Rey lives surrounded by sand and myths.
It is the latter that helps her survive the former, some days.
She hears fantastic stories, sometimes, when she ventures to the trading post to find out if the metal scraps she’s gathered will buy her enough ration scraps to live another few days on this dusty world. She hears talk of Jedi and Sith, empires and rebels, great battles of good versus evil.
She would call them unbelievable, but their remains litter the world, legends turned to skeletons half buried in the sand. The extraordinary incorporated into her life until it becomes mundane.
It’s harder to believe in the other stories. Travelers from offworld speak of them as ordinary, these things called trees and lakes and grass, rivers and waterfalls, snow and sleet and hail.
To her, they are as fantastic as descriptions of the war and even harder to imagine.
She’s half starved half the time and still not as hungry for food as she is for stories, myths though they may be. She doesn’t have anything to trade for them, though, nothing that will make the traders’ time spent telling tales to her worthwhile.
Rey trades her scavenged metal for rations and wanders back into the desert, back to her makeshift home built from a scrap of a legend.
Rey is used to being alone, but it’s only when the stories dry up -- because everything dries up eventually, here on Jakku -- that she finds herself wanting something more.
It’s not that companionship is hard to come by. She knows the trades that go on when night falls, the exchange of murmured praise, frantic touches, precious body heat. What she wants is something else, something warm and steady, something that lasts into the light of day, makes the vast expanse of sand feel a little less empty.
There’s a word for what she wants, one she’s learned in the same way she’s learned about trees and snow and the war. But the people on this world have been so well trained to see each other as competition for limited resources that she knows it’s a pointless wish.
Or maybe she’s so used to looking up, to waiting for the return of what she had, that she’s trained herself out of looking around her to find something new.
Either way, there’s a word for it, this thing she wants but can’t have: friend.
She may as well wish to be a Jedi.
The first few times Finn tries to hold her hand, Rey shakes him off.
After all, no one has ever grabbed her that did not want something she was unwilling to give.
Ships are easy enough for her to figure out, but the inner workings of other people are more of a challenge. She resists the urge to turn her weapon on him as she sizes him up, measures his worth in the way he moves, the way he speaks, the way he looks at her. As far as she can tell, all he wants is her droid and her help, but she needs to be sure.
Then the troopers show up, their armor snow white (or so she’s been told) and unnatural against the sand, and there’s no more time for calculations.
Still, she watches the way Finn runs. The way he falls.
She turns back for him.
Are you okay? he asks, his back on the ground, sand already sticking to the sweat on his face.
For a moment, she hesitates. She sorts back through her memory, trying to remember the last time anyone asked her that.
She thinks: Maybe he doesn’t want anything from me. Maybe he’s offering me something, instead.
She says, Yeah.
Rey holds out her hand and pulls her friend to his feet.