Rey's worked hard learning to fight with her staff. She's spent many hours drilling with it, alone in the cool of the Jakku twilight, where the warmth of the sun was tempered by the oncoming chill of the night. She'd had a good teacher. Unkar Plutt had seen to that, once she was old enough to scavenge for him and needed to fight off the competition. If he took the cost of the lessons out of her portions for two years afterward, well, he was a businessman, and she'd rather not have been in his debt, anyway. At that cost, she'd been a good student.
She still is, but she's so used to fighting with a staff that she has difficulty adjusting to the lightsaber. She's ambivalent about it, isn't sure if it's hers to claim, though Luke has told her repeatedly that it's hers now if she wants it, that Ben gave up the right to it when he fell. (Both Luke and the General still call him Ben, but Rey can't think of him as anyone but Kylo Ren, can't see him as anything but an enemy, the man who'd killed Han Solo.)
Rey remembers the vision she had when she'd first touched the hilt, recalls the sound of children shrieking and the flash of a blue blade, and isn't so sure Luke is right.
Still, she hasn't built one herself yet, and she's not sure when she's going to get the chance to, so she uses Anakin Skywalker's. It feels right in her hand (feels right in the Force), even if she can't quite get used to using a weapon that carries all of its weight in the hilt.
"You're lucky you haven't lost a hand," Luke tells her mildly when she forgets and grabs at the blade of her practice sword. She can't stop her gaze from flicking down to his prosthesis, wrapped around the hilt of his own practice sword, and he gives her an unimpressed look. He'd lost his hand in a duel with Darth Vader, after all, not a training accident.
She meets his gaze, embarrassed and unwilling to show it, even though he can probably feel it in the Force. "I thought there was no such thing as luck, only the Force."
Luke shrugs and gives her a wry grin. "I'll take all the help I can get."
Rey laughs and raises the practice sword. "Again?"
Luke nods. "Again."
"Let's try something different," Luke says a few days later. He hands her his lightsaber, and she offers hers to him, but he shakes his head. "I want you to use both."
She looks at the lightsabers in her hands--Luke's doesn't feel quite as right as his father's does, but it's not actively wrong, either--and then back up at him. She tries not to sound skeptical when she says, "Okay," but she doesn't manage it.
"I've never used this form myself," he says once both blades are lit, "but I looked it up and it seems to have been pretty common." He holds up a holocron so she knows what he's talking about, and then opens it.
It's a training sim, featuring a Tholothian Jedi Master with two green blades. She bows, waits for Rey to bow back, and then leads her through a kata using both lightsabers, talking the whole time about footwork and balance and flow.
Over the next couple of weeks, Rey repeats the sim until she knows it by heart, can do it three or four times faster than the demonstration in the holocron, knows it with her eyes shut and her arms shaking and her body covered in sweat. She deactivates her blades and stands in the grass and focuses on getting her breathing back under control.
"Again," Luke says from where he lounges on the ground behind her. At least this time he's not snacking on warra nuts.
She swipes the sweat from her brow and takes a long drink of water from her canteen. "Again," she murmurs and reignites the sabers.
"We don't have the luxury of time," the General says, her image faint and flickering at this distance, but the expression of grim determination on her face is perfectly clear. "We've evacuated D'Qar. I'll have a ship waiting for you at the coordinates I'm sending; they'll lead you to the new base."
"Okay," Luke says. "We'll see you soon. And Leia," he hesitates a moment, "may the Force be with you."
The General's mouth quirks in a half-grin. "Same to you, little brother." She cuts the call before Luke can respond.
"There's no proof she's older," he insists, and Rey laughs.
Sometimes she still finds herself amazed by his presence, let alone what he can do (what he's teaching her to do), but these moments of warmth and humor have worn away most of her awe. Hard to maintain it for someone who tells awful jokes and treats her with such kindness when he doesn't have to, even if he did once save the galaxy. Finn and Poe remind her that she helped save the galaxy too, and everyone's counting on her to do it again. She tries not to think about that much, though. She doesn't want to disappoint them.
Rey's still not used to the sheer plenty of green and growing things in the galaxy, and she likes to walk barefoot in the grass that backs one of the makeshift hangars on the new Resistance base. She loves the dewy coolness of it early in the morning, when few people are around.
This morning, she makes her way to the small clearing where she and Luke train to start her workout, and discovers that she's not alone. A tall Togruta woman wielding a pair of white lightsabers moves through a kata very much like the one Rey's been learning from the holocron. The woman must sense her, because she stops and deactivates the blades.
"Good morning," the woman says, inclining her head briefly. Her eyes are very blue and they seem to look into Rey the way Luke's do, seeing and weighing everything about her. "You must be Rey. I'm Ahsoka."
"Good morning," Rey answers with a nod. "Luke's trying to teach me jar'kai, but neither of us is very good at it. Can you show me?" She unhooks the lightsaber from her belt and Ahsoka's eyes widen, as if she recognizes it, but she doesn't say anything. "I only have this right now. Luke lets me use his to practice."
"May I?" Ahsoka asks, attaching her own lightsabers to her belt and holding out a hand.
"Uh, okay?" Rey says, unsure (she's still not certain Luke was serious when he'd said, "This weapon is your life," but it seems better to take it to heart than not) but unwilling to argue with someone who appears more knowledgeable about all this Jedi stuff than she is.
Ahsoka activates it and wields it with great precision, her movements familiar from Luke's instruction. Then she powers it down and hands it back to Rey. "It's a good weapon. Well made."
Rey thinks of the way Kylo Ren's lightsaber blade had flickered and snapped, how unstable it felt in the Force (not that she'd understood that at the time) compared to the one in her hand. "Good to know."
"It was my master's." Ahsoka's tone is hard to read; she's definitely saying something Rey is meant to hear but doesn't, quite.
Rey frowns, confused. "I didn't think any of Luke's students survived when Kylo Ren attacked."
"Oh, no," Ahsoka says with a laugh, and everything about that sound comes through: joy and sadness, knowledge and regret shining in it. "I was Anakin's padawan long before Luke was born."
Before he was Vader, she means. Rey's had enough contact with the Dark Side to recognize it now, and Ahsoka feels more like Luke than she does like Kylo Ren. She must also be a lot older than she looks, but Rey's used to nonhumans who age at a much different rate. They were one of the few things other than sand and shipwrecks that were plentiful on Jakku. She'd loved scrubbing her daily haul at Niima Station while listening to their stories of the galaxy in days gone by, tales of the Jedi and the Old Republic, of the Rebellion and the Empire. It's where she learned about Luke in the first place. At least, that's how she remembers it.
Lost in her thoughts, she's let the silence go on too long. It happens to her a lot here, among people who talk more in a few minutes than she sometimes did in a week on Jakku. But Ahsoka doesn't look uncomfortable. Luke wouldn't have, either, so maybe it's a Jedi thing.
"Do you want it?" Rey asks, still holding the lightsaber. It feels cool and right in her hand and she finds herself reluctant to relinquish it now that the possibility's come up. "Does it belong to you?"
"From what I hear, it belongs to you now. I think Anakin would be pleased." Ahsoka smiles. "I mean it as a compliment."
"I know," Rey says, smiling back, though she's not sure how she really feels about it. Luke would probably recommend more meditation.
"Why don't you show me what you've learned so far?" Ahsoka asks, short-circuiting the awkwardness by unhooking her own lightsabers and activating them.
"Okay," Rey says, and takes up the first position of the first lightsaber form Luke taught her.
An hour later, Rey deactivates her lightsaber and drops to the grass. "I surrender," she says with a breathless laugh. Ahsoka is much better with her lightsabers than Luke is with his.
Ahsoka sits next to her, and Rey hasn't known many Togruta, but she also seems to be breathing faster than normal, so Rey is going to allow herself to feel a small, warm burst of pride for keeping up.
"Dual-wielding might work for you," Ahsoka finally says. "It wasn't all that common, but some dual-wielders would combine their sabers into a staff. That might feel more familiar to you."
Rey sits up, intrigued. It would require building two lightsabers, but that might be fun.
"Or you could lose a hand."
Rey's mouth quirks up ruefully. "That's what Luke says."
"I guess he'd know," Ahsoka says, dry as the Goazon Badlands.
Rey can't help the bark of laughter that escapes. She claps a hand over her mouth, feeling a little disrespectful. Luke's been very kind to her and he's taught her a lot. "He's a good teacher," she says.
"I know," Ahsoka replies. "So was his father."
Rey raises her eyebrows in surprise. "You'll have to tell me about that sometime."
Ahsoka gives her a small smile and places a warm hand on her arm. "I'd like that."
One of the things Rey's had to get used to--both with Luke on Ahch-To and then again at the Resistance base--is the food. Not just that she doesn't have to scavenge and trade for portions, but the amount she's allowed to eat, three times a day! And the variety! In addition to the usual nutrient paste and ration bars, there's actual cooked food and fresh fruit. She can go through the line in the mess as often as she likes at each meal, and nobody will stop her. She does have to pay at the combination cantina and caf shop set up just beyond the perimeter of the base, but in addition to room and board, she also receives a small stipend from the Resistance. No one's been able to tell her exactly what she's getting paid for, but as long as she can buy sweet caf drinks and cookies whenever she and Finn and Poe are off-shift at the same time, she hasn't questioned it too closely.
There'd been a cantina in Niima Station, small and dimly-lit and sour-smelling, and everybody passed through it when they came to Jakku. But Rey had learned quickly that it was not the place for a curious child, nor a young woman who didn't want company. On Jakku, it was rarely a good idea to draw attention by speaking up or asking questions, even if she did know how to defend herself. It's strange to be in a place now where even people she's never met know her name and some part of her story. Maybe someday one of them will pass through Niima Station and mention her name and that she started out on Jakku, and some other young scavenger will look at the stars and wonder if she could escape that sandy graveyard and save the galaxy, too.
Some nights, Rey and Finn and Poe meet up at the cantina for a drink and some conversation after the evening meal. A lot of people on the base go when they're off-shift, and that ebb and flow means it's never overwhelming for her, even though it's a new experience. She likes it, likes listening to them talk and tease each other as much as she'd ever liked listening to the smugglers and spacers who came through Niima Station with wild tales to tell and contraband to trade. Maybe more, because now she's got Finn and Poe flanking her, and she'd never had friends before, let alone whatever they are to each other.
Poe's drinking caf because he has to fly a patrol shift later on, and Finn's having some kind of slushy-fruity electric blue cocktail that gave Rey a terrible headache the first time she tried it. She's sticking with the cheap local ale; it doesn't taste all that great, but two glasses of it give her a nice gauzy feeling, like she's seeing the world through the sea spray she'd come to love on Ahch-To.
The cantina is noisy with chatter but it's mostly a background hum in Rey's ears as she sips her drink and listens to Poe and Finn discuss the recruiting pitch they'll be making on their next mission into what's left of Republic space.
"You should just pose with your X-wing, and wait for the recruits to come running," she says, with a laugh, brushing back the errant curl that always falls over Poe's forehead by the end of the day, no matter how much gel he uses to tame it.
"That's what I said," the General says, and Rey automatically straightens out of her comfortable and slightly tipsy slouch against Finn's side. "Everybody loves a flyboy." She nudges Luke, who's standing next to her, and glances up at Ahsoka, who's on her other side, with a wry look.
Luke snorts. "That's not how I remember it."
"You were probably just oblivious," Ahsoka says.
Luke nods. "Fair enough."
"Mind if we join you?" the General asks.
"Please do," Poe says, and it's a good thing he's with them, because Rey and Finn can't manage a coherent response between them; all they produce is a lot of jumbled, high-pitched welcoming noises.
"General!" Rey finally manages, laughing at her own inarticulateness. "It's good to see you." She hasn't been invited to call the General "Leia" the way Luke and Ahsoka do, but that's okay, because Rey's not sure she could manage it if she had; there's something awe-inspiring about her that goes beyond even the Force. Even after all the years and losses, she's as strong as durasteel, but she hasn't let it make her brittle. Rey can't help but wonder how she does it, since she barely seems to use the Force at all, not the way Luke does. Rey thinks it would be worth learning how she does it.
It's a tight fit around the table but they manage. Rey certainly doesn't mind having Finn and Poe pressed up against her.
The General waves a hand, and Vare, the guy who runs the cantina, comes over. Rey helped him scavenge copper scrubbers to build a new still a couple of days after she and Luke first arrived at the base. She'd also helped him build the still, and learned a little about making moonshine in the process. So she'd have other options, he said, in case this whole Jedi thing doesn't work out.
"Here's the first batch of moonshine from the new still," Vare says, presenting their table with a bottle of clear liquor. He glances at the General. "I thought I'd name it after General Solo."
General Organa laughs roughly. "He'd have liked that."
Vare pours them each a shot and they wait for the General to speak. She looks down at the small glass in her hand and then back up at all of them.
"To Han," she says, and they all drink. She pats Vare's arm and thanks him as he heads back to the bar. He leaves the bottle with them.
It tastes like cleaning solvent and burns all the way down. Rey sputters and blinks away the tears that well up in her eyes, which are absolutely due to the alcohol and not at all to her grief over losing Han just as she'd met him. Hers can't compare to the General's or Luke's.
"That'll put hair on your chest," Finn says in a hoarse voice.
"Kriff, I hope not," Ahsoka replies faintly, shaking her head as if to clear it.
Beneath the chatter, Luke reaches across Finn and takes Rey's hand. "It's not a competition," he says softly. "Just because you didn't know him as long as we did doesn't mean your feelings aren't real or important."
"Okay," she says with a nod. She didn't have any friends on Jakku, but she occasionally had acquaintances she worked with, people she occasionally trusted, and the best ways she knew to show that were to allow them a part of what she'd scavenged, or to share her water when she didn't have to. She thinks this might be a similar offering, and she's eager to accept it, to belong.
He gives her a nod in return before he lets go of her hand. Then he looks at the General. "Do you remember that time with the bounty hunter--what was her name?"
"Which one?" the General asks, her mouth curving wryly. "Sometimes it felt like there was a new one every week."
"The one who tied him to the bed," Luke prompts.
"Oh," the General says, laughing. She looks at the rest of the table. "We were on Taris to pick up a shipment of guns for the Alliance, and Han got snatched out of a cantina by a bounty hunter named Petal Prous. She worked for Jabba, of course. Pretty little thing, which is how she got the drop on her marks, but she could punch like a gundark." The General rubs her jaw absently. "We tracked them down to a hot sheet motel in an even seedier part of the city, and Han was tied to the bed in nothing but his shorts." She pours another shot for herself and one for Luke, then passes the bottle around. "And the first thing he said when we got the gag out of his mouth was, 'I'm on top of it.'"
"So Leia says," and here Luke and the General speak in unison, "'I hate to break it to you, but if you think you're on top here, you're doing it wrong.'"
Everyone laughs and downs the second drink. Rey makes a strangled noise, still not used to the burn, and Finn pounds on her back. She knows he means well, but it doesn't help.
"I'm all right," she manages.
"You sure are," he replies loudly, with a wide smile. He sounds as drunk as she feels.
Luke and the General trade off regaling them with stories about Han, about the Alliance, about adventures that sound like holonet dramas in the telling, and they raise a shot of moonshine after each one. Rey has to stop after the third shot, because the room has started to tilt, but the others keep going. At some point, Vare brings them another bottle, this one just as mouth-searing as the first.
"And that's how Shara and I helped the Queen of Naboo keep the planet from being destroyed," the General finishes. She looks at Rey and Finn, making sure they feel included. "Shara was Poe's mother. He was just a baby then, though." She smiles at him. "Your mother was a great pilot, Poe."
"To Shara Bey," Poe says, lifting his mug of caf. They drink.
There's a brief moment of silence, as if the whole cantina has joined them in toasting her. Then the noise starts up again and Rey wonders if she imagined it. She forgets it a second later, when Ahsoka starts speaking.
"This one time, my master and Master Kenobi--" She stops, widening her eyes as if she's been caught with her hand in the cookie jar, then leans in and says, "General Organa," and there's a teasing fondness in her voice when she says it, "doesn't like it when I tell these stories."
"Don't stop on my account," the General says, waving a hand dismissively. Her eyes are smiling even if her mouth isn't. It's good to see her this way, Rey thinks, her sorrow finally leavened with some happiness. Or strong drink, anyway. Sometimes it's a close enough substitute.
Ahsoka grins. "It was in the Undercity on Coruscant. Obi-Wan had contacts everywhere, and we were supposed to be undercover, searching for a Seppie spy. Somehow, he and Anakin got roped into a game of high-stakes sabacc. Which was fine, except that when it came to cards, Obi-Wan would cheat you as soon as look at you, even though he was perfectly capable of winning without cheating."
"No way," Luke says, scandalized. "Old Ben?"
"Yes," Ahsoka answers emphatically. "I know he could come across as a bit stodgy, but we had some wild times. And Anakin never could hold his liquor. Plus, he was terrible at being discreet."
"Now that I believe," the General murmurs, and Luke laughs.
"So about four hands into the game, the smuggler they were playing with accused Obi-Wan of cheating, which, of course, he was, and Anakin, who'd had a couple of Correllian brandies by that point, took it as an offense to Obi-Wan's honor. Needless to say, the brawl they started brought the CSF down on the place.
"Luckily, I was sober since I was the designated driver." She gives Rey a rueful grin and explains, "It was a padawan's bounden duty, according to Anakin, who'd had to play the role for Obi-Wan for years. I had to call in the big guns to keep them both from getting hauled into the drunk tank overnight."
"Yoda?" Luke guesses, a smile playing across his face. "I can only imagine how that would have gone over."
"No!" Ahsoka says gleefully, slapping the rickety tabletop. "We were trying to avoid getting yelled at by him. So I called your mother and she talked everyone down, and got the information we were looking for at the same time." She smiles nostalgically. "Padmé could charm a rancor if she set her mind to it, and talk in circles dizzying enough to make you agree down was up on the rare occasion she couldn't. She wasn't Force-sensitive at all, but she was a consummate politician." She raises her glass. "To Padmé Amidala."
"And to Kenobi and Skywalker," Luke says.
The General raises her glass and adds, "Heroes of the Old Republic."
Rey can feel the waves of pleased surprise emanating from both Ahsoka and Luke. This time, Rey takes the drink with the rest of them.
The second bottle's close to empty by this point, and Rey closes her eyes and leans sleepily against Poe, who presses a warm kiss to her forehead while Finn squeezes her knee under the table.
"I've got a patrol to fly," Poe says gently, trying to ease his way out of his seat without letting Rey fall. He tips her towards Finn, who catches her clumsily. "I will see you all tomorrow. I'll be the one without a hangover."
Rey blinks up at him and his grin seems to light up the whole place, giving him a warm golden glow that is probably just alcohol but could be the Force. She's too drunk to know anymore.
"And we better pour the kids into bed," Luke says, smiling at them. He looks a little unfocused as well, but none of the older generation look as drunk as Rey feels.
"Come on, Rey," the General says, pulling Rey's arm over her shoulders and leading her out into the cool night air. Luke does the same with Finn, who is steadier on his feet but still swaying slightly. "I've got you."
Most of the current base is underground, so there's not as much light pollution as there would be otherwise. The stars overhead look big and close, closer than they ever did on Jakku, where everything always seemed so far away.
"I feel like I can touch the stars," Rey says seriously. She reaches up and stumbles, and the General helps steady her on her feet. "Thank you, General."
"I think after tonight, you can call me Leia," the General says. "At least when you're not on duty."
"Yes, General Leia, sir. Thank you." Rey gives her a sloppy salute. In the morning, if--when--she remembers this, her face will burn with embarrassment, but right now she feels as proud as she ever has of anything.
They make it back to Rey's quarters without further incident and the General--Leia!--lets Rey topple gently into her bunk.
"Sleep well, Rey." Leia brushes the hair off Rey's forehead with a warm hand. "I hope when you do touch the stars, you don't get burned."
Rey hums gratefully and falls instantly into sleep.
"Time to get up, Rey."
Rey rolls over and then desperately wishes she hadn't. She feels like someone is drilling into her head right behind her left eye and her mouth is as dry as the desert. It might be filled with sand. Sand might taste better than whatever is coating her tongue right now. She can feel all the liquid inside her body sloshing around, especially in her stomach, and she thinks she might heave.
She hauls herself into a sitting position and has to close her eyes and stop moving for a long moment while the world settles around her. "I'm dying," she moans.
Hands shove a bucket under her mouth as she retches, and then she finds herself blinking up at Ahsoka's face. Aside from a tightness of the skin around her eyes and mouth, which is probably evidence of her age rather than the effects of the moonshine, she looks as fresh as if she'd spent the night sleeping the sleep of the just.
"We're all dying all the time, Rey. Dying is easy. Everyone does it." Ahsoka takes Rey's lightsaber, which the General (and now Rey remembers getting permission to call her Leia, and is flooded with all the pride and embarrassment the memory brings) must have laid aside for her last night, and presses it into Rey's nerveless fingers. "Getting up and fighting when it feels like you're dying, that's hard."
Rey groans again and wrinkles her nose as the taste in her mouth, which is somehow even more awful than it was before.
"Come on." Ahsoka chivvies her out of bed and into the small fresher attached to her quarters. "Kylo Ren isn't going to care if you're well-rested or hydrated the next time he tries to kill you."
Rey nods, already brushing her teeth. "I'll be ready in a couple of minutes."
Ahsoka gives her a kind smile. "I'll be waiting outside."
It's overcast today, low gray clouds blocking the sun, but it still feels too bright to Rey, who squints up at them with a deep sense of personal betrayal. She loves clouds, loves the rain they herald. She just wishes they were slightly dimmer, just this once.
Ahsoka leads her through some katas, and after about an hour, Luke joins them. It starts to drizzle, more an aggressive mist than a rainstorm at the moment, and Rey turns her face to it, like a solar array follows the sun. Water soaks Rey's clothes and beads on her skin. It soothes the ache in her head, and the queasiness in her belly, or maybe that's the Force flowing through her as she moves. It becomes easier with each passing repetition.
When they're done, Luke holds out a package. "Brought you some breakfast," he says.
Rey smiles. "Thank you." She wolfs down the two simple sandwiches he's brought her--nut paste and jam on slightly stale bread--and takes a long pull from her canteen. Even though water is almost always readily available everywhere she's gone since she left Jakku, she doesn't feel right without it clanging against her hip when she walks. Now that she has a lightsaber on her belt, it even balances out.
"You can take the kid out of the desert," Ahsoka murmurs.
Luke shrugs ruefully. Rey laughs and offers both of them drinks from her canteen. They oblige her. She's never said anything about it, but she thinks Luke at least must know what she means by it.
"That was a good story last night," Luke says, squinting into the overcast. "Thank you for that."
"Even better because it was all true," Ahsoka replies. "I'm glad Leia enjoyed it, too."
Luke turns to Rey. "Leia used to get annoyed when I asked Ahsoka for stories about our father, but Ahsoka and I both think it's important to remember that he wasn't just Darth Vader, that he'd had a life and a name before that, a life he made a choice to return to at the end.
"Maybe it doesn't matter to the rest of the galaxy--not that they could ever really forget what he became--but for us, as his family, I think we need to remember that even though it can't make up for all the terrible things he did as Vader, he was still a person." He sighs. "I think now Leia realizes it's the same with Ben. We can remember and mourn the person he was, and we can hope that he'll make better choices in the end."
"A Jedi doesn't dwell on the past or fret about the future," Ahsoka says. "A Jedi is present in the moment, in each moment, as it happens. But there's nothing wrong with occasionally reminding ourselves of where we come from, and it's only wisdom to keep our eyes open to where we're going."
Rey feels the weight of that past every time she picks up Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber. Her lightsaber now, even if she might still build herself a new one. And she sees it in the scars on Finn's back and shoulder, in the way Poe still wakes up screaming sometimes in the middle of the night. But she also sees the future in her dreams sometimes, bad and good, and she wakes with hope for each new day.
She squares her shoulders, plants her feet, and ignites her lightsaber. The grass is slippery with rain and her toes curl into the mud, but when she closes her eyes, she can feel the world turning beneath her.
"Let the future come," she says. "I'm ready."