Rey’s bones ached, exhaustion pulling at her limbs, but she couldn’t sleep. Just a few days ago she’d been alone on Jakku, waiting for someone who was never coming back. Eeking a living out of the sands and the massive steel carcasses that littered the wastes, relics from a battle that was waged before she’d been born.
In those few days, everything had changed and it was only now starting to catch up to her. Rey squeezed Finn’s hand, then pushed herself to her feet. She needed to get some air. The constellations above D’Qar were strange ones, a large ring bisecting the sky. She wrapped her arms around herself as she walked towards the outskirts of the base. A forest stretched into the distance and she could smell water. Rey closed her eyes. The scent of so much water made her heady.
A part of her was still anxious, still wanting to return to Jakku but she knew, deep in her heart, that Maz had been right. No one was coming for her there and there was nothing to return to.
It had been so cold on Starkiller Base, and that coldness had had nothing to do with the snow. Kylo Ren. The man who’d killed Han Solo. The man who’d tried to crawl into her head, violating her thoughts. Cold and darkness had followed in his wake and she shivered just thinking about it. She’d almost killed him in the snow. It would have been so easy, and quick, and maybe it would have been for the greater good, but she also knew it would have changed her irrevocably. There were things she didn’t understand. About herself and about the Force.
But she’d felt it flow through her, had let it guide her to defeating Ren. And now something was calling to her. If she was honest with herself, it has always called to her. For the first time, she was really, truly listening. Rey sank to the ground, and hugged her knees.
“Hey.” A woman’s voice startled her out of her thoughts. She turned to see one of the pilots standing nearby. She was about Rey’s height, with dark hair and pretty brown eyes, and still wearing her orange flight suit.
Rey tilted her head at her and smiled. “Hey.”
The pilot had her helmet in her hands, and she fidgeted with it for a moment before offering her hand. “I’m Jessika. Everyone just calls me Testor, or Blue Three. I wanted to, uhm. Thank you. We wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for you guys on the ground there.”
“You really don’t need to thank me for anything.”
Jess rubbed her finger around an insignia on her helmet. “I don’t really know what happened down there. But there’s just something about you.” Like looking at a light head on. “And there’s already a hundred rumors.”
“They’re all wrong.” Rey’s smile faded, and she tightened her arms around herself.
“Are you okay?” Jess leaned over next to Rey, but didn’t sit down. “Mind if I…?” She gestured at the ground next to the woman.
Rey moved her hand, waving Jess down. “Sure.”
Taking a seat, Jess put her helmet in her lap and tapped her fingers on it. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. But maybe it’ll help a little. I’m good at listening.” She flashed Rey a smile.
“I don’t think I want to.” Rey sighed, glancing down at the helmet. She’d had one a lot like it in her little home on Jakku.
“Want a closer look?” Jess held it up. She didn’t press, and for that Rey was grateful.
“Thanks.” She took the helmet from Jess, turning it over in her hands. There was some wear on it. Nicks and dings. But the paint was bright and the interior well cared for. She pulled it on and brought the visor down.
Jess fought a little smile as she watched Rey inspect the helmet. Rey’s melancholy had faded, replaced with an earnest eagerness. “Looks good on you.”
This helmet had a smell. Sweat and oil and something sweet. Rey stared at the sky through the visor, then turned her head to Jess. “I had one like this. Back on Jakku. I don’t know who it belonged to. I found it in the desert. I used to imagine myself flying with it. Dodging blaster bolts and shooting down Imperial fighters. I found an old flight sim.” Rey held her palm out, demonstrating some of the moves she’d taught herself. “Taught myself how to fly. I never thought I’d ever leave. Convinced myself I had to stay…”
“How does it compare to the real thing?” Jess leaned in, putting her hand over one of Rey’s and squeezing it.
Rey laughed. “Nothing like the real thing. The real thing is exhilarating. And terrifying.” Jess was friendly. Like Finn there was something about her that made Rey relax. Like something was telling her it was okay to trust her. Or at least try to. A whole galaxy was opening up to Rey. She’d seen more green and more water in the past few days than she’d ever thought existed. And snow. She’d like to see snow again when she wasn’t fighting for her life.
“I know an X-wing is nothing like flying the Millennium Falcon, but maybe I could take you up sometime.”
Rey’s laughter trailed off. She didn’t know what was going to happen to that ship. She supposed it was Chewbacca’s now. A part of her had thought she was going to accept Han’s offer. She turned to look at where the Falcon rested. “I think….maybe.”
She felt Jess’s hand on her shoulder, and leaned into the touch. After being alone for so long, having people around was strange. It was welcome. Part of her was eager for the idea of connecting with others. Finn had become her friend. Maybe Jess could too. Between Poe and Jess, maybe she and Finn could start a pilot collection.
Before Jess realized what was happening, Rey had leaned in further, her head on Jess’s shoulder. She gently squeezed an arm around Rey’s shoulder, and rested her chin on Rey’s helmeted head.
They might have sat like that for minutes, or hours. Jess lost track of the time. She still didn’t know what had happened to Rey on the First Order base. Nothing good. Not many people survived being captured by the First Order. Not many people were taken captive in the first place. But if Rey didn’t want to talk about it, there was nothing she could do. Maybe she’d open up to Finn or the General. General Organa had a keen interest in the woman. Jess wasn’t going to ask any questions there.
“Thank you,” Rey said, breaking the silence. She lifted her head, peering at Jess through the visor. “It’s nice. Being around people. I always liked the people in town, but something here feels different. There’s… hope here.”
When she pulled the helmet off, her hair got caught in it and it came out of its buns. Jess felt her heart stutter at Rey’s now messy hair. Rey held the helmet out. “Here.”
“Keep it,” Jess found herself saying. “I can get another one. And it looks good on you.”
“I couldn’t possibly…”
Jess took her arm from around Rey and gently nudged the helmet back. “I mean it. You’ll need one for our flight lessons anyway. Besides, it’s lucky.”
Rey had a brilliant smile when she was truly happy. She threw her arms around Jess and the two toppled over onto the ground. Jess was in a suddenly awkward position underneath Rey when she heard someone clear their throat. Rey scooted back, resting on her haunches as she looked up at the newcomer.
“You’re wanted back at the command center.” The woman nodded her head at Rey. She glanced at Jess. “You’re on maintenance today, you should probably get some sleep.”
Hugging the helmet under one arm, Rey got to her feet. She held her other hand out to help Jess up. She squeezed Jess’s hand once they were both standing. “Thank you again. I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
“Oh boy,” Jess breathed, watching Rey walk away. “I’m in trouble, Pamich.”
Pamich put her arm around her friend. “No kidding. That was your lucky helmet, wasn’t it?”
“I’ve got a feeling she’ll need the luck more than me.”