Rey becomes very good at taking things apart. Intricately designed star fleets made for war fall to scraps of junk metal in her oil stained hands. She strips the leather off of pilot seats and unravels yards of wire until the ships become the barest minimum of things, relics of destruction and past battles. She takes what she needs and lets the sands of Jakku do the rest.
Rey understands how parts function in a whole. Give a girl fourteen years stranded on a dead battlefield backwater and she’ll pick up on some patterns. That blaster is linked to the left drive because it's identical to that other blaster. Wear a headscarf when windy. Don’t talk to strangers. And so on.
Patterns. Rey survived on patterns.
She survived on hope, too. Slivers of light that came and went, eyes that scanned the horizon each sunset, searching for a sign, a foreign ship, a way out.
(There's also a part of her that doubts. She doesn't much like to think about that part, really.)
Sometimes she thinks she’ll rot before she sees her family again. If there’s one thing that she can’t take apart, it’s the deafening silence that stretches across the desert at night, the hollow feeling that somewhere, someone forgot about a little girl on a barren planet.
But in order to survive, she cannot afford to think like that.
So she waits.
There's no sand on this planet and that's exactly what she wanted. She inhales fresh air and stands rooted to a grassy spot for what seems like days. The slight wind brushes against her back and in the distance, a brilliant yellow sun dips into a red and pink sky. It’s nothing like Jakku’s sunsets, and it’s unlike anything she saw on her trips around the galaxy. It’s something else entirely.
Finn offers her his hand and she takes it as they walk through the meadows, their shadows following lazily as they grow against the golden light.
“Where do you want to go?”
“Anywhere, as long as it’s with you.”
A picnic for two on another planet somewhere out in the corner of the universe. Rey likes the sound of that. No lightsabers, no blasters, no power struggle between political parties or paranoid power hungry people - just two people and some sandwiches.
She lays back and the tall grasses surround her, the sky a blazing show of colors, and a sense of peace washes over her. She feels Finn rest his head against her stomach and soon they are two bodies breathing as one.
This must be what freedom feels like.
(She’s waited a long time for this.)
There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Jakku is no village fit for no child.
In the beginning, Rey learns quickly. Self defense becomes a necessity. Food is hoarded. Sharing is a ridiculous concept.
But Jakku, given its many shortcomings, is a perfect place for a sprawling imagination, especially for a young scavenger.
She closes her eyes and when she opens them, Rey imagines rebels among the debris.
Their bright orange and white uniforms are crystal clear against the sandy backdrop. The old dusty fighter helmet is a heavy weight on her small neck and she can't see out of the goggles half of the time, but none of that matters. There's people to save.
Rey always saves the rebels before dinner. She invites them for a potluck. She imagines a long table under the setting sun, tablecloth piled with food, smiles and full stomachs and claps on the back, new friends conjured from a dry desert. Everyone is saved. Everyone is happy.
It's a child’s game that lasts a short time. When morning sun burns into Jakku, Rey always finds herself alone, her scraggly doll flopped on her side. The rebels she saved have vanished. Another day, another hunt for food.
Rey reaches a certain age when she realizes that the only person she can save is herself. The desert expands and swallows her up that day, no rebels in sight.
(Sometimes, after long nights, Rey’s stomach hurts. She dreams of an island. She dreams of a full table.)
“How did you do it?”
“Waiting. All those years. Would’ve driven anyone else insane.” His voice is low and laced with sleep, his eyes still shut.
He’ll ask her these random questions every now and then at the weirdest of times and Rey doesn’t know if she finds it sweet or if maybe this is his subtle way of telling her that she doesn’t talk about herself enough. Instead of answering him she curls into his side, ignoring the fact that she’ll need to get up in about five minutes. She used to be a morning person. Then Finn happened.
He moves so that his arm can scoop her closer until their bodies are parallel to each other. “You didn’t answer the question,” he mumbles, eyes still shut.
“I’m thinking,” she says.
He gives a sleepy little “mmhm” in response which she knows translates to I’m really curious, but no pressure, babe.
Rey has asked herself over a thousand times why she waited, and she still doesn’t quite know the answer. Maybe she was insane in the first place.
“Once,” she begins and her voice is scratchy from disuse. She hadn’t planned on talking this morning, especially about things like feelings, and oh well, here she goes. Finn doesn’t make a move. She knows he’s listening.
“Once, I got tired of waiting for them to come. So I decided I was going to leave. I packed a bag and first thing the next morning I got on an old speeder and was determined to leave Jakku.
“But the minute I reached the outskirts of town, I hesitated. I don’t know why. It felt wrong to leave, to give up on my family, to just quit. I figured, if promises are meant to be kept, then they’d keep their promise to me, and they’d come back.”
He’s awake now and watching her with soft eyes. There’s no pity, only tired understanding.
(He had a family, too.)
Rey rolls away from him to stretch above her head. “And so I stayed and I hoped that they’d return.” She finishes and when she puts her arms down she sighs with her whole body.
Finn turns towards her, says quietly, “Maybe it was the Force telling you to stay.”
“I don’t know if that’s how the Force works,” she says.
“Maybe. Either way, if you left, we’d have never met. That would’ve been awful.”
“I think the Force was telling you to wait for some hunky ex-Stormtrooper to stumble into Jakku so you could rescue him.” Rey jokingly slaps his chest for that one. She’s feeling more awake now.
“Seriously,” he says and he gives her his Serious Finn look. “I have no idea what you went through, but it sounds like hell, and your family is missing out on this wonderful gift of a human.”
He doesn’t need to pull her into a hug because she’s already going in for it. They stay in their own world for a little longer, and instead of getting up she says to him, “You’re pretty okay, Finn.”
“You’re pretty okay yourself, Rey.”
(I love you.
I love you, too.)
They don’t get up at all that morning.
There's a young human girl that visits Jakku with her family. They're passing through, she says. They’re going to some other planet, she says.
Rey is covered in oil and grease and trying to nurse a fresh cut on her arm with an old rag. She sees the girl eyeing her bag of scrapped pieces.
Curious, the girl asks what they are.
“Tractor beams from a star destroyer,” Rey explains. “There's a lot of them here.”
The girl looks up at her. She has brown eyes and dark skin. “What will you do with it?” she asks.
“Trade it for food.”
Rey tenderly lifts her rag to check the cut. The bleeding has slowed a little bit. She can feel those brown eyes on her and she suddenly doesn't know what to do with herself.
“Here.” The girl reaches into her small drawstring pack and pulls out a kit. She opens it and hands Rey a bandage. “Take this.”
Rey looks at the bandage, the girl’s outstretched arm, her brown eyes that reflect the desert. Immediately, Rey bends to find a suitable piece of metal from her bag to trade the girl.
“Oh, no, it's alright,” the girl says. “I don't want anything. It's for free. You're bleeding.”
Rey stops rummaging, looks up, and raises an eyebrow. She points a finger to herself. “Me? For free?”
The girl nods. When Rey doesn't make a move, the girl unwraps the bandage herself, steps forward, and gingerly places it on Rey’s arm. Her fingers press gently to make sure it's in place. She smiles at Rey shyly when she's done as Rey examines the bandage. Plastic. Adhesive. Good for human skin.
“Free?” Rey asks this again, the word awkward and clunky on her tongue.
The girl nods and tilts her head to the side. She follows the bag of scraps at Rey’s feet to the line for the shifty trading booth and an understanding passes across her face.
“Free,” she confirms.
Rey thanks her. Her smile is one of confused happiness.
(What was free? Rey didn't know.)
The girl with brown eyes leaves shortly after that. She smiles and waves at Rey before boarding her ship with her family. They fire up the engine and propel out of Jakku’s parched atmosphere.
Later, when she's leaning against her AT-AT home, Rey touches the bandage again.
She looks towards the horizon. A strange girl gave her something and wanted nothing in return. A girl flung from space. A girl who was free to travel the galaxy.
Rey’s waiting for her family to come to Jakku. But she's waited a long time.
(Maybe she's not supposed to be waiting for them. Maybe they're waiting for her.)
Rey places the fighter helmet on her head and imagines herself flying high above the desert, across the sky and beyond the stars. She's extending her calloused hands and intertwining them with someone from another time, a reunion of the ages. She's free.
The cut slashes across her left eyebrow and its small size is deceptive because it feels like those bigger, scarier cuts that draw all the blood to the wound and make her heartbeat throb in that place.
Jedi training is demanding, and while she's usually on top of her game there’s always room for a slip-up. She's only human, after all.
Rey looks up from where she's leaning over the bathroom sink, dabbing a wet cloth over the cut, and there's Finn; some important looking papers in his hands and concerned frown on his face.
“You're probably late to your meeting,” she says and continues her dabbing. They've seen each other in worse states, a little cut shouldn't be worth much attention.
(But Finn always fusses over her, and she's learning, she's trying, to let him take care of her.)
“I'm never late to anything.” He sets down his Important looking stuff, steps over to the sink, and holds out his hand in front of her. An invitation.
She rolls her eyes, makes a big deal about handing over the cloth. He does a little bow before asking, “may I?”
Rey nods. “If you must.”
“Only if you want me to.” He's looking directly at her, searching her eyes and damn, sometimes she is just so not ready for Serious Finn.
She nods again and can't help but close her eyes when he gently brings the cloth to her cut and the dampness meets her split skin.
And it's subtle gestures like this that makes Rey break inside just a bit, because he is so soft, so patient and unprovoking in his help, offering things that she knows she can never reciprocate, nor does he ever expect her or want her to.
She cracks open an eye and he's deep in concentration.
(She may or may not be falling deeper into the very scary, very wonderful thing called love.)
“And now, let me see.” He puts the cloth in the sink and reaches up into the medicine cabinet and pulls out a box of bandages.
“The finishing touch,” he says as he unwraps the bandage. When he presses it down to smooth out the crinkles he looks like he could be piecing together the cracks in the galaxy.
“You look even more badass than before.” Rey doesn't miss the undertone of what sounds like awe (and maybe even adoration, but doesn't want to feel more sentimental than she already does), so she opts for pulling him forward and giving him a proper kiss.
Finn’s dazed when they break and Rey’s smile is growing bigger by the second.
“Thank you,” she says.
(Thank you for everything.)
“You should let me clean your cuts more often.”
Rey gives him a quick peck on the cheek and spots his forgotten papers in the background:
“I think you're late for your meeting.”
Rey feels an inexplicable tug towards Finn when she first meets him. He is a Resistance fighter. He’s one of the good guys.
“You were amazing back there!” His smile is wide and genuine. Rey thinks she's never seen anyone smile like that before.
“You were too!” she exclaims. They're talking over each other a mile a minute, compliments and “I can't believe that!” flying all over the place.
“You were absolutely incredible. Like, amazingly incredible. Wait, I said amazing already. Sorry. You're amazing.”
Rey can feel her smile growing bigger. “Yeah, well, we make a pretty good team.”
Finn scratches the back of his neck. “Yeah, I guess we do.”
Rey takes a moment to look him over. He's energy, pure and simple energy. The adrenaline is still coursing through his - and her - body, and his feet never stop shifting. She's known Finn for, what, a little more than an hour? Less? She doesn't know. She feels she's known him longer. He's an asteroid fallen from the sky and into the desert.
Finn’s reenacting a scene where he shot down a particularly difficult TIE fighter, complete with battle noises and whooshing motions.
“And when you swerved to the left that was the single most awesome thing because then I had a clear shot of this guy and bam! We got him good.” He does this little dance thing and BB-8 beeps at him and Rey can't help but laugh.
“BB-8 says they've seen better dancing.”
“Oh, have they now?” Finn proceeds to exaggerate his already goofy dance moves.
BB-8 beeps again and Rey chooses not to translate that. It's a sassy little droid.
Rey wants to ask him more about the Resistance, but they're interrupted by the ship’s obnoxious belch from the pits of that decades old engine room, and Rey inwardly rolls her eyes because of course this happens didn't I say this ship was garbage but they go quickly to see the damage.
(Later, in a quieter moment:
“What kind of name is Rey?”
“I don’t mean - like, it’s a nice name, but where’s it from?”
She pauses. “I don’t know.”
He doesn’t seem deterred.
“Rey,” he says to no one in particular, letting the name roll around his mouth. “I like it.”
His smile is small but blinding and she feels that tug in her gut again.)
Pink cheeks, tousled hair, Finn’s jacket -
(Scratch that. It's way better than nice. It's incredible.)
Rey’s heard stories about this stuff from the local women. Stuff so scandalous and promiscuous that it reddened her face and made her vow to stay single forever.
Finn fumbles with the hem of his shirt. Rey giggles, and when he smiles that big, beautiful unabashed smile that is so adorably and utterly Finn, she knows that she’s got it bad and feels her skin flush for a whole other reason.
The jacket comes flying off next and Rey hazily wonders if it’s too late to take back her naive vow she made once upon another time.
Then Finn does something with his hands that none of the Jakku women ever spoke about and Rey’s mind is running a thousand light years ahead and: screw the vow.
Those stories, she drowsily thinks as she's drifting to sleep later, had nothing on the real thing.
After she defeats Kylo Ren, after they march triumphantly back to the Resistance base, after R2-D2 comes to life again, and after someone kindly fetches Rey new clothes, she allows herself a small moment to rest.
Everything is in constant motion.
Logically, Rey knows that everything must move at a constant continuum, but this is different.
Once, when she was small and just starting to explore the parts of ships, she accidentally set off a spring in the belly of a star destroyer engine room. That spring bounced off the walls and crushed bulbs and boards and everything in its path. It dangerously darted round the small room and Rey had to scramble out of there before it had a chance to hit her.
Her journey felt like that spring. Everything moving, little rest in between, tension at every corner and her feeling wound up and confused and ready to break at any moment. So many questions and not enough answers. Too many parts.
Luke’s lightsaber rests heavily on her nightstand, the handle shining dully underneath the lamp light. Rey runs a hand across her face.
She knows what she needs to do.
Jakku has never felt so far away. She finds she doesn't mind.
(Finn looks ages younger when he's asleep. Rey prays that he's asleep. The doctors say he will be fine. She still worries.
Come with me.
Rey remembers a time when her only friend was a beat up rag doll in torn rebel clothing.
We came back for you.
((I came back for you.))
Rey will come back for him. They will meet again.
The kiss on his forehead is a promise.)
Rey crashes into him - literally crashes - at a sharp corner in an X-wing hangar. His face lights up when he sees her and he immediately goes in for a hug. She happily obliges (hugging is a new concept for both of them and they practice it every chance they get). Finn doesn’t seem to mind that she’s covered in gross oil and sweat but hey, she’s always been like this, so she isn’t going to change anytime soon.
She breaks the hug first and he takes his hands back quickly, face blushing adorably.
“So, you’re back.”
“I’ve been back for awhile. We had dinner together last night,” she reminds him.
Finn’s laugh is loud. “Oh, of course, don’t mind me.” He’s blushing really bad now.
The corner of Rey’s mouth turns up into a small, shy smile. “It was nice.”
“Me too. Want to do it again?”
“I have a meeting tonight with Leia, er, General Organa, but it ends at eight.” Suddenly she’s the one that’s blushing something awful. “Pick me up then?”
Finn’s grin is so big it looks like it’s gonna split his face. “Yeah, yeah, definitely, that’s great, that’s more than great.” He hugs her again and she’s taken back with a little “oomf!” and he releases her just as quick.
“Sorry, that was uncool.”
“No, it’s okay.” They’re two blushing idiots who are stupidly smiling at each other in the middle of an X-wing hangar.
“So where do you want to go?”
“On our date. It’s a date, right?”
“Oh, right. A date, yes.”
His hands fiddle with the zipper of his jacket. “Was last night a date, too?”
“I counted it as one.”
“Cool, because I was hoping it was.”
They laugh then, mostly at themselves and how they know absolutely nothing in the romance department.
“Where do you want to go?”
She thinks about it.
“Anywhere, as long as it’s with you.”
It’s stupid and cheesy and she doesn’t know if it’s too early to say these types of things. But he’s looking kind of embarrassed, kind of amazed, and mostly just as nervous as she is and when he pulls her in for another hug it’s a sign that they’ve got something good going on.
Finn offers to walk her to her room so she can wash up and she says yes, extending her hand in an invitation. He looks puzzled at first, but she nods, eyes bright. He smiles back, that beautiful radiant thing of a smile, and whole-heartedly takes her hand, and together they walk out of the hangar and into the sunlight.