she likens it to a kite;
it flies higher when a longer length of string is unleashed.
"Flyweight Love", Vienna Teng
Rey’s a natural at piloting, but it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s got the technical skills and know-how that comes with actual study and seat time. Poe’s volunteered to be her teacher in this regard, piling on the manuals and marveling at how quickly she learns, taking in information in leaps and gulps. She and Poe are up in a T-70, testing her technical knowledge of the ship. She’s doing well, identifying the systems that are a little bit off and need to be fine-tuned. They accelerate a little more, and the starboard ionization chamber starts getting choppy, making the ship shake and wobble.
“It’s surging, but I don’t know how to correct it.” Rey is concerned but not alarmed, and looks to him.
“Pulse the pressure manifold, that should clear it.” She does so, and the ship settles down. Rey smiles, and he’s pleased that she appreciates the trick.
“I think that’s about enough excitement for today. You ready to head back down?” She nods, and he radios the base to let them know they’re returning.
He climbs out of the ship first, holding out his hand to her. She grasps it, pulling herself out of the cockpit.
(She’d groaned and laid her head on the table when Finn related the story of when he first grabbed her hand, and the way she took time, in the middle of running for their lives, TIE fire raining down, to swat it away.
“I’m never going to live that down, am I?”
“Nope!” Finn replied cheerfully, his grin wide. What little Poe could see of her face was pink, and he laughed. Finn had taken her hand then, and she’d laid her head on his shoulder, curling her fingers around his.)
She pulls off her helmet when they’re on the ground, rolling to get rid of the inevitable cricks. He tries not to stare at her throat, or the curve where her neck meets her shoulder. (There’s time enough to think about that later, and other things besides.) Her hair’s not in its usual style, probably being impractical under a helmet. It coils in a long braid around her head, suspiciously similar to the General’s.
“I like what you’ve done with your hair,” he says, all inability to charm fled. He has pretty words and smooth talk for everybody else, easy as breathing. Around her and Finn, it all gets pared down, stripped away until only the essential is left.
“Thanks.” She looks pleased that he noticed, and smiles. They start the walk back to the base. “That was a fancy little trick, with the manifold. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
“My mother taught it to me. She was a pilot too.” A memory: sitting on her lap in the cockpit of her old RZ-1 A-wing, pushing down on the controls, her hands over his; his wonder and delight when he realized he was making it move how he wanted. Intellectually, he knows there was probably a time he didn’t want to fly, but he can’t recall when it might have been. It’s all he’s ever wanted: to be in the air, among the stars, like her.
Rey’s eyes brighten to hear this. “Does she have any more tips like that? I’d love to meet her.”
“She died when I was young.” It’s been long enough that most of the time when he thinks about her the ache is dull, expected. But grief isn’t linear; especially when he imagines how she would have hugged Rey on their first meeting, before taking her off to the hangar to show off all the mods she would have made to the engines; and right now it cuts like a knife.
Rey’s hands fly to her mouth, as if she could have stopped the words from coming out. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to--”
“Hey, you didn’t know. It’s okay.” He takes one of her hands, lacing their fingers together. She squeezes back, and they walk for a little bit, just like that.
“You miss her still,” she says, and is quiet for a few paces. “I never stopped missing my family, on Jakku.”
(He and Finn went back with her, when everything was calmer, so she could retrieve her things, few as they were. She came out with an old Rebel helmet, a bag with the arm of a doll poking out, and a vase full of flowers much more dead than alive. Mostly he remembers the wall, covered with neat little scratches higher than he could see. He knew Finn was thinking the same thing, the way his throat worked and he blinked more rapidly than usual. On his way out of the walker, he complained loudly about the brightness of the sun and the way it made his eyes water. In unspoken agreement, they made sure Rey slept between them every night on the way back to D’Qar.)
“I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been.” The first few months after his mother died, he felt empty, scraped out. But his dad was there, and the tree in the yard was too. He spent hours in it, the only place that felt comforting in those days. Rey didn’t have any of that, and his heart hurts that she didn’t.
She stops, her eyes a little distant. “Some nights, I wouldn’t be able to sleep, and I’d come out of the walker and sit on the sand. You remember how windy it gets sometimes?” He nods, remembering how they’d had to shelter in her old home until a storm passed. “I’d let the sand cover my legs, and wonder what would happen if I got buried completely. If anybody would come looking. If they’d miss me.”
Poe grabs her into a hug, and she tucks her head against his neck. After a minute, she sighs and pulls away, wiping at her eyes.
“I’m sorry, that was overdramatic.” She fiddles with her hair, embarrassed now. “I’d go back inside and feel better in the morning. I’m good at waiting, but sometimes it was very difficult.”
“I’m glad you stuck it out,” he says, taking her hand again. “And you have people who would miss you a lot if you were gone.” It wouldn’t be just him and Finn, although of course they would, terribly. BB-8, who beeps and whirls around her whenever she comes back from a mission or errand for the Resistance. Chewbacca, who ruffles her hair and growls affectionately at her, even if Poe doesn’t know what he’s saying. The General, whose eyes get soft but also a little sad around Rey in a way he’s never seen, and always has a hug for her. Skywalker, whose pride in her fairly bursts, despite the way he tries to hide it. (Poe saw him kiss her forehead once after a training session, and she closed her eyes like she was receiving a benediction.)
She turns to him, smiling. “I am too.”
His room is closest, so it’s easiest to change out of their flightsuits there. Rey looks smaller now that she’s shed the bulk of the suit, and she starts undoing her braid. Something catches, and she makes a frustrated noise.
“Can I help?” Poe asks. She nods, and he pulls the remaining pins out. Her hair is longer now, and it tumbles past her shoulders. He can’t find a brush, so he works the tangles out with his fingers. She makes a noise, pleased at the sensation. Then she turns around and tugs him down into a kiss, clinging, demanding something he doesn’t quite understand yet. He brackets her face with his hands, making her look up. Her eyes are dark: with ardor, but also a longing need that makes his chest clench.
“Rey. What can I do for you? Tell me.”
She pulls him over to the bed. “Help me enjoy being alive.”
He drops to his knees, and she buries her fingers in his hair. She pulls it when she comes, hard enough that it hurts, but he’s kind of past caring. She rests a hand at his nape as he moves on top of her, just enough pressure to make him feel centered. This is the only way he ever wants to be grounded, pulled into this beautiful thing they share with Finn. He comes with a gasp, resting his head on her shoulder for a moment afterwards. She tucks herself against him, underneath his chin, and he throws the blanket over them both. She doesn’t like being cold, and she’ll complain if she is when she wakes up.
Some time later, Poe hears the door open, and opens an eye to see Finn enter the room. He stops for a second, taking in the scene before him. The look he casts over Poe and Rey is soft and grateful, like he still can’t believe his fortune. Poe lifts his head up, trying not to disturb Rey, who is still asleep. (He’s getting better at this.) Finn tosses the jacket on the foot of the bed, sliding in next to Rey. He curls himself around her, reaching out for Poe’s hand.
He and Rey are eating lunch at the edge of the yard, watching it bustle from afar. She turns and looks at him.
“If you want to fly the Falcon sometime, we can.” He splutters and nearly inhales his food.
“What?” He says, after the coughing is done.
“Chewie said he’s okay with it. Actually, what he said was, ‘If you trust him with her, I trust him.’” Her eyes get a little sad. “And then he said, ‘I hope you fly well with him. It hasn’t been the same.’”
He reaches out for her hand, and she takes it. “I’ll treat her like a lady deserves.”
She laughs. “I know you will, because I’ll be there. And if you don’t I’ll make sure you understand the consequences.”
Lunch is over, and he kisses her on the cheek before excusing himself to make a holocall. He’s got some leave coming up, and it’s been too long since he’s gone back home. He can already imagine the look on his dad’s face when he touches down outside the house in the Falcon. But what Poe really wants is to see his face when he introduces him to Finn and Rey. He can’t wait.