It’s been three days since they got back.
The med bay is ringing with chatter when Rey goes to visit Finn. At the noise, she feels the familiar hum of pain start up behind her temples.
Finn is still, but the sound of his heartbeat is strong. They tell her he is healing well. She strokes a hand across his forehead, murmurs, “You’d better get back to annoying me soon.”
(And she knows she must go to find Luke, can’t put it off any longer, but for the moment, she’d like to believe she’ll still be here when Finn wakes up. That they could talk of things without the words catching in her throat, the way they have since she watched Han fall from that bridge.)
Rey slips out of the base doors and climbs nimbly up onto a ridge to survey the landscape.
In this cool, temperate air, she feels restless; she itches with it. The green forests and blue waters of D’Qar are beautiful, but they aren’t home. Not that she’s ever had a home, but over the past few days, she’s found herself missing the hot, arid sand of her old life. Here, her body has never been so clean; she’s used to living with a thin layer of dirt and grime at all times from the dust storms.
After years on Jakku, the spell of the desert lives under her skin. She was not born in sand, but she has lived it, learned to respect it. Small and inconsequential as she was, she'd had to work hard to make a name for herself. Picking her way carefully past the dangerous sinkholes on her planet, she’d reached wrecks no other scavengers had before. If anyone said it couldn’t be found, Rey would get it for them, through some of the toughest territory to be found in the Western Reaches. In the end, all those skills earned her nothing but a meagre hand-to-mouth existence, long nights eating chalky rations while she cursed the stars above.
Sand is harsh and unforgiving, but tranquil all the same. Though she was lonely there, sometimes Rey craves the silence of her old home. She misses the peace of desert nights, when she could go hours without hearing a single sound from others.
“It’s not home is it?” says a voice.
Rey wheels around to find General Leia Organa standing there. Without thinking about it, she draws herself up straighter, clears her throat. She wonders if she should salute.
“General.” Rey hopes she didn’t squeak. “And no, it isn’t.” She looks away, not knowing what else to say.
The General laughs, waving a hand. “Call me Leia. Please.” Leia sinks down on a rock, and pats the rock next to her.
“Okay. Leia.” Rey sits. “I’m sorry,” she says, halting — because she has to say something to this woman who bears the weight of such loss in her heart. She wonders how she can survive it.
“Wasn’t you,” Leia says calmly, folding her hands on her lap. “Wasn’t anyone except the dark side. It strangles everything we hold dear.”
And there it is. Rey gulps, thinking of her vision, of the screaming and darkness, the feeling of dread. Kylo Ren and his cold, empty eyes as he held a lightsaber blade to her throat.
“I’m afraid,” Rey admits, the words pouring out of her. “Of the dark side. When I used my powers, it didn’t feel like I could control them. And when Han fell, the anger — I’d never felt that before. I felt — powerful, like I could do anything.”
The touch of warm fingers on her knuckles, and Rey looks down to see Leia’s hand resting on hers.
“Luke felt the same, once,” Leia says quietly. “It terrified him, too. But it’s only through acknowledging the fear that you can own it, control it. That’s the path to the light.”
Rey feels tears pricking at her eyes, but she smiles. “I suppose I’ve got to try, haven’t I?”
Leia presses a hand to Rey’s shoulder and gets to her feet. “Come on. Let’s go. Chewie’s getting the Falcon ready for departure.”
Rey wipes at the tears on her cheeks with the back of her hand and follows Leia down to the hanger bay.
Maybe she's not ready, but she's as ready as she'll ever be.
“Tell him his sister says hello,” Leia calls after Rey as she makes her way up the ramp.
“I will,” she promises, turning to wave briefly before she enters the ship.
When the Millennium Falcon comes out of lightspeed above endless oceans, Rey feels the surge of possibility in the air that can only be The Force. But for just a moment, she allows herself to remember sand.