bottom edge of the cabinet with the foot of one of the glasses, instantly yanking it from her grip. It landed on the floor and shattered.
"Shit!" she yelled, jumping back to avoid the broken bits of glass. They seemed to have gone everywhere; luckily, a broom was readily available to sweep up the pieces.
Once she was sure the floor was clean, she searched the cabinets for another wine glass. There wasn't one. She could use another type of glass, of course, but it felt wrong to drink Undrealian wine from anything undeserving.
She knew there were more wine glasses nearby; she'd seen them before, on the night she happened upon Ben in the cottage. The night he sliced her arm with his lightsaber, then stopped her kiss from going any further.
Rey giggled to herself as she made her way up the hill, shaking her head at the memory of how they both had acted that night.
They'd certainly come a long way since then.
She stepped inside the small living space, noting how much bigger it looked in the daylight. She hadn't stepped foot in the cottage again since the first time; she never had a reason to. Through some sort of mutual understanding, her makeshift home had suddenly become their makeshift home. It was never discussed, it just happened.
She entered the tiny kitchen, preparing to begin her hunt, when she heard a soft beep. Shrugging the sound aside, she picked a cabinet and searched inside but didn't see what she was looking for. She was about to check the next cabinet when she heard another beep. She turned her head to the left. The sound seemed to be coming from inside one of the drawers underneath the wash basin. She stared at them for a moment, completely transfixed.
The energy in the room suddenly darkened. The Force had shifted.
When another beep sounded, Rey let her curiosity get the better of her. She opened the drawers beneath the wash basin until she saw it: a small, box-shaped comm device. It was old, grossly outdated, but was in good condition. And it was beeping, which meant it contained a message.
Why hadn't she heard the comm device when she was here several nights ago? Perhaps the sound of the rain had drowned out the beeping. Surely, though, Ben would have noticed it before that moment. The message had to have been sent recently.
Rey's stomach sank, afraid to think about what that meant.
It didn't have to mean anything, really. The device could have been left here long ago and just so happened to have picked up a recent message. It wasn't completely far-fetched. It was very possible that Ben knew nothing about this at all.
Even before she played the message, before the holographic image of General Armitage Hux stared into the empty space around her, she knew that wasn't true.
"Supreme Leader Ren," General Hux began.
The Resistance had never received a solid confirmation of his death and had long suspected he'd survived the attack. She was surprised anyway. She was also surprised at the way he greeted Kylo Ren. Though he said the words, "Supreme Leader," they were just words. There was no weight behind them. He might as well have been addressing a child.
"I'm aware that this is not the time I normally make contact, but I have urgent information to share with you."
So this wasn't a one-time thing. Fuck.
I'd much rather share it in person, of course, but as you refuse to tell us where you are…"
He sounded agitated. He took a breath to calm himself before continuing.
"Our offer has been accepted. This is good news, but we must move quickly. Whatever information you have obtained must be enough for now, for there is work to do."
The first emotion to set in was panic. Rey raced through every word she'd ever uttered to Ben. She wanted to be sure she hadn't said anything that would compromise the safety of the Restored Republic or its allies. She breathed a sigh of relief. No. She'd been very careful not to reveal too much. As it turned out, it had been with good reason.
When the panic subsided, a plethora of emotions hit her so quickly that she couldn't process them all at once.
No. No. No! This couldn't be happening. Ben couldn't have betrayed her, not the Ben she knew now. He was going to come in any second now and shake her awake from this nightmare.
A wave of nausea hit her as Hux's voice continued. This was real.
"By the way, I believe congratulations are in order. Princess Sophie will make a lovely bride; I am envious. The announcement has been made and will immediately follow this communication. Inform me the minute you receive it. We will need to see your return as soon as possible. Until we meet again, Supreme Leader," he nodded, and his image disappeared.
Not a second later, holographic General Hux was replaced by a HoloCard announcement; an engagement announcement. There were two images on it: one was of Ben (though he was referred to as "Supreme Leader Kylo Ren" on the card), and the other was of a girl. Rey recognized her immediately as the young woman who she'd accidentally seen in Ben's mind. The HoloCard referred to her as simply "Princess Sophie." What she was princess of, Rey had no idea. All she knew was that Ben was engaged. He was in contact with the First Order remnants, and he hadn't told her about any of it. She felt completely gutted.
Rey, where did you go?
She was seething. She didn't even try to hide it.
He arrived before she had time to decide if she really wanted him to.
"I didn't see you when I returned, I was worried that-"
He froze when he saw the comm device sitting on the counter.
He tried to speak, but Rey cut him off.
"There's a message for you," she said cooly before replaying the comm.
Whatever doubts she had of her interpretation of Hux's words were erased upon the second playback. She watched Ben carefully, hand ready to grab her lightsaber if necessary, though she still trusted him enough to think it wouldn't be.
He looked shocked at first, but then his face morphed into a sort of painful acceptance. He kept his eyes low, just barely able to see the HoloCard when it was displayed. When it was over, he looked right at her and dared to take a step forward.
"Can I expl-"
"No! You can't. I don't want to hear it. You can do absolutely nothing right now except answer my questions."
He nodded his head in response.
Rey chose to start with the most pressing matter.
"Is my life in danger?"
"No," he said incredulously. "No one but us knows that I've seen you."
That was most likely true. As of now, at least, no remnants had come to capture her. This was further reinforced by Hux mentioning that Ben had refused to reveal his location to the First Order. Okay. She'd give him that one.
"Hux said he doesn't normally contact you at this time. How often do you speak with him?"
He sighed. "We send a comm every other day or so."
That meant they'd spoken at least a few times since she'd arrived in Flam. She suddenly felt disgusted with herself, so very used.
"What 'information' have you obtained?"
He shook his head. "None. Long before you even arrived, I told them I was close to finding intel so they'd leave me alone. I've kept up with the charade. Apart from that, I haven't told them anything."
"Because I haven't told you anything!"
His mouth formed a thin, straight line.
Had this been his plan the whole time she'd been in Flam: get close to her, gather information, and then leave?
"And if I'd made a mistake?" she said. "If I'd let something slip about the Restored Republic, about my friends, the people I love… what would you have told them then?"
He lowered his head.
"I don't know."
Her eyes watered. The crack in the foundation of the man she thought she knew was splitting open. Did he realize how much he was letting her down? Did he even care?
"Why did you lie to me?"
His head snapped back up. "I didn't!"
"You did." Her tone was razor-sharp, decimating any hope he might've had that this conversation would end in his favor.
"I admit that there are some things I kept to myself," he said, voice giving way to frustration, "but I never said anything to you that wasn't true. I meant every word. You must believe that."
She wasn't sure what to believe, so she moved on to the final matter.
"The woman in the HoloCard... I saw her before, when I entered your mind a week ago, in this very room. You are engaged to her?"
"Yes, but that was-"
"How long did you think you could keep this from me? After everything you've done, after everything you let happen between us, all the while knowing you were going to marry someone else- do you really believe I could ever forgive you?" She wasn't looking for an answer, and he didn't give one.
It all tragically came together: There was never a decision to make. He'd already chosen someone else well before she came into the picture. He had always planned to leave. The rest was just for show.
She realized then that her heart was broken, and there was no going back. She was far beyond giving him any more chances. The walls were about to crumble, and she refused to be buried.
"I want you to leave."
"Leave! The last ferry departs in ten minutes. You have until then to gather your things and leave or, Force help me, I will make you."
He didn't try to argue.
She could feel her eyes filling up. She didn't want to cry, not here. Not in front of him. She was hurting. Stars, was she hurting! But she'd be damned if he knew.
She walked passed him without a glance. Before she could reach the doorway, he spoke.
She turned her body just enough to respond.
"Still in effect. Let's just forget any of this ever happened. As far as I'm concerned, you were never here, and you never will be. I never want to see you again."
She walked out of the cottage for the second time in her life, feeling even more foolish than the first.
Minutes later, she watched from the beach as the ferry carried Ben away from her, not willing to admit how badly she wished it would turn back.
- I had only a minor emotional breakdown while writing this chapter. "Love is giving someone the power to destroy you... and trusting them not to." But, damn, sometimes they do. Poor Rey :(
Chapter 15: S.O.S.
Moods for Chapter 15:
"One Less Bell to Answer/A House is Not a Home"~ Glee cover
"Emotions"~ Destiny's Child
"Without You"~ Dixie Chicks
"Blank Space"~ Taylor Swift
"I Need Somebody"~ Bryan Adam
"Walk Through My Door"~ Gaelic Storm
"Can't Stop This Thing We've Started"~ Bryan Adams
"If Ever You're in My Arms Again"~ Peabo Bryson
She hadn't consumed any alcohol since he'd left.
She wanted to, of course. After watching him leave, it had been the second thing she thought of to do (the first being: cry). As she made her way about the house, however, she realized how empty it suddenly felt. She was alone. Alone and upset. Given the little she knew about her familial issues, she didn't trust herself to not take things too far. Not yet. She thought it best to give it some time.
After a full two days of self-pity sessions, she realized that she needed to get away for a few days. She told herself it was for her own safety. Though their agreement was still intact, the logical part of her couldn't be sure Ben would uphold his end of the deal. For all she knew, the First Order remnants were already on their way to Flam, ready to take her out. (Not that they'd ever succeed; it wasn't like they could just fly their ships into the village.)
But every other part of her knew he'd never say anything. She'd made a similar gamble before and lost, but this time was different. Despite all of his other deception, she was sure he'd keep Flam a secret.
In reality, she needed to get away because every little thing reminded her of him, and she couldn't handle it. The wound was still too fresh.
She briefly considered leaving Hay Tor altogether, but she felt that the Force wasn't done with her quite yet. Maybe it was just wishful thinking. The Force had led her here because it had her destiny in store. She still needed to find it; she hoped to the stars it had nothing to do with him.
Instead, she'd settled on a short visit to Hay Tor City. She'd chosen a room at a popular tavern called the Melting Mountain that just so happened to have a clear view of the travel bay. It couldn't hurt to keep an eye on the ships entering and exiting, right? For her own safety, of course. The basement of the tavern was a bustling, dimly-lit cantina, and it's where she found herself on her first evening in the city.
Rey sat at one of the Melting Mountain's many secluded tables, second-guessing her decision to come downstairs and try to socialize. She didn't feel like being by herself, but she also didn't feel like bothering to introduce herself to anyone. She found that she was quite content to watch the other cantina-goers strike business deals and suffer through awkward flirting attempts. It helped distract her from the pain that hit whenever her mind cruelly reminded her that she hadn't been enough of a reason for Ben to stay.
As her eyes scanned the crowd, they stopped on a familiar face on the other side of the room. He was sitting with a small group of people, smiling confidently. It was Tav- the Senator's assistant she'd met on Parstran. He'd been the one to suggest that she visit his home planet in the first place. He'd made another suggestion, too, and had been very cordial when she'd decided against it. Right now, she wasn't sure she would make the same decision.
Hadn't he offered to show her around Hay Tor? She could always take him up on it. She had a sneaking suspicion she knew where that would lead, but she had zero qualms about it. He was handsome, and she was heartbroken. She was reminded of Feena's philosophy: "The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else." It had never sounded reasonable until that very moment.
She stood up from her cushioned seat and began her stroll to the other side of the room. But as she passed the bar counter, she heard-
She looked to her left to see the form of Poe Dameron approaching her with arms wide open.
The relief was instant. She wasn't sure how long she stood there hugging him, but it was long enough for him to get the message.
"I know," he said softly. "I've missed you, too." It was a far cry from his usual electric enthusiasm. When they finally stepped back, he nodded to the empty table from which she'd just emerged
"Let's head over there and catch up," Poe said.
Rey nodded and followed him to the bar so he could grab the drink he'd left sitting on the counter. He offered to buy her one, but she shook her head.
"I'm laying off adult beverages for a few weeks, but thank you."
Poe raised his eyebrow for a moment, then shrugged and ordered her mix of fruit juices. It was what she used to drink before her inaugural outing to downtown Sen Marketplace.
"So. Hay Tor, huh?" he said as they both sat down next to each other. "How did you ever hear of this place? I didn't even know it existed until General Organa mentioned that she met its senator."
"I didn't know about it either. Someone I met on Parstran recommended it."
"You went to Parstran?!"
"Yes. Queen's Beatrice's suggestion. I loved every second."
He looked at her in amazement. "Wow! You've been all over. Here, Parstran… where else have you been?"
"I went to Catara and ran into Finn, but I guess you already knew that."
He closed his eyes and nodded. "That's right, you got to see our little student in action," he smiled brightly. "I really miss that kid. I should pay him a visit soon, I've just been so busy with Guard business."
Poe took a sip of his drink, then added, "By the way, you'll be interested to know that our investigation into the Captain Yuri matter found that the First Order lost contact with him several months ago. The remnants weren't targeting you; he was acting all on his own."
It did make her feel better about that particular incident, but it was lightyears away from what was troubling her.
"That's good to know. Thank you for telling me." She took a drink of the juice mixture. It was a little too sweet for her to prefer it over other beverages, but it had an okay flavor. It would do for now. "Is that why you're in Hay Tor? Restored Republic Guard business?"
"Oh, no. Not at all," he chuckled. "I'm actually here on leave. Sentor Gruklo really talked it up to the General, who then talked it up to me. It certainly hasn't disappointed."
"How long is your leave?"
"It was only for two days," he said sadly. "It's not so much 'leave' as it is a last little break before, uh…" He lowered his voice and eyed her carefully. "I shouldn't really be telling you this, but… you're Rey, so I feel it's okay. We have a big mission coming up. I honestly don't know too many details yet, but it sounds pretty involved. I report back tomorrow afternoon."
She wondered how much, if anything, this mission had to do with Kylo Ren, but she dared not ask. Regardless of who she was, she wasn't in the military forces anymore. She didn't want to push Poe to go against the code. It may not have been information he was privy to anyway.
"Well, I wish you the best on your mission. Although, I wish you could be here longer."
"So do I, especially now that I know you're here. How long do you plan on staying?"
She looked down and shrugged. "I don't know. I came here to find my destiny, but all I've managed to find is how to get my heart broken." She hadn't planned on saying that last bit, but apparently it wanted to come out.
"I see," Poe said. "So that explains the…" he pointed at her glass. "That's probably for the best. Using alcohol to dull the pain is a nasty habit to get into, as you are aware. My question for you now, though," he said, placing his glass on the table, "is who do I have to injure?"
She cracked a smile. "What?"
"Who was it? You have to tell me, so I can make sure he gets what's coming to him. No one hurts my Rey and escapes unscathed."
Rey laughed. Oh, it felt good to laugh!
"While I appreciate the sentiment, you don't need to worry. He's gone, and I'll never have to see him again."
He looked skeptical. "As long as you're okay."
"I am. At least, I will be."
She knew from experience that wounds that deep never truly went away. Still, she imagined the blow would soften over time. At that moment, though, Poe's presence was the only thing keeping her from having another breakdown.
"I don't doubt it; you're the strongest person I know," he said. "But I'm sorry you're going through it anyway. Men are jerks." He placed a hand on her knee and patted it lightly as a comforting gesture.
She breathed in and out slowly, savoring the sudden lightness in her chest. She let her silent gaze linger on his handsome face and wispy hair. Things with Poe were always so straight-forward and uncomplicated; it was what she appreciated most about his friendship.
A thought occurred to her then: Since he didn't have to leave until tomorrow morning, maybe he wouldn't mind uncomplicating her life a bit. Just for one night.
"There's always exceptions," she said softly. Following his lead, she placed a hand on his leg, though it was at a point much higher than his knee. "I'm just happy you're here." She gave him a look that clearly said this was more than a comforting gesture.
He withdrew his hand and stood up from their seat. Rey frowned, worried that he might have wanted to leave their friendly affair in the past. She didn't have to worry for long. Not a second later, he held out his hand to her once more.
"Your room, or mine?" he said with a grin.
A few hours later, Rey was sitting up in bed as she finished logging another entry into her journal. Poe had fallen asleep without bothering to cover his naked body with anything, which Rey found highly amusing. When she finished writing, she leaned over to toss the orange book back into her bag and blow out the candle on the bedside table. Only the soft glow of the moonlight remained.
She scooted down in the bed and rolled onto her side, snuggling into Poe's hips and lower torso. She reached down and pulled the top sheet up to her waist, not wanting to cut herself off completely from the perfectly cool air. She closed her eyes, praying that sleep would come quickly.
It had been a pleasant evening; as pleasant as one could expect, anyway. Poe was to thank for that. For a few blissful hours, he'd managed to keep her mind off Ben. She'd almost been able to pretend that she was back on Tuggatae, rendezvousing with Poe after a night of singing karaoke with Rose and Feena at The Oxford. It hadn't even been that long ago, but it felt like another lifetime. She remembered feeling so lost then. Lost and so very happy. But then again, maybe her memory was just being selective.
Rey was just starting to lose consciousness, when her eyes snapped open. It felt like someone was in the room, like she was being watched.
She sat up quickly and looked around, but no one was there. It must have been the beginnings of a dream, she reasoned. She yawned and returned to her warm spot against Poe's side. Before she drifted off to sleep, her mind played one final, happy memory:
'You are everything.'
Now, the next morning
"Never let me forget to take a razza pill again. Never, ever again," Feena said, rubbing her temples.
Rey placed a pile of toast and jam on the table. "To be honest, I'm surprised you made it over this early. I heard you had a busy night." She smirked.
"Not that busy. He ended up being a little… young for me. Young and clingy. I'm too old for that nonsense," Feena said, spreading jam on a piece of toast. "Surely Rose has a much more interesting story to tell."
Rose mumbled an incoherent response.
"What was that?" asked Feena.
Rose lifted her head from the table. "Don't hold your breath," she said.
"Oh," Feena frowned. "I thought I saw something happening between you and Poe."
"Poe?!" said Rey. The idea didn't bother her, it was just unexpected.
"Something was happening," Rose explained. "But then it got… weird. He seemed distracted. I don't know," she shrugged. "It probably could have gone somewhere, but he just wants to galavant around the galaxy and enjoy his retirement. Who could blame him?"
"What an interesting night for all of us," Feena said, her voice growing softer. "How is she doing, Rey?"
Rey looked at the top of the small staircase and sighed. "She's fine; she didn't have to stay in the unit for very long. The med droid said she was dehydrated and sleep-deprived."
"Poor Sagey," said Feena.
"It's all the pressure of the Prodos, I think. I suspect she's been staying up writing her speech." Rey shook her head. "That child is a perfectionist, a million times worse than I am."
"Well, thank the stars she's okay," said Rose. "Is she awake yet?"
Rey nodded. "She doesn't want to see anyone, though. She's only asked for-"
"Chewie!" Feena announced. The Wookiee growled his morning greetings as he marched down the stairs.
"How is she?" Rey asked, though she already knew the answer.
"Upset," he replied in Shyriiwook. "I did the best I could."
He exited with a furry shrug.
Rey knew her daughter. She knew the best thing to do, especially with Sage being the age she was, would be to leave her alone.
Like that was going to happen.
Rey told Rose and Feena to continue eating their breakfast, then hurried to the second floor. She passed the small guest room which housed a snoring Ari and Jaylana before entering Sage's bedroom. Sage was standing beside her bed, arms full of toiletries. Her face was damp and her eyes were red. Rey's heart broke.
"Happy birthday! Feeling any better?"
She didn't say anything, not at first. She stared at Rey, her mouth forming a quivering frown. Rey watched the tears resurface before a shaky voice said, "I don't know what to do."
Rey wasn't exactly sure what she meant. She could feel the panic and stress emanating from her daughter, and she felt the overwhelming urge to completely destroy whatever it was that made her feel that way. The most obvious cause was that Sage was stressed about the ceremony, about writing her speech and declaring what her goals were for her life on Hay Tor. Perhaps it was a little much for a newly twelve-year-old girl.
"You don't have to do anything, my little Petia. I'll handle everything. If you want, we can cancel the Prodos. Everyone will understand."
Sage's pitiful demeanor suddenly switched to one of hostility.
"Cancel the Prodos?!" she snapped. "That's not what I want, that's what you want!"
Sage rarely raised her voice; apparently Rey's innocent suggestion had struck a nerve.
"Birthday or not, you will watch your tone."
It was like Rey hadn't said a thing.
Sage let out a frustrated groan. "Ugh. You just don't get it!"
"What don't I get?"
"You didn't grow up here, so you don't understand! I don't want to be like you and learn the ways of the Jedi. That was great for you, but the Torese don't care about the Force. I want to be a Young Woman and take the Vows of the Seven Values and have both of my parents present me at my Prodos ceremony, just like everyone else!"
Rey didn't try to stop her as Sage rushed out of the room.
Her insides squirmed as the hand of guilt clenched them tightly. Sage had every right to be angry with her; it was her fault that Sage didn't know who her father was, after all. Hell, it was her own fault that she didn't know who the father was. She was well acquainted with the emptiness that accompanied not knowing such vital information. As Sage got older and began to ask more questions, Rey had hoped that having a mother would ease that yearning. Apparently it wouldn't.
And then she felt it.
It had been so long since the last time that she wasn't even sure it was still possible. It shouldn't have been. She thought she'd taken the necessary steps to make sure she never felt it again.
"You could have at least checked to make sure I was decent first."
Ben's form appeared in the room, dressed in dark trousers and a loose tunic, leaning against something she couldn't see.
"It's nothing I haven't seen before," he smirked.
It should have been funny, but Rey wasn't having it.
"You were supposed to leave me be."
"It's the healing, Rey. It strengthens our connection, gives us more control over it. I've been trying to reach you since I arrived, but it hasn't worked until now. I should have figured it out a long time ago."
He looked excited, as he had years ago when exploring their connection through the Force. She sighed. That wasn't what she meant.
"I will be forever grateful for what you did for my daughter last night, but-"
"How is she?"
"She's doing well, thank-"
"It was quite the injury. I was worried you'd have to cancel her ceremony."
"No, the Prodos is still on, but-"
"Good. She would have been-"
"Ben, listen to me!"
He stood up straight, his face becoming serious.
She looked at him for a moment, as if to make sure he was real, then shook her head. "You weren't supposed to come back." She averted her eyes. "And you certainly shouldn't be able to do this right now. I thought I made sure of that."
She looked at him once more as she focused her senses and pulled her energy away. She watched as the image of him began to fade.
His eyes widened. "You've closed yourself off from the Force, just like Luke."
"I haven't closed myself off from the Force," she said, sharply. "Just from you."
And then he was gone.
- The Melting Mountain got its name from a popular dish at Ale House called a "Zinger Mountain Melt." I was craving one when I wrote this chapter. :)
- The cantina itself is half-based on a hotel I stayed at in England, and half-based on Oga's Cantina at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Chapter 16: Mamma Mia! (II)
Moods for Chapter 16:
"Keep Holding On"~ Glee cover
"Better in Time"~ Leona Lewis
"Sun is Gonna Shine"~ Bright Star (Original Broadway Cast)
"I Move On"~ Chicago (Motion Picture Soundtrack)
*The song mentioned in this chapter is "I Think I'm in Love With You" by Jessica Simpson*
*The song featured in this chapter is "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips*
Then, several days later
Rey jumped up when she saw the passenger ferry approach the dock. She knew they were on this one. She ran along the shore, silently thanking Jakku for preparing her calves for the task. As she neared the small crowd of passengers, she spotted Feena easily. Rose was right behind her.
She called out to her friends, which ignited a chorus of excited screams and flailing arms. When she reached them, she threw one arm around each and squeezed them so tightly, she was sure there'd be permanent damage.
"Thank you so much for coming. I can't even begin to explain how happy I am to see you both."
"I'm only sorry we couldn't come sooner," said Feena, kissing Rey on the cheek. "We were finishing up some palace business when we received your comm."
"I hate that something so horrible happened to you in such a beautiful place," Rose said as she rubbed Rey's back. "But we're here now. And we're much better than some lying, cheating, two-faced bantha fodder."
Rey couldn't say she disagreed, though she wondered how much worse the insult would have been had Rose known exactly who she was insulting.
"You two must be hungry," Rey said, stepping back to give the girls some breathing room.
Feena placed a hand on her stomach. "That's an understatement."
"You're in luck," Rey smiled. "A very nice couple I met in Hay Tor City has just returned from their holiday. They're re-opening their restaurant today. We'll stop there first." Rey took one of Feena's belonging bags and led the trio toward the main village.
She walked slowly, allowing Rose and Feena to take in their surroundings. It hadn't been very long ago that she'd seen the Sogn River and its awe-inspiring mountains for the first time; she remembered what it was like. Flam had seemed almost like a dream then, like someplace she was in but couldn't quite reach. Now, it was a part of her.
She knew she wanted to stay, and not just for a short time. Even after everything that had happened with Ben, she felt like this was where she needed to be. There was still something for her here. The Venn's return the previous evening had only confirmed that fact.
They'd given her a short tour of the main village, which she instantly loved almost as much as the complex. They'd also given her some news. It must have seemed so trivial to them, for they'd mentioned it so casually and without any details. Rey had made a mental note to ask Rose and Feena about it.
Rey led the girls into the cozy red building and introduced them to Edna and Miles, who promptly invited them to sit down and look over the menu (which the Venns ended up explaining verbally, as it was written in Torese).
"It's a bit empty in here, isn't it?" Rey said, curious as to why they were the only ones in the restaurant.
"Aye, it is," said Miles. "I don't think the village expected us to be back yet. Our grandson came a little earlier than we thought." He gathered up the menus and went to the back to begin cooking.
"They'll figure it out eventually," Edna added, "unless we come up with a clever way to get the word out quickly."
"I think I know what might do the trick," said Rose, sounding pleased with herself.
"Do you now?" said Edna.
"Yes! If I'm not mistaken, Feena, you have something in one of your belonging bags that will grab some attention."
Feena broke out into a wide grin, which turned into a gleeful chuckle. "Oh, Rosie-Posie, you're a genius! It's perfect!"
"What is?" Rey said apprehensively. She didn't trust the little glint in her friends' eyes.
"It just so happens," Feena said, reaching into a bag, "I brought along a karaoke machine."
Damn you, Feena.
While the girls explained to Edna what karaoke even was (like many other aspects of the developing renaissance, karaoke hadn't yet reached the Outer Rim), Rey mulled over whether or not it was a good idea. She missed being part of Rey and the Resistance, of course, but performing took a lot of energy- energy that had been zapped out of her the moment she saw the comm from Hux. She wasn't sure she had it in her.
Unfortunately, Edna seemed absolutely thrilled by the idea, and Rey didn't want to let her down.
"How about it, Rey? Our patio is small, but it should do for one song."
Rey forced a smile. "I'd love to, but… let's eat first, yeah?" Rose and Feena nodded in agreement.
The food arrived a short time later. Edna and Miles left the trio to enjoy their meal while they set up microphones for the patio. It wasn't the first time the patio had been used for live music, Miles had explained, but it had been out of service for many years.
The Venns were not over exaggerating when they claimed to serve the best food on Hay Tor. Rey ordered a plate of meatballs in some type of specialty sauce; she couldn't believe how much flavor a tiny ball of meat could contain. She savored each bite. Before she lost too much focus, she decided to ask Rose and Feena about the information the Venns had so nonchalantly given her.
"I heard some news recently," she began. "Apparently, all the remnants of the First Order have been officially wiped out."
"Mhm," Feena hummed as she finished chewing. "It's true. The war is over. I mean, it was already over, but now it's… really over. The military is relocating the base and everything."
"I see." It was difficult to comprehend. There was no more First Order. None at all. Just like that.
Feena was in the middle of another bite, so Rose took over.
"Everything happened so quickly. The remnants tried to have General Organa assassinated while she was giving a speech to the Senate, but their attempt failed. They must have captured the culprits or tracked them when they tried to leave. Either way, they found where the First Order remnants were hiding and obliterated them. But this time, everyone was accounted for," she smiled. "They're gone."
Rey was happy to hear it, of course. At least now she knew that she was completely safe. It was good news. It was the best news, actually. Then why didn't she feel better about it?
Who was she trying to kid? She knew why.
"Even Kylo Ren? Did you hear what happened to him?"
Feena looked at Rey like a mother who was trying to comfort her child. "Don't worry, Rey, he's gone, too."
"They didn't kill him, unfortunately; he was captured with the rest, but that's all I've heard about it. And since they're moving the base off Tuggatae, that's probably the most I'll ever hear. The point is: he'll never be able to hurt anyone ever again."
Still, she was relieved.
Ugh. I'm never going to agree to do this again.
Performing on a stage with bright lights in your face was one thing, but singing on a little patio, out in the open, was another. Rey felt incredibly vulnerable.
To make matters worse, Feena had insisted that Rey 'do something with that hair.' She chose her classic three-bun look, which left her neck completely exposed to the cool wind and the goosebumps that followed. She stood in the middle of the trio, trying to steady the shaky microphone in her hand. There was barely anyone in the immediate vicinity, just a few passersby. Her eyes zoomed in on a couple holding hands; they looked as happy as she'd felt several days ago.
It made her sick.
From the corner of her eye, Rey watched Feena bend down to start the playback on the karaoke machine. Her heart began to beat rapidly, but it wasn't from nerves.
"Wait, Feena," she said, covering the head of the microphone. "I can't do it. I can't sing, 'I Think I'm in Love With You.' Not now. I know you two love the song... I love it, too, but I can't sing about love right now. It's ridiculous, I know. We didn't even have that much time together before he left, but-"
"It's okay, sweetie," Rose said gently. "There's no need to explain. We can do any song you'd like."
They waited for Rey to choose, but nothing came to mind.
After a few long moments of silence, Feena spoke up. "I know the perfect song."
Rey started to voice her doubts, but Feena cut her off.
"It's a good one, Little Rey," she said in an odd moment of seriousness. "Trust me."
"Okay," Rey nodded, still not completely convinced.
Moments later, when the first few notes played, Rey looked at Feena, rolled her eyes, and grinned.
"I know there's pain
Why do you lock yourself up in these chains?
No one can change your life except for you
Don't ever let anyone step all over you
Just open your heart and your mind
Is it really fair to feel this way inside?
"Some day, somebody's gonna make you want to
Turn around and say goodbye
Until then, baby, are you gonna let them
Hold you down and make you cry?
Don't you know,
Don't you know things can change?
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day
Can you hold on for one more day?
Things'll go your way
Hold on for one more day"
A small crowd had gathered, and it was only getting bigger. But Rey didn't see them. All she saw were Rose and Feena, her friends. Her family. The people she knew would never leave her. For one precious moment in the vast expanse of time and space, Rey felt like she was back in Sen, performing for a cheering crowd at The Oxford. It was like Ben Solo had never happened.
"I know that there is pain, but you
Hold on for one more day, and you
Break free from the chains
Yeah, I know that there is pain, but you
Hold on for one more day, and you
Break from the chains"
They had a proper audience now. Rose and Feena were next to her. And everything was just as it should be.
"Some day, somebody's gonna make you want to
Turn around and say goodbye
Until then, baby, are you gonna let them
Hold you down and make you cry?
Don't you know
Things can change?
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day, yeah
Can you hold on?
"Won't you tell me now?
Hold on for one more day
Cause it's gonna go your way
"Don't you know things can change?
Things'll go your way
If you hold on for one more day
Can't you change it this time?
Make up your mind
Baby, hold on"
The applause wasn't as loud as she was used to, but one look at the faces in the crowd told her that she'd done her job: she had their attention, and they were wildly entertained. As Miles made a grand announcement and opened the front door, Rey caught sight of one face that did not look so pleased. It was Edna. She didn't look angry, though. She looked… well, Rey wasn't quite sure. But whatever it was, it made her uncomfortable. It became even more unsettling when Edna approached them as the guests made their way inside.
"You were all lovely! What an impressive performance!" She then lowered her voice and spoke directly to Rey. "Please, stay a little while after we close. I would like to talk to you about something. It's important."
A few hours (and a few dessert tastings) later, the trio were sitting at a table in the otherwise empty restaurant, too full to even stand up.
"Normally, I'd suggest we toast to our success," said Feena, "but the thought of consuming anything else makes me want to vomit right into a stormtrooper helmet."
Rey laughed, even though it kind of hurt to do so. "Edna and Miles don't offer a wide variety of booze here anyway; it's not their forte. That's how they explained it to me."
"Besides," Rose chimed in, "we're supporting Rey in her temporary sobriety. I think it's a very smart decision." Rose patted the back of Rey's hand.
"I do, too, Rey," Feena nodded. "A smart decision indeed. Although, to tell you the truth," she giggled, "before you explained the reason behind it, I just assumed you were pregnant."
Rey gave another painful laugh. "Well, that is definitely not the case. There's no way that'd even be possible."
"So you did use protection?"
Rey raised her eyebrow at Feena and nodded.
Of course she had used protection. It was the same form of protection Rose and Feena had: the Resistance-issued contraceptive device that was good for three years. (Being that it hadn't even been three years since Rey had encountered BB-8 on Jakku, she was good.)
Plus, Resistance leaders required that the device be checked by medical staff every four months to make sure it was still placed correctly. Considering that her final checkup at the base had been barely two months ago, if that, she he had absolutely no reason to worry. Honestly, she was confused as to why Feena seemed so concerned about it.
"Oh, good," Feena exhaled. "The first time I… you know… after I left the Resistance, I almost forgot to use anything at all! If they're going to go through the trouble of taking it out, you'd think they'd bother to hand out some disposables or something."
"I agree," said Rose. "You know, it's a good thing I read through all the paperwork before I signed it and asked a ton of questions during my final check up. Otherwise, I'm embarrassed to say that I probably wouldn't have realized they were actually removing it; I would have just assumed they were doing a routine check."
No, no, no!
This couldn't be happening. Her device had been removed?! If that's what had taken place during her final check up on the base, it would mean...
Finn. Ben. Poe. She'd been with all three of them since she'd left the Resistance, with no protection whatsoever from getting pregnant: no disposables, no nothing.
She took a deep breath and called on the Force to help her remain calm. She needed to think rationally. If she was in fact carrying a child, surely she would have felt it through the Force by now. And... after one stopped using a contraceptive, didn't it usually take some time before things got back into their normal cycle? (She was sure she'd learned that somewhere before.) Right. She was fine. She would just have to be much more careful in the future.
She let out her breath, feeling much better.
"I agree," Rey said. "They desperately need to improve the discharge process."
That was all she was going to say about the subject. Her friends would never have to know how careless she'd been.
The Venns emerged from the kitchen, Miles holding a small hologram projector. Both of their faces displayed a mixture of emotions. Edna was smiling, but her eyes were glossy.
Whatever it was they needed to talk to her about, Rey wasn't sure she was ready for it.
"We wanted to thank you all again for helping us re-open, it was a stunning performance," said Edna. "But now," she said, addressing Rey, "we have something we'd like to ask you."
"Your hair... where did you learn to do your hair in that style?"
It was an interesting question, but it was one for which she didn't have an answer.
"I don't know. It was like this when- um," she bit her lip. She wasn't sure if now was time to go into her history. It may have been more of an answer than they were looking for. "It was a hairstyle I had as a child."
"So your folks taught you how to do it?" said Miles.
Again, a question she couldn't really answer.
"It's possible, but I can't be sure. I didn't know them very well." As soon as she said it, Miles and Edna looked at each other knowingly.
"What happened to them, child?" said Edna, in a voice just barely above a whisper. "If you don't mind telling us, that is."
She didn't mind, but it had been a while since she'd relayed the tale of her parents to anyone. It always came with its own set of insecurities. She liked the Venns- she liked them immensely- but she could never be sure how someone else would react. Rey looked at her friends for help, but they remained silent. This was her story to tell, of course. Not theirs.
So she told them all she knew; about how they'd left her with Unkar Plutt when she was five-years-old, about growing up on Jakku without ever knowing who they were, and about learning why they'd abandoned her and where they'd ended up (though she left out the specific details about how she'd learned the last bit).
When she was finished, she noted that the glossiness in Edna's eyes had fully formed into tears that slowly slid down her cheeks. Edna looked at Miles, who nodded and said, "I know."
Rey knew her story was a sad one, but it never elicited a response quite like that. There was clearly something else going on.
Edna smiled, wiping her eyes. "When we met in Hay Tor City, I knew you looked familiar; I think I even said as much. It wasn't until I saw you on that stage that I realized why."
Miles placed the projector on the table and flipped a couple of switches until a moving image of a man, woman, and little girl appeared.
The man was laughing as the little girl tried to escape the woman's grasp. His eyes were warm and cheerful, and the rest of him was very handsome. The little girl's face was determined as she made a run for it. The woman was kneeling down, making good work of her reflexes as she caught the child and held her in place. But the detail that really caught Rey's attention was the same triple-bun style she knew so well.
"Rey," Rose whispered. "Her hair."
The woman whispered something in the little girl's ears as the man's mouth began to move. He was saying something she couldn't hear, addressing some figure she couldn't see.
Rey couldn't take her eyes off it. The Force swirled around her as she stared at the tiny family, and she began to cry.
"Who are they?"
"The two adults you see there are Geraldine and Otto Paier, our oldest and dearest friends," said Edna.
"May they rest in peace," Miles added.
"Aye," Edna nodded. "And the little girl is their daughter, Charlotte."
"May she also rest in peace, the poor lass," said Miles.
"Geraldine and Otto used to run The Grecian- that's the tavern complex you've been staying in. They'd send their guests to come eat at our restaurant, and we'd send 'em back for drinks and a place to sleep."
"They were fine people," Miles said solemnly. "The finest people you could ever be lucky enough to meet." He returned his attention to the projector, adjusting a few switches.
The next image to appear was of the same little girl- Charlotte, they'd said- but she was older this time. And she was singing on the restaurant patio, as Rey had done only moments before. Rey heard Feena gasp.
"Had a lovely singing voice, she did," Miles said with a shaky voice. "Just like you."
Rey was overcome with emotion. Her heart felt like it would burst out of her chest at any moment.
She knew. Stars, she already knew, but she needed to find out.
"What happened to them?"
Edna sighed. "Little Charlotte got caught up with the wrong crowd. She ran away with an other-planet chump named Fuli and didn't speak a word to anyone in Flam until she returned a few years later. She'd had a baby, see, but she couldn't take care of her. It was a little girl, named Strella. Geraldine and Otto loved that child and raised her as their own for years, until Charlotte and Fuli arrived to take her away. They begged them not to. They begged their daughter and her useless husband to stay in Flam and start over. I wish they had."
Her voice broke and a few soft sobs escaped from her mouth. Miles placed his hand on her shoulder and rubbed her back gently. After a few moments to gather her composure, she continued.
"Two years later, a man arrived at their doorstep and demanded the money that Charlotte and Fuli owed him. When they asked the man why he didn't seek out the couple himself, he explained that they had died on some wasted desert planet called Jakku. Drank themselves to death, apparently. He didn't know anything about Strella; he didn't even know if she was alive. They wanted to go search for her, but Geraldine had been sick for some time and passed soon after. Otto didn't last long without her."
While Miles adjusted the switches yet again, Edna placed her hand on Rey's. It broke Rey of her trance. She looked up at Edna's tear-stained face through tears of her own.
"You were wrong, Rey, when you told me this was your first time on Hay Tor. You've been here before. Charlotte was your mother. Geraldine and Otto were your grandparents, and they loved you. You are a Paier. I am sure of it."
The projector paused on another image of Geraldine and Otto, slightly older than they'd been in the first one. There was a different little girl with them: a toddler, wearing three buns in her hair.
It was her. She was looking at herself.
She couldn't move. She couldn't speak.
She'd been waiting for these answers for practically her whole life. She'd assumed the bit of information that Ben had given her on the Supremacy would be all she'd ever know... and now she knew so much more. It was overwhelming; she had so many questions and so many emotions to process. For now, though, she decided to concentrate on the gaps that had just been filled.
She was Torese. She had a name. She was somebody who'd been loved.
This was why the Force had called her here. This was her destiny. The Force wanted her to find out who she was. Her heart ached for the family who'd cared for her, who'd died before she could see them again. She couldn't remember them, but she was grateful for them all the same.
"Well," said Feena, grinning as she wiped a tear from her cheek, "there goes my plan of trying to convince you to come back to Tuggatae with us."
"The complex," said Edna, withdrawing her hand, "belongs to you, Rey. We'd love for you to stay here, if you'd like. Think about it."
She didn't have to think. She knew what she wanted.
"I want to stay."
- The Venn's restaurant is inspired by a restaurant my brother and I ate at in Flam.
- Oh! "Venn" means "friend" in Norwegian.
- The "Resistance-issued contraceptive" is basically an IUD.
- Geraldine and Otto are the names of two of my ancestors.
- The Norwegian word for "love" is "kjaerlighet," which sounds a lot like "Charlotte."
- Fuli got his name because "full" means "drunk" in Norwegian. (It also conveniently sounds like "fool.")
- As for Rey's given name... "ray" in Norwegian is "strale." It also reminded me of "estrella," when means "star" in Spanish. This totally works for Rey, I feel.
Okay, class, that's all for today's language lesson. :)
Chapter 17: Slipping Through My Fingers/The Winner Takes it All
Moods for Chapter 17:
"Not While I'm Around"~ The Mormon Tabernacle Choir cover
"F**kin' Perfect" (clean version)~ P!nk
"Breathe (2 AM)"~ Anna Nalick
"Home"~ Scott Alan (feat. Shoshana Bean)
"Say It to Me Now"~ Once (Original Broadway Cast)
"I Survived You"~ Clay Aiken
"Torn"~ Natalie Imbruglia
"I'll Be Okay"~ Amanda Marshall
"Against All Odds"~ Phil Collins
Rey finished breakfast with Rose and Feena and saw them out, sighing to herself as she watched them leave. She wasn't looking forward to the busy day ahead of her. The old church still needed to be set up for the ceremony, and the tavern needed to be cleaned from the previous night's festivities. And somewhere in there, she had to find time to make herself look presentable. After all, she would be walking down the aisle, too.
She took a quick shower in her private washroom, careful not to bask too long in the warm water. She had things to do.
Wrapping herself in a towel, she hurried to her small closet and skimmed through the small selection of dresses. For once, she found herself wishing Feena would just choose one for her. She decided to try on a long, light pinkish gown with lace overlay. It had a V-shaped neckline that wasn't too revealing, despite it ending mid-chest. It hadn't been too long ago that she'd purchased it in Hay Tor City for some reason or another; surely it would still fit. The very moment she pulled the zipper up as far as it would go, she heard a knock at the bedroom door.
If that's Ben, I'm going to make him one with the Force myself!
When the door hissed open, she saw Sage standing there in her nightgown, her hair wrapped in a towel.
"Are Ari and Jaylana still asleep? I thought they'd be helping you get ready by now. Isn't that little droid going to do your hair?"
Sage looked up at her with hopeful eyes. "They're just waking up, but… will you help me? I want you to do my hair the way Great-grandmum taught you."
Rey felt tears prick her eyes, and she nodded, stepping aside to allow Sage to enter. Whatever it was that had lifted her daughter's spirits in the last hour, she didn't know. But she was certainly grateful for it.
Sage sat in a chair positioned in front of the cozy vanity that had come along with the complex. As Rey gathered the necessary tools, she imagined how many times Geraldine Paier stood in the exact same spot, ready to doll up her daughter (or granddaughter, for that matter). She wondered if she'd helped Charlotte get ready for her own Prodos. The thought gave her chills.
She stared at their reflection in the tall mirror as her imaginings were replaced by memories: a two-year-old Sage sitting on the vanity, smearing lip color on every inch of her face that wasn't her lips; a six-year-old-Sage giving herself a haircut she insisted would have looked fine if she'd been allowed to finish (it wouldn't have); a ten-year-old-Sage blushing profusely as she confessed to her mother about her first crush.
She ran her fingers through her daughter's hair more times than she needed to. Sage closed her eyes, so Rey kept on. She was stalling, she knew, but the moment was so perfect. Like so many others, she didn't want it to end.
But it had to end. Moments were fleeting, and one rarely knew how important they were until they were long gone. As much as Rey looked forward to seeing the person Sage would continue to become, a part of her wished that she'd remain as she was: a little girl, forever protected from the pain and heartache that accompanies getting older.
That would be impossible, she knew. Sage had to grow up. From her vantage point, it was happening way too fast (on some days, not fast enough). She was getting better, though, at savoring the present.
"Do you think I'm doing the right thing?" Sage asked suddenly.
"Regarding what, sweetheart?" Rey said, running a comb through her daughter's hair.
"Taking the Vows of the Seven Values, becoming a Young Woman of Flam… Would it be better to... choose another path?"
Rey bit her lip. She had her own opinions on the subject, of course, but she wanted this decision to completely belong to Sage.
"The best path to choose is the one that will make you happy." She gathered sections of hair near the top of Sage's head, ready to create the first of three buns.
"You were a Jedi," Sage said, "You used the Force to save the galaxy, and then you came here. Which one made you happy?"
Rey paused for a moment and weighed the memories in her mind. She grinned.
"They both did."
Rey could see Sage's reflection in the mirror raise a confused eyebrow.
"I learned the Force because I had to, because Resistance needed me. After that, I did it because I wanted to. It brought me so much joy, so much purpose. It gave me something I never had until that time. It gave me a family."
Sage smiled sweetly at Rey's reflection. Sage had heard all of this before, but old information under different circumstances had a funny way of sounding new.
"And when the Force called me here," Rey continued, "I found another kind of purpose, another kind of family. I wanted to raise my child in the home I was taken away from, and I will never regret that decision." Rey tenderly placed a runaway strand of hair behind Sage's ear. "But the galaxy is wide. There's so much to see, so many paths to choose. They each have something the others do not. As long as you are helping others and are happy, you are doing the right thing."
Rey bent down and kissed the top of her head. "I couldn't be happier that the choices I made brought you to me. No matter which path you choose, you will always be my little Petia, and I will love you forever."
"I love you, too, Mummy." Sage took hold of Rey's wrist, pulling her arm down and nestling her head into the crook. "I don't even want two parents to present me today. I'm happy it'll be just you and me, like it's always been."
After a blissful few days of renovation ideas and full-belly laughs, Rose and Feena returned to Tuggatae, promising to visit again within the year. The day after they left, Rey received a comm from Chewie, explaining that the Falcon was as good as new and he was ready to join her. She still wasn't quite ready for everyone else to know where she was settled, so she sent him her coordinates under the condition that he keep them to himself.
When he arrived, Rey filled him on everything that had happened (well, half of everything) and let him select a guesthouse to be his home. He chose one that was close to the old cottage, which Rey mentioned that she had no desire to ever step foot in again.
Rey was relieved when Chewie expressed genuine interest in helping her rebuild the complex (though he expressed the most excitement over the demolition bits). There wasn't much he could offer in terms of aesthetics, but he understood construction, and he was a hard worker. Rey was grateful for the help- and grateful she could pay. She would have done it by herself, of course, but having Chewie on board would cut her project time in half, possibly more.
His presence became even more vital when, a couple of weeks into the renovations, she became ill.
She sat on the floor of the Venn's restaurant washroom, dreading the headache that was starting to form from all the retching.
"This is the third time today," Chewbacca growled. "You need to visit the medical unit."
"Is she okay?" she heard Edna ask.
"You can open the door," Rey responded weakly.
The door slid open to reveal Chewie, Edna, and Miles crowded around the opening, looking concerned.
"It wasn't something you ate, was it?" asked Miles.
Rey gave a half-hearted chuckle. "No, no. It's nothing like that. This has been going on for a few days."
"A few days?" Edna gasped. "We need to get you to the unit right away."
Rey groaned and put her hand on her abdomen. She knew what the problem was; of course she did. She'd known for some time now, but she was in denial.
"It's a good thought, but I know what's wrong. We can visit the unit to have it confirmed, but I already know. I can feel it."
Chewie growled, and Rey sighed.
"Remember the man I told you about? We were here together for such a short time, but I felt so strongly for him, and…" she shook her head, trying to rid herself of the memory. "Anyway. I'm pregnant."
Miles and Chewie were shocked into silence, but Edna nodded her head.
"You most certainly are."
After taking a moment to let it sink it, Chewie asked Rey if she wanted him to track down the father.
"No! No, thank you. He left, and I'd rather forget about him. I don't want anyone to know, including our friends," she added quickly. "I'll tell them when I'm ready, okay?"
Chewie nodded and sunk down to the floor next to Rey. He lifted a furry hand and patted her shoulder awkwardly. He growled something in Shyriiwook.
Rey smiled at him.
And then she broke.
"How am I going to do this?" she sobbed into her hands. "I can figure it out, yeah? I have to. But, stars, I'm terrified."
"Of course you are," said Edna. "And of course you can. Look at all the things you've already done."
True. Being practically abandoned as a child, surviving off scraps, learning the Force, fighting for the Resistance, overthrowing a corrupt government… she'd done all of that.
But it all somehow seemed miniscule in comparison to raising a child. That was something she wasn't the least bit prepared for. How could she be a parent when she never had one of her own? None that she could remember, anyway. She had no example to draw from. What if she was complete rubbish at it? What if she utterly failed? Could the child ever forgive her?
"You'll handle it just fine," said Miles. "It'll be a little petia. You'll love it."
She looked up at him. "'Petia?'" She really needed to start learning Torese.
Miles scratched the back of his neck. "Aye. It's… um…" he turned to Edna. "What's the word in Basic, love?"
"Petia," Edna repeated, deep in thought. "Ah, yes," she beamed. "It means 'adventure.'"
Then, several months later
Rey groaned as another contraction hit. They weren't frequent enough yet to rush to the unit, but it didn't make them any more pleasant.
Her next order of business was the house. Her house. It was also the house that, as she'd recently learned from the Venns, her grandparents had lived in. It didn't seem to be in as bad a shape as the rest of the complex, but it desperately needed an update... and a washroom or two.
She waddled around the bedroom on the first floor, rummaging through her family's old belongings to decide what to save. It was a lengthy process; she found it difficult to throw anything away. The scavenger in her was used to finding a purpose for every little odd and end, so the idea of declaring an item worthless and tossing it aside was a foreign one. It bothered her, if she was being honest. Knowing that all of the decor and furnishings belonged to her own flesh and blood added another layer of difficulty. Still, she was improving: a small pile of trash had formed in the center of the room, and it was steadily growing larger.
It suddenly occurred to her that she had something she could add to the pile.
She reached under the bed and pulled out her belonging bag, which had been completely emptied save for one thing: that damn journal.
It only contained three entries: three short paragraphs that said much more than anyone else needed to know… one of which she'd rather forget. She figured the healthiest option would be to get rid of it. She briefly considered just tearing out the second entry, but the third one referenced it too much; it would have to go, too.
This would leave her with the first: Finn. To be honest, she'd be perfectly fine with him being the father. She'd prefer it, actually. She could pretend the other two never happened, comm Finn, and let him decide which step he wanted to take next, if any.
There were many downsides to this plan, however: one, the news would quickly reach Poe, who would eventually put two-and-two together; two, she'd already told too many people about her little fling, and she wasn't sure she could convincingly retract the story; and three, she couldn't lie to Finn. If he ever found out that she'd deceived him, it might break his heart.
The fact of the matter was that she didn't know who the father was. It wouldn't be right to claim otherwise.
Her other option, of course, was to tell both Finn and Poe of their possible offspring. But they would insist on running a test, and if it turned out to be neither one of them…
She didn't want to know.
To be fair, maybe they didn't either. Poe was helping General Organa rebuild the government and no doubt moving up the military ranks. Finn was a student at Coruscant University, learning things that would help him change the galaxy for the better. How could she possibly interrupt their lives right now? They probably just wanted to be left alone.
She'd tell Rose and Feena when the time was right, but other than that, she determined it'd be much easier to keep news of the child to those on Hay Tor.
She threw the journal on the pile.
A short time later, Chewie entered the room to check on Rey. He'd do this periodically, ever since she'd started to show. The random check-ups had become more frequent ever since Rey let him feel the baby kick. It was sweet, if a little suffocating. But it was mostly sweet.
"I'm doing fine," Rey replied to Chewie's greeting. "I've managed to get a healthy pile going, but it's-"
She stopped. Her eyes went wide.
"Pardon me," she said, standing up. "I think I just peed myself."
She looked down on the floor. There was indeed a few drops of wetness on the spot where she'd just been sitting. Rey was understandably embarrassed. To make matters worse, it continued to trickle down her legs.
"It's not stopping," she whispered. She gasped and looked up at her furry friend in shock. "Chewie, I think it's time."
An image flashed before her eyes: a ceiling, bright lights, and Chewie's worried face. Then, she heard a sound. And the image went away.
Chewie growled, and Rey nodded. "Yes. The baby is coming."
The next afternoon found Chewbacca and a still childless Rey in a clean, well-lighted room at the medical unit in Myrdal. While the baby had been ready to come out, it seemed her body hadn't been ready to cooperate. After a full day of… well, nothing, the med droid in Flam had recommended Rey be transferred to the more fully-equipped unit in Myrdal.
Because the sac had already been ruptured for a day with no signs of progression, waiting around longer would have only put Rey and the baby at risk for serious infections. After a few more hours of nothing, the Myrdalian droids had agreed that a surgical delivery would be the best option.
It was the weirdest sensation.
She knew they were cutting her open. She could feel them touch her, and she could feel some uncomfortable pulling and tugging, but she couldn't feel any pain. She didn't feel much in terms of nerves, either. This is what she'd seen in the Force vision, so she was mentally prepared for things to go this way.
Chewbacca, however, was not.
He had been a nervous wreck, growling angrily at the med droids and insulting them in Shyriiwook. Rey had to remind him several times that droids were not quickly fixed or replaced on a planet like Hay Tor. He'd begrudgingly promised to behave himself during the surgical delivery.
She wondered what was taking so long. She didn't know exactly how these deliveries worked, but didn't they just… make a big incision and pull it out?
Rey heard someone warn her that she'd soon feel a lot of pressure. Whoever had spoken was not wrong; it felt like a wampa was sitting on her upper stomach. Luckily, it only lasted a short time.
And then she heard her baby cry.
"I wish I could've seen Uncle Chewie's face," Sage giggled, as Rey fiddled with the clasp on her necklace. "I mean, I guess I did, but I obviously can't remember."
"It was quite comical," Rey said, circling to Sage's front so she could admire her handiwork. "He was more scared than I was. And he had no idea what he was doing; he didn't even know the proper way to hold you. Still, he was completely smitten from the beginning, as was I."
Rey's heart was grateful that Chewbacca had chosen to tag along for the ride. He was no expert in child-rearing, but he was always there to offer his help, even when she didn't need it, even though he didn't have to. Unlike so many others, he'd chosen to stay. And, to Rey, that meant something greater than the galaxy.
"He's always been there for us, you know. Every step of the way," Rey said seriously.
"I know," Sage said, eyes widening.
"Mum, I have an idea."
After Ari and Jaylana finally decided to wake up, Rey made the girls breakfast and left them to their own devices. There was just an hour left before the Prodos was supposed to start, and she still had to set up the old church.
She left the house, reminding the pre-teens to keep track of the time, and walked down the pebbled pathway that lead toward the village.
She stopped, though, after a few steps.
For whatever reason, she felt the Force pulling her to the beach. Odd. But she supposed a little meditation in her favorite spot wouldn't hurt, even if her gown wouldn't allow her to sit down to do it. This was the biggest day of her daughter's life, after all. Surely she could afford a little five-minute detour.
She stood in the sand, shoes in hand, and looked over the Sogn River and its surrounding mountains. The first time she'd seen this view, she remembered feeling frustrated that the Force wouldn't just tell her why it had brought her to Flam. She shook her head at her former self. If the Force had tried to reveal any hint of what was in store, she wouldn't have believed it. She wondered, though, if the knowledge would have altered the decisions she ended up making, specifically the ones regarding Ben Solo…
No. It was not wise to dwell on what could have been. She'd made her choices, and he had made his. The past was behind her now.
And so was Ben.
She felt him before his footsteps gave him away.
"Still fond of the beach, I see."
She turned around to face him and gave a tiny shrug. "I grew up in the sand."
He smirked. "Not this kind of sand. Jakku's is more… coarse. It's not as rough here."
True. But that was neither here nor there. She had to get to the old church.
He spoke again before she could excuse herself. "Chewie stopped by the cottage."
"Oh?" she said, folding her arms.
"Yes. He informed Finn, Poe, BB-8, and myself that Sage has asked him to present her with you at the ceremony. I don't think I've ever seen him more excited."
Rey was curious as to why Chewie would feel the need to go out of his way to tell the men (and droid) this news, but it wasn't a pressing matter at that moment.
"He also told us," Ben continued, "that you found your family."
Thanks a lot, Chewie.
She couldn't be mad at the Wookiee; it wasn't like her heritage was any big secret on Hay Tor. But it was a part of her life, of the way her life was now. She felt defensive that Ben would feel he had any claim to it.
"I did. My grandparents lived here. I'm a Paier"
"I'm happy for you."
His tone was often difficult to decipher. She wasn't sure if he meant for it to sound condescending, but a part of her took it as such anyway.
"And what about Sage?" he said. "Who is her father?"
"It doesn't matter," she spat out before she could think of a better answer.
"I think it does," he said gently.
Her mind raced. Why would he be asking this? How much did he know? How much did Chewie know, and what else might he have told them?
"I can't hear any- I don't have time for this right now," she said as she walked passed him, hoping to put a stop to the conversation as soon as possible.
"Then make time." He didn't yell, but he spoke so forcefully that she came to a halt. "I'm here. Right now. There's so much we need to talk about."
Rey let out a frustrated groan. She didn't want to do this now (or at all, really) but he just wouldn't let up.
"Look, I get it: you won!"
She turned back around and faced him, squeezing the shoes in her hands in an effort to keep her emotions in check.
"You won. That's what you want to talk about, yeah? Don't worry, there's no need to explain. I understand perfectly. You lost the war, so you exacted revenge in the most sick, twisted way you could."
She held up a shoe and used it to emphasize each point. "You made me care for you, made me trust you completely, and then left to go marry your princess. As if that wasn't bad enough, you were somehow released from prison, and now you get to rule some planet and explore the Outer Rim with your beautiful wife. If you've come back to Flam to remind me of how well you played your part, there's no need. Trust me," she said, no longer able to hold back her tears, "I've thought about it every single day for the last thirteen years."
The admission was too much. She choked back a sob and watched him stand there, silent. She felt him reach out to her through the Force, but she blocked his efforts with ease. She exhaled slowly, calmly. He shifted as if to say something, so she continued before he could speak.
"And as I work myself to the bone- with Sage, with the tavern- I realize how lovely my life has become. I'll be just fine. I am fine. And, someday, you'll no longer have a place in my story. Someday, you'll be nothing."
She used her wrist to wipe away a few fallen tears. "But that's not what you want to hear right now, is it? You've come here to boast, to sink your blade in deeper. Well, you've wasted your time: you can't possibly hurt me more than you already have, Ben Solo. I admit it: you won. I've learned to accept that. Now leave me be."
She ran, leaving the sound of her name echoing in her wake.
- Rey's nickname for Sage, "Petia," is derived from the word "peripeteia," which does indeed mean "adventure" in Greek.
- Rey was always going to have a C-section. It was important to me that childbirth was depicted in a more realistic way, as opposed to the whole "her water breaks and she gets rushed to the hospital and pushes out the baby in like five minutes," as we often see in movies. I also feel that C-section moms are often not given the credit they deserve. I assist with C-sections for a living, and I have a lot of respect for what those women go through. C-section moms are strong, too. :)
- There's only one chapter and an epilogue remaining. I can't believe it! I will be posting both next weekend.