raise a glass to the four of us /tomorrow there'll be more of us
The Story Of Tonight, Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda
"It's a festival," Poe said, eyeing the trousers Finn was holding up. "Not a... You know, I don't even know where you could wear those."
That was a lie. Poe could think of all sorts of places Finn, dressed in skin-tight leather trousers, would be welcomed with enthusiasm. Once Finn had grasped how good he'd look in them, Finn would probably be able to think of several more. A number of people, including Poe himself, had originally assumed that the First Order had raised Finn as a sexless, suppressed innocent - but they had all quickly discovered that while Finn subscribed to a utilitarian view of his own extremely beautiful body, and was unfamiliar with many of the social contexts in which Resistance members met, mingled and swapped fluids, he was a demon flirt and a fiend in bed.
Still. Poe felt that Jess ought to have provided Finn with some kind of brief primer on this particular social context, along with the trousers.
"It was Jess's idea," Finn said, looking crestfallen. "She said I had to have a costume, and then I said I didn't know what she meant, and then she said not to worry, she'd find me a costume."
"Where's the rest of it?" Poe blurted, and then slapped a hand over his mouth. Just in time, he managed to turn the gesture into a thoughtful rubbing of his hand over his lips, as if he were considering the possibilities of Finn's new trousers.
Finn dropped the trousers on his bunk and picked up a pot of glow-in-the-dark paint and a skull mask.
"Right," Poe said, valiantly trying not to dwell on the implications.
"I could just put it on a shirt," Finn said, "the paint, I mean - but it'll never come off again."
"That's very practical," Poe said, with strict accuracy. "Although it's probably washable."
"Jess told me not to put it on the trousers." Finn shrugged. "Actually, she said if I wanted I could just wear the mask and that'd be enough, but I thought at least half a skeleton would be more fun. Major Kalonia has a humanoid teaching skeleton she said I could use as a reference."
"Okay." Poe sat down on his bunk and rubbed his hand across his mouth again, staring without seeing at the opposite wall. "Right. Okay." He took a deep breath. "What exactly do you know about Reset?"
“Reset," Luke said slowly, balancing pebbles on top of one another with the Force. He wasn't doing it because he found it difficult, Rey knew. He was doing it because Rey found it extremely difficult, and he wanted her to know it was possible; to find each pebble's delicate balance, to hold it with the Force, to move it to the moment where it could sit by itself on the rocky, uneven ground - and then to release it, gently enough that it would not fall, and to select a second pebble, and place it on top of the first, and a third, and a fourth.
Luke was on ten pebbles. Rey couldn't get higher than four. Her touch wasn't yet subtle enough to avoid disturbing the lower pebbles of her tower when she found a space for higher ones, and even when she managed the necessary delicacy, she kept finding a point for higher pebbles that disturbed the balance of the lower ones.
It was nearly as frustrating as trying to release her emotions into the Force. When you had a cramp in your thigh, rocks biting into your arse, and a wobbly tower of pebbles refusing to do as you damn well told them, you had a lot of exasperation to release into the Force, and every time Rey tried to do it, she dropped the pebbles she had managed to pile up.
There was a sad little clatter and all of the pebbles she had stacked up fell over.
“Kriffing hell,” Rey moaned. She was getting a headache.
“Take a moment, start again,” Luke said – not unkindly, but relentlessly. “It could be worse. I could be making you do this and a handstand at the same time.”
“Ugh.” Rey took a deep, calming breath, thought of the sweet moment just before a ship jumped into hyperspace – that release of tension, the kick of unreal speed – and slowly, slowly, let that breath out.
“I’ll tell you about Reset, and then you can try again.” Luke was still lifting pebbles, and was now on his twelfth. “Reset is a festival that derives from various Rebellion traditions. The first half of it – the mourning half – is based on Alderaanian customs, though there was no similar festival on Alderaan.”
“Did General Organa begin it?”
“Not as such.” The thirteenth pebble settled into place. “How much do you know about the last years of the Rebellion?”
“I’ve got a history primer to read, but Poe and I aren’t done with the X-Wing manual yet.” Rey had never learned to read Aurebesh on Jakku; she could write her name in Outer Rim Basic and could recognise the shapes that made up important markings on salvage parts, but she couldn’t read fluently. She knew Unkar Plutt had writing about her somewhere – writing that might have told her of her family – but she had never had enough portions to trade for lessons in Aurebesh from the one person at Niima Outpost who read and wrote it well. She’d certainly never had enough portions to trade for lessons in both Outer Rim Basic and Aurebesh, in case the writing was in the other script, and as for having enough portions to get access to that writing – no chance.
Poe had discovered her illiteracy when he realised she couldn’t read a note he’d left her, and had offered to teach her from the X-Wing manual his mother had taught him to read from. Rey had accepted. It was easier than the pebbles.
Belatedly, she remembered the point of all this. “I know the stories,” she said dubiously. Most of the stories seemed to think Luke was the galaxy’s best pilot (which might be true) and a towering god (which he definitely wasn’t: Rey had seen Artoo chase him across an entire base by way of revenge for being abandoned for a decade or so, and she had seen General Organa cry laughing at the sight). They also had a lot of opinions about then-Princess Leia and Han Solo which Rey thought were probably rubbish.
Luke, unexpectedly, laughed. He seemed to be having a little trouble with the fourteenth pebble. “Some of the stories are true,” he admitted. “But I doubt the kind of rumours pilots come out with when they’re drunk would give you anything like the full truth. You know my sister’s home planet Alderaan was destroyed?”
“Yes,” Rey said. She thought it was almost the saddest thing about General Organa: to have lost a home and a family, a whole home planet, before your eyes. Maybe that was worse than never knowing your family at all.
“Reset falls on the anniversary of its destruction. My sister took on… and altered… certain mourning rituals. On Alderaan, the whole family would gather a year after a loss. They would spend a day in contemplation, together, and light candles around pictures of the deceased.” The fourteenth pebble settled into place. “I never visited Alderaan, of course, but my sister told me that such a gathering would be as lavish as possible. It was important to give in proportion to your income; as much as you could, to honour your loss. It wasn’t the amount you spent that was important. It was how much you could afford to give to make the rest of your family comfortable and remember your loved one.” A fifteenth pebble began to hover in the air. “The Alderaanian colour of mourning was red, but Leia wears white for Reset. It’s a colour of purpose and pure intent, you wear it when you mean business. Leia wore white almost constantly throughout the war. Except when she was being shot at.” Luke paused thoughtfully. “Sometimes even then. So Reset is a day set aside to come together and remember.”
Rey digested this. “But Reset sounded happy. People were excited.”
“Because the mourning is the first part,” Luke said. “The second part, after the sun sets and the bonfires are lit, is the wildest party a Rebellion base – or a Resistance base – can manage. People dress up. Everything goes. Everyone has a very bad hangover the next day.” He grinned. “I could tell you stories.”
Rey wrinkled her nose. She didn’t doubt Luke could tell her stories, and she didn’t trust that impish grin. “Doesn’t sound like it matches. The two parts.”
“That’s why it’s called Reset.” Luke’s face twisted suddenly, a little grim, a little rueful. “The day Alderaan was destroyed is also the day Han and I rescued Leia and joined the Rebellion.” His mouth twisted back, into a sad, affectionate smile. “Han spent a good year or so pretending he hadn’t joined the Rebellion, but then, he was a terrible liar.”
Rey remembered the Kanjiklub and crawling through vents with Finn. “Yeah.”
“Reset is about remembering our losses and looking to the future,” Luke said softly. “It’s catharsis.”
“Letting go of your grief, allowing it to pass from you. Leaving you with the opportunity to master it.” Luke gave the scattered pebbles in front of Rey a meaningful look. “If my sister can master her grief over losing her planet, you can control your emotions long enough to lift a few pebbles.”
There was nothing Rey could reasonably say to that. She reached out with her mind for a pebble, and tried not to wonder what it would be like, to see your home and the place you were responsible for reduced to pebbles of no greater size: the solid ground beneath your feet, turned to something little more than dust.
“… so we’ve always celebrated it,” Poe finished, rather lamely. He was still sitting on the bunk, elbows resting on his knees, hands loosely clasped in front of him to stop him twisting his fingers the way Finn had seen him do at first. Finn was mirroring Poe’s posture, in an attempt to make him more comfortable. “My mother knew both General Organa and Master Luke very well. She was half-Alderaanian herself. Always called the General princess, like it was a joke.”
Finn frowned. “Why not Queen?”
Poe straightened a little and shook his head, dark curls shivering with the motion. “No. General Organa always says the Queen of Alderaan is Breha Organa.”
Poe nodded silently, and then licked his lips and added: “Those are the first names we say. Breha and Bail Organa. Their names always come into it – and then the official list of people we’ve lost since last year.” He was silent again for a second. “I don’t know how we’ll do that. This year.”
Finn thought of the billions of lives lost in the Hosnian system, of the blinding headache Rey had got from the sheer pressure of grief and trauma after spending a day among some refugees, and swallowed. “General Organa’ll think of something.”
Poe’s smile was small, but real. Finn thought he was learning to tell the difference between Poe’s reckless, careless grins, half adrenaline and half leadership, and the smaller, less blinding ones that Poe only gave people he cared about when he was calm.
Finn cleared his throat. “So I should find some white to wear, then. For the, uh. The first half.”
“You don’t have to,” Poe said, shaking his head. “Only the Alderaanians and people who… really need it, in a particular year, will wear white. Most people dip in and out of the memorial throughout the day – people still have duties to attend to. Alderaan’s date of death is common knowledge and so’s Reset. Nobody wants the First Order to catch us with our pants down.”
Finn couldn’t help grinning at the mental image, but it was fleeting. He kept thinking of Slip’s white gauntlet, and the blood on his fingers. “So I can just… pay my respects, maybe.”
Poe smiled again. “Yeah. If you’ve got anyone to remember, then you should do that, we can… manage something.” He twisted his fingers together and looked down at his hands. “Like your friend. The one you mentioned – the one who died at Tuanul. You could definitely name him in the evening, when we all name our lost ones.”
Finn’s breath caught, and the air in the bunkroom suddenly seemed too close. “Slip.”
Poe didn’t look up; he nodded. “FN-2003, right?”
“Yeah,” Finn said softly, closing his stinging eyes. “But everyone called him Slip.”
There was a long silence. The shadows of the ferns outside swayed across the bunkroom’s wall; the weak wintry sun lit Poe’s skin in gold, touched his hair in silver.
“You’d do that for a Stormtrooper,” Finn said. It wasn’t a question.
Poe looked up at last. He didn’t smile; his liquid dark eyes were solemn. “I’d do that for a Stormtrooper.” He got up, shook his limbs out and made a couple of comments about being an old man, then flashed one of his careless grins at Finn and held out a hand.
“Come on,” he said. “Let’s go kidnap a padawan and get her to eat.”
“Like that’s going to be difficult,” Finn said, with a well-developed appreciation for Rey’s ability to inhale whatever quantity of food was made available to her.
“Difficult, no, entertaining, hell yes.” Poe hauled Finn off the bed. “And later I can show you two Alderaan. From this quadrant, you can still see it in the sky.”
In the warehouse where the memorials were laid and vigils kept throughout the day, Rey stood over the corner where Finn and Poe had set down their memorials: a holo, a quick sketch, flowers she had brought them, a couple of candles, a little food and a small bowl of water. She had traded fixing someone’s droid for one of the candles, the same way Finn had swapped a hand-to-hand combat lesson with Iolo for a sketch from his description of Slip, and she had picked Poe and Finn’s favourite flowers. Poe had carefully propped a small, colourful kite made of fine tissue paper and wooden struts behind the memorials, and strung it with yellow flowers Rey didn't know the names of.
But she felt strange here. As if she didn’t belong. There was an itch under her skin, an uneasiness. And it was true, Rey supposed, that she had no-one to mourn except Han, who didn’t really belong to her, who she had no picture of. She had his adjusted, annotated manual for the Falcon – which was better, and more useful besides – but she wasn’t leaving that out here, unattended. General Organa was here, true, but she was probably too busy to notice anyone picking up a manual on the other side of the room. Trying to be subtle, Rey glanced at the older woman: sitting apparently serene at a table surrounded by her work, large-scale holos of her parents and Han looming behind her. Han looked young and mischievous, hands clasped behind his back, a medal resting on his chest.
General Organa looked serene, even in the flickering glow of the display at the centre of the warehouse: an enormous holographic display of the Hosnian System, surrounded by flowers and smaller holos, names on plaques, scarves, trinkets. A steady stream of people came in to sit by it; a broken ring of people in white sat around it. A similar display of Alderaan, not far away, had one or two mourners.
As Rey turned away from Poe and Finn’s memorial to Slip and Shara Bey and walked towards General Organa, she could hear the choking sob of someone’s misery. Her steps checked, and then she forged on, towards the General. She could feel the faint tug of the Force calling her forwards.
“Rey,” the General said, after she had been standing in front of the woman for some moments. “Did my wretched brother send you?”
“No,” Rey said. “He’s gone somewhere to meditate.”
The General frowned, and said almost humorously: “I hope he hasn’t run off again.”
“I’ll go after him if he does.” Rey fidgeted.
The General watched her for a few moments. “Han never liked this part of Reset,” she said at last. “It made him reflect on his feelings.”
Rey felt her mouth twitch, and didn’t know why. She hadn’t known Han to know if that was accurate or not, but there was unmistakable affection, and even a little laughter, in the General’s eyes.
“I don’t think that’s your problem, somehow.”
Rey shook her head. “I don’t – I don’t have a problem. General.”
The General raised her eyebrows.
“I don’t have anyone to mourn,” Rey said. “And even if I did. I left all the, the things I might have put on a memorial back on Jakku. Another scavenger will have them now.” If another scavenger had a use for a doll, which was doubtful – but the helmet was almost certainly gone.
“Well,” the General said, as gently as she ever said anything. “That’s something to mourn. Isn’t it?”
Rey thought of Jakku’s endless sands, and a hollowed-out AT-AT walker. Marks on the walls and an abandoned home. Nobody looking for her on Jakku would ever find it: and even if they did, there would be nothing to say who she truly was, or where she’d gone. Unkar Plutt certainly didn’t know, and in the destruction of the stormtroopers’ attack on Niima Outpost, there was next to no chance that anyone had worked out she had stolen the Millennium Falcon and gone. It was most likely that the few people Rey had known had decided to forget her.
Yes, Rey thought. That was something to mourn. But how did you mourn an absence?
“Meditate with me,” the General said, almost an order, and held out her hands across the desk.
Rey took the General’s hands, closed her eyes, and fell headfirst into the Living Force, that heightened sense of the life that sparked in every corner of the galaxy, that beating pulse of vitality that flowed in everything. Rey could reach it herself, easily – but there was something about meditating with the General, who was both the screaming sandstorm and the rock planted firmly against it, that heightened Rey’s sense of the Force and reminded her that she was not a Jedi alone. Meditating with Luke felt like meditating with the sky itself, vast and fathomless and unknowable, and somehow distant: the General, though comparatively untrained, was far closer to earth. Rey thought it was because the General had always been among people, and thrived on them. Luke was a desert child, and that bred a distance that Rey herself should have had.
Maybe her family had not been of the desert. Maybe Rey’s childhood had had lots of people.
Let it go, the General murmured in the Force, and Rey took hold of that fragment of resentment and grief and released her grip on it, reluctant finger by reluctant finger. She felt it lift from her temporarily, that old bitter whisper that she’d always mastered, because people who couldn’t control themselves died out in the sands.
If the General could release her griefs into the Force, then so could Rey. She had lost so much less.
The General’s soft skin was a little papery, but her grip was very strong, and she still had blaster callouses. Rey felt them when the General gripped her hands gently, a reminder, and Rey breathed in, breathed out, and surrendered herself to the will of the Force.
When they opened their eyes at last, Rey felt steadier, and the room felt less oppressive. Some of the people in the room were smiling faintly, echoes of the tiny curve of the General’s mouth.
“We take today to honour the dead,” the General said. “But also to let them go.”
Rey searched for words, and when she found them, she had to lick her lips and swallow to bring moisture to speak them, feeble as they were. “I thought… I thought you didn’t, um. Worship the – uh…” She’d seen and heard a lot about the various priesthoods and religions that incorporated the Force, including an interesting group of people who inevitably made Luke look hunted and Rey feel unpleasantly watched for the laser focus of their gaze, but although there were shrines and the odd person doubling up their duties as a chaplain, she had never seen the General lend her influence to one. The General, if she spoke of the Force, did so in terms of brief blessings or swearwords, and if she did have a more formalised belief, her religious observances had totally passed Rey by.
“No,” the General said, sitting back at her desk, flipping the stylus she had just picked up between her fingers. “I don’t worship the Force.” Her lips quirked. “I just know it exists.”
She sounded like Han, Rey thought suddenly. Just like –
She nodded blindly, and wished she had something to say, wished she could acknowledge this somehow. She’d never thought the General was like Han before, except for the occasional gesture or turn of phrase she recognized, except for the way the General and Chewie sometimes spoke to each other.
“I’ll see you later, Rey,” the General said, quite gently.
Rey nodded again, and she went.
The gathering in the warehouse was neither completely solemn nor completely silent at first; people came in half-dressed in their costumes, dashed in from knotting strings of bunting to the trees outside, strolled in picking splinters from their hands and complaining about the bonfires set up outside or comparing bruises from the trestle tables put up around them. Poe knew there were still people cooking in the kitchens, and others on watch. But slowly, quiet spread outwards from the two figures standing stock-still in the centre of the warehouse, before the revolving holo of the Hosnian system, and Poe felt the familiar expectant hush settle over the echoing room. Rey's smaller, battered hand crept into his suddenly, and he gripped it gently: sometimes she found it overwhelming, being caught up in others' emotions, like being caught in the swell of a wave when the three of them had first gone to the sea to swim. It helped her to have an anchor - which was why BB-8 was pressed against her feet - and it also helped her not to tumble straight into whatever grief-charged situation she faced, which was why they had arrived early enough to take places underneath the holos of the Organas and Han Solo. They'd been watching people file in for a good ten minutes, and even Poe, who was roughly as Force-sensitive as a spoon, could feel the tension rising.
In case Finn felt left out, Poe reached out and took his hand too.
General Organa had changed clothes at some point in the day; she wore a flowing white robe with a broad cowl neck and a heavy silver belt, her hair braided into the Crown of Alderaan and a fine dark blue veil pinned to it, flowing down past her shoulders to the small of her back. Her head was high, her shoulders perfectly straight, and Poe understood in a rush - the way he always did, this time of year - the ring of truth to his mother's teasing princess, the reverence in Lor San Tekka's voice when he had said to me, she is royalty. She was perfectly motionless, and so was her brother, the hood of his starched and laundered Jedi robes drawn up to his head, but not pulled far forward enough to shadow his face. Luke Skywalker still stood to attention like a pilot, the same way Leia Organa still held herself like a princess.
When the silence was complete and the weight of expectation in the warehouse almost unbearable, General Organa raised her hands and spoke.
"My friends, we come together to recognise our victories and our dead. We name them and claim them, that they are not forgotten. We celebrate their lives and we grieve their loss. For it is in darkness that we see the stars most clearly."
Rey's grip tightened on his, and Poe's eyes slid sideways to the wide-open doors of the warehouse: night was falling outside, and over the dark hulks of the bonfires he could just see Alderaan, a pinprick of light in the soft blue sky. Finn caught his eye reflexively, and his hand tightened on Poe's too. Poe half-smiled at him.
"Breha Organa, Bail Organa, the planet of Alderaan," General Organa said, in the smooth, carrying voice that could be heard and heeded from one end of a crowded situation room to the other. "The planets and people of the Hosnian system: allies, friends, and family." There was a long pause: Poe thought of all the people he had known who were on Hosnian planets when the system went up in smoke and bowed his head. Both Rey and Finn's hands squeezed his, and held tight. Around the room, people wept quietly, or nodded in silence, or closed their eyes.
Standing so close, Poe could hear the tiny flicker in General Organa's voice as she finally said "Han Solo." He heard, too, the whisper of Rey's voice echoing her - too quiet for anyone else to hear, for all Luke Skywalker's eyes fell on the three of them, thoughtful and distant. Poe rubbed his thumb over Rey’s knuckles comfortingly, and saw Finn glance across at her to catch her eye.
"Anakin Skywalker," Luke Skywalker said, his voice deeper than his sister's; equally smooth, but somehow without that clarion quality. "Padmé Naberrie. Obi-Wan Kenobi. Han Solo. Ben Organa."
Poe prevented his jaw from dropping with some difficulty, and he felt Rey and Finn stiffen next to him. Say nothing, he thought frantically, say nothing, knowing that he was sweating rivers, breath coming short and pulse jumping suddenly, and neither of these things would be lost on Finn (who Poe was confident would not react visibly) or Rey (who could probably also hear the turmoil beneath his skin, regardless of whether she wanted to or not, and might react very obviously). Rey knew that Kylo Ren's true parentage wasn't common knowledge, but to hear him named like this, among a list of the Resistance's honourable dead - kriff, Poe was shocked, memories of darkness and pain crashing over him like waves, and behind General Organa's steel mask face she looked like she could cheerfully have strangled her brother, hell, if he weren't Luke-Skywalker-Jedi-Grand-Master Poe would quite like to take a swing himself -
Rey tore her hand from his and threw her arms around him, projecting the wild cool blue calm of the stratosphere for him, and Finn shifted slightly to provide a solid bulwark Poe could lean against as heavily as he liked. BB-8 ran over Poe's foot, and the sharp spark of real pain snapped Poe out of it, allowing him to relax back into the soaring dream Rey continued to offer him, resting his weight against Finn, who would hold him up as long as he needed.
By the time Poe felt calm enough to wonder if Luke Skywalker was claiming the memory of his nephew for the Resistance, declaring Ben Organa dead, or both, several wavering Hosnian accents had named entire extended families and friends, and most people were crying openly. He straightened up and scrubbed at his own eyes; salt tears were falling down Rey's cheeks as she looked around the room, and he put an arm around her shoulders. Finn slid past him to stand on her other side and give her the support she didn't, in practical terms, need: swimming in a potent cocktail of other people's grief and bereavement she might be, but unlike Poe, she was rock steady.
Voices called out from around the warehouse, names Poe knew and names he didn't, long lists, short lists, single names, quiet voices, loud voices, clear voices, choked voices - all of them heard and recognised. The naming came closer to them, closer and closer; Poe, who had explained this carefully to both Finn and Rey beforehand, tapped Finn on the shoulder when he judged it was their turn.
"Slip," Finn said, clear and calm, but with obvious pain in his voice. No-one reacted; of course, there was no way for them to know Slip had been a stormtrooper, and most people were wrapped up in their own sadness.
Poe, who was fairly sure he'd shot Slip and regularly gave thanks to the Force that he hadn't shot Finn instead, winced but didn't miss his turn. "Muran,” he said loudly, “Shara Bey," and saw General Organa look at him and almost smile. Maybe she heard Shara Bey in her head too, his mother saying princess like she was laughing, and yet meaning it too - meaning it very much. He was glad of that possibility; since Karé and Iolo were helping with the cooking, he wasn’t sure there was anyone else in the warehouse besides himself who knew Muran’s name, and that felt lonely.
Poe reminded himself to tell Rey and Finn about Muran. He thought they would have liked him.
The tide of names swept round them, and after maybe another twenty minutes the heavy atmosphere in the room started to ease. Rey began to look a little less crushed; people began to wipe their faces, straighten, wait for General Organa to give the ending speech. After a few more moments, when the last names died away, General Organa raised her hands again.
"My friends, we have come together to recognise our victories and our dead," she said, still loud and clear but now softer at the edges. "We have named them, we claim them, and we will not forget them. We have grieved their loss, and now we will celebrate their lives." Her eyes went to the points of light outside in the sky, now fully dark, and Poe wondered if she could see Alderaan, or if she was instinctively watching for the Falcon's landing lights. "For it is in darkness that we see the stars most clearly."
General Organa picked up a long torch of wood that lay by her feet and held it out to her brother, who took his lightsaber from his belt. It crackled into life with an audible snap-hiss and a soft gasp from the onlookers; Poe himself caught his breath, and he roomed with a Jedi and could see a lightsaber any time he asked. There was something about the fact that it was Luke Skywalker - that that was the lightsaber he had raised in battle a hundred times for the Rebellion -
Luke Skywalker touched his lightsaber lightly to the end of the torch General Organa held, and it went up in a rapid burst of flame that left Poe blinking bright trails away from his vision. General Organa did not flinch; she turned and walked towards the open doors, carrying the burning torch aloft, and the people fell away before her.
"Come on," Rey said abruptly, grabbed both Poe and Finn's hands, and dragged them into the trickle of people following General Organa outside. Poe would normally have hung back a little longer, and hesitated, but Rey didn't know the meaning of the word hesitation on matters that didn't relate to her family, and pulled them both onwards.
The group of people inside the warehouse had almost entirely reformed outside - and the torch had burned down far enough that General Organa must have been feeling the heat - when General Organa finally raised the torch aloft and flung it so that it spun, end over end, into the largest of the three silent bonfires. It lit and kindled at once, tongues of flame running down the dark wood, and General Organa stood and watched it until it had caught, her face still and remote in its flickering light. Then she turned again and walked away, her blue veil fluttering in the breeze, red-gold light turning her white robe to fire, as she marched into the darkness with her brother and was gone.
There was a long moment of silence, and then the bustling began, someone setting light to the other bonfires, others rushing back to the kitchens, some just heading back to their bunks to change.
Poe and Rey and Finn stood still for a while, looking at the bonfire.
"Phew," Finn said eventually. "That was... That was..."
"Something," Poe supplied, feeling words as inadequate as Finn seemed to find them.
"Yes," Rey said, soft and Jedi-distant - and then she shook her head and scrubbed vigorously at the trails of dried tears on her face, and was suddenly Rey again, all light and bright quickness, as live as a dancing wire. "Come on," she repeated. "Let's go and change."
The music pounded from the speakers Rey had helped Karé and a group of mechanics set up earlier, and Rey whirled under Poe's arm, spinning furiously outwards until he caught her and spun her back, bringing her close against his chest and then guiding her into the basic steps of the dance. There had been dances on Jakku, but nobody to teach them to Rey, and she found herself clumsy at dancing. Poe was a very good partner, and she could hear him forecasting their next steps in her mind, his heart keeping the beat, but Rey still moved as jerkily as she'd had when she was first given her staff, mis-stepped, bumped into the others dancing. She wasn't like Finn, who was dancing with Iolo now, all self-assured easy grace, the glowing paint on his chest gleaming brighter than the scars twisting up his spine; he had lost his mask earlier when they were eating and Rey could see him throw his head back laughing.
Poe dropped her hands, twisted into a sharp turn on his heels, and caught her left hand again as he came back round, one hand out and curved elegantly to meet the music, the other looping around her head to draw her into a turn, and then pulling her in to dance close to him, the spins sending the thin blue fabric of her costume whirling out. Rey had dressed as a goddess only Luke recognised - she supposed it made sense that Tatooine feared flash floods in dry river beds as much as Jakku had done, although nobody Rey knew had ever seen a flash flood, and she only knew about this aspect of the rain-bringer from old stories - and Finn had dressed as a skeleton, but when she had asked Poe about the skull and the bright flowery patterns he had painted onto his face all he had said was that the patterns were traditional. She wondered what they really meant, and if he would be prepared to paint her face with death flowers next time - the little mosses with tiny blue sprigs that sprang up over dead bodies on Jakku, the poisonous red blossoms that sprang from the succulents by the Niima oases. Like dancing, Rey had no hand for art, but she liked Poe's drawing style. Still, perhaps the flowers were strictly a Dameron thing or a Yavin thing; there were plenty of skulls around, but she hadn't seen many others wearing skulls and flowers...
"Stop thinking," Poe shouted over the music.
"What?" Rey shouted back, and Poe slid them into a gap in the other dancers, closer to Finn and further from the fire.
"Stop thinking!" Poe repeated. "That's the point! Just let go."
Rey felt her mouth twist in doubt, but then she heard Luke again, balancing pebbles on pebbles and saying in his scholar's voice catharsis. "Don't let go of me," she said, driven by an instinct she couldn't name, and opened her mind to the Force.
The tide picked her up and swept her away, and Rey tumbled from her mind into the current. She saw Finn twist from Iolo's arms to catch Jess's hands, spin her in again and out and dip her till her braided ponytail touched the floor; she heard a group of people telling stories about the Hosnian capital, smiling through their tears. She felt General Organa lift her head and laugh at something her brother said, heard the edge of pain and acceptance in that laughter. She felt the frenzy of the festival yank her off her feet, and what had been exhilarating became dizzying.
Rey stumbled and fell against Poe's chest, head spinning, and he caught her and pulled her off the dance floor, away into the cool darkness outside the edge of the firelight.
"Rey?" he was saying, urgent but not worried, not yet. "Rey?"
"Rey!" Finn said, one of his hands hot on her back, and they turned her and guided her down to sit on a tree stump; her legs were shaking, and she felt so light she could float away, skate on the edge of the current of joy and sorrow and something that was neither but both at the same time.
She looked up at Finn and grinned, gripping his hand, trying to reassure him, but she had no words. She was running with electricity, bright and hot in her veins, too much for her human frame.
"Easy." Poe's hands were steady on her shoulders; he touched her forehead lightly with the back of his hand, smearing the blue paint there. "I think you're just overheated."
"I think it might be a Jedi thing," Finn volunteered, crouching down in front of her and staring anxiously into her eyes. "She looks like the Force. Like - something about the eyes. Endless."
"It can be both," Luke said peaceably, strolling over with a flask of something in his hand. Somebody had painted half his face as a droid, which went oddly with his Jedi robes. Rey's money was on Lando Calrissian, whose response to Luke's arrival had been something along the lines of 'so you finally decided to show up, genius', followed by a solid day of drinking and reminiscing that had left Luke with a terrible hangover. On observing this, General Organa had announced that Lando had always been her favourite and tormented Luke throughout.
Finn, who had missed Luke's grand return due to being stuck in the sickbay and only occasionally conscious, looked very confused. Luke smiled at Rey. "Leia does like Lando better than me," he agreed. "You're a little loud, Rey. Use your anchors; reach for calm. The desert storms, but the sand itself is silent."
"Uh," Finn said, which was more or less what Rey felt. Poe patted her shoulders gently, then got up and walked away. He tolerated her Jedi practising just fine, but preferred not to be around for lessons.
"Meditate," Luke said. "I'm telling you to take a moment to meditate. Calm in the midst of chaos."
Rey closed her eyes; breathed in, breathed out, and fixed a picture of the almost unnatural calm around her AT-AT the day after a big storm in her head. Slowly, the spinning stopped, and the electricity did not drain from her veins, but it quietened. She could sense the mingled joy and sorrow, but she was no longer caught up in it.
She grinned at Luke and waved her hands. "Catharsis!" she said. "It's like the tides!"
"You mean you almost drowned in it?" Finn said suspiciously, probably remembering their first seaside trip, which had nearly been Rey's last anything. "Man, I'm glad I'm not Force-sensitive enough for this."
Poe was coming back with cups of something brightly coloured; he reached them, and passed a cup down to Finn and another to Rey. "Feeling better?" he said, and smiled at her.
Rey sipped at her drink, and found it cool and brightly refreshing, and - unlike anything else around, she was sure - alcohol-free. "Yes," she said, and took a gulp. Some of her drink slipped from her mouth, smearing her paint further. She looked at Luke. "Who anchors you?"
"My sister," Luke said, and smiled sadly. "Han, too. And Chewie."
"Chewbacca's looking for you, sir," Poe said. "Something about a dejarik game and being too old for all this skippy bullshit."
Luke grinned. "That sounds like Chewie," he said affectionately, and tapped his flask against each of their cups in turn. "Reset," he said, the beginning of the same exchange of words Rey had been hearing all night, since the bonfires had been lit.
She smiled, and with the others she answered: "To a better tomorrow."