Rey was crying in the bathroom.
It was kind of an accident; she hadn't meant to break down like she had. But everyone had been milling about before the memorial, chatting in low tones, and Poe had turned and started to say something about her and it was too much. It had hit Rey harder than she'd been expecting. And so she'd disregarded everything that the General had ever taught her (shoulders straight head up eyes forward don't run your words together don't end every sentence with a question) and had mumbled some excuse before she'd fled the room.
They were probably worried about her by now. Rey was supposed to speak at the memorial, they wouldn't start without her. It was probably only Finn's strict adherence to the rules that had prevented Poe from charging off after her in the first place. She should probably pull herself together. But embarrassment was stronger than duty at this exact second, because she felt no motivation to get up off the cold stone tiles or raise her head from her arms.
She sensed more than heard a vaguely familiar presence settle in beside her. “What are you doing on the floor?”
Rey wished she could disappear, melt into the floor or simply cease to exist. She settled for stifling her next sob. “I'm all right,” she mumbled. “I just need a minute; I'll be right out.”
“Now, do you think the General would want you to be hiding in tears because of her?”
“She's gone,” Rey pointed out miserably. “What hope do any of us have without her to lead us?”
“What in the worlds do you think I put all that effort into you for?” Rey looked up sharply and found herself face-to-face with the General. Or a reasonable facsimile, at least. She was a little faded, like a holo, her edges tinged in blue light. Her face was more at peace than Rey had ever seen her. Right now, there was a witty sparkle in her eye. “I like you, too, of course, but you have a great destiny ahead of you that's far beyond me. I am just glad I was given the privilege to guide you towards it for a little while.”
Rey felt a little bit bad for staring – it seemed disrespectful, somehow – but on the other hand, she couldn't decide if this even was the General, really. It was way too soon to begin to touch all that stuff about destiny.
Instead, she focused on the most immediate issue. “Is it really you?” she asked in a small voice, wiping at her tears.
Leia smiled at her. “Don't end every sentence with a question,” she corrected gently.
Either it really was the General, or Rey was hallucinating. She preferred the first option. “I don't understand, though. You're dead. I saw...” She saw her body, but that was too much to say. The memory was still too heavy in her.
“Well, yes. I did die. But the Force is a mysterious thing, Rey. And sometimes our bodies fail before the Force is done with us.”
“So you aren't really here, then.” It was amazing how much hope a ghost could bring and how quickly it could turn to devastation.
“I will always be here for you,” Leia promised, her voice quite serious. Shocked that Rey could think otherwise. “You just might not see me as often. But I’ll be there.”
“I don’t want you to go.”
“Oh, Rey.” Leia moved to touch her but stopped just short of it, blue-tinged hand hovering over her shoulder. Sadness came over her features then, like she missed the lack of contact. Rey felt a spark in the Force between them. “I’ll be there,” she whispered again. “But I think your friends are coming for you.”
Now that she mentioned it, Rey could hear a sort of scuffle going on in the hallway. Poe and Finn? “I...might have run out on them,” she admitted, biting her lip. Nevermind that she was talking to a ghost; it was still the General. She wanted to impress her.
Leia smiled at her. “You’d better get out there and assure them that you’re okay. Besides, don’t you have a speech to give?” She winked, and Rey gaped.
Just then, the door burst open, and Poe charged inside. Finn trailed behind him. “I tried to stop him!” he panted as they ran up to Rey. “I told him that he wasn’t allowed to come in here, but he just wouldn’t listen to me!”
“Well you were obviously upset,” Poe argued, waving his friend off. “Are you okay? Who got to you?”
Rey glanced to the side, where the General had been sitting a moment before. She was gone. “I’m okay now,” she promised, accepting Finn’s hand up. She shook her head at Poe’s disbelieving glance. “I promise, Poe. Look, we should go back in there.”
Finn studied her carefully. “Are you sure?”
“Positive.” The General had been right; she had a speech to give.
“This is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. General Organa was special. To all of us, obviously, but particularly to me. I didn’t have the privilege to know her as long as many of you, but in the time that I did know her, she was incredible. She took me in when I had no family. She cared for me, was an example for me when no one else in the universe had given me a second glance. She taught me things. I am not who I was when I first came here, but because of her, I am better. She taught me what it means to lead, to be better. To rise above. And, from what I have heard in these past few days, I know that I’m not the only one whose life she changed.
“She was truly incredible. While she was here, she blew us all away, and she was taken from us far too soon. The universe is a little bit less without her presence. But I don’t believe she will ever truly be gone. We are all still here, after all. And it is up to us to keep her memory alive, to make her proud by following her example.
“She is one with the Force, now, and the Force is with her. May it be with her always.
“May our memories keep her alive.”