Everything We Need: Chapter 2-The Way Back
Through tears, she whispered, “Ben?” and then gasped her breath back in, as if she could take it back.
But it was too late. The tears were coming easily now, but so was something else. Determination, maybe?
“Ben, where are you?”
“I don’t know,” he said, now sounding further away.
“BEN” she started to run, she wasn't even sure where she was just following his voice. She began to shout.
“WHERE ARE YOU?”
“I’ll find you again,” he replied from even further away, the “again” fading like smoke where there had once been embers.
“Ben?” she asked again, knowing this time there’d be no reply. But still, she needed to ask it, just to hear herself repeat his name, finally, after all this time.
She felt the pull back to her reality.
“Rey, come back to me.”
It was Maz, who was shaking her gently. Rey opened her eyes and saw Maz. Then, she looked around the room, confirming to herself that she was back.
“I’m ok,” Rey said, wiping her face with her hands. “I’m ok."
“Did you hear all of it?” Rey asked after a few moments of silence
“Only your side of it,” Maz said deliberately, almost apologetically, like she had overheard something too private.
“I found him,” Rey said out loud, tentative at first, and then more sure of herself, “I found him! Well…I heard him.” Rey corrected herself. “I heard him in a place I had never seen before…or in a time I had never been? I still don’t know, none of it makes any sense!” She slammed her hand on the chair’s armrest with more force than she intended. It cracked under her frustration and for a moment she was lopsided in the chair before finally standing up and sliding the chair behind her.
To calm her, Maz asked, “Rey, what did it look like? What did you see? What did you hear?”
Rey took a deep breath. She knew she had to center herself again, or else she would have no idea how to continue.
“Ok," she said first, and then silently to herself, *just breathe*, " It was like I slid through everything. Through planets and time and I was being pulled. Like I was attached to a cord, and when I finally got there, I felt still. I saw nothing at first. Or it was so dark, it looked like nothing. But then after a moment, I could see a pathway, almost shining. Like an oil slick. I don’t know where the light was coming from, but eventually, a path illuminated. Doorways or portals appeared, and I could hear voices, so many voices, at all times, and then I asked to hear Ben; I just pictured his face in my mind and said his name to myself and then...he called back to me.”
“Was he calling from one of the portals?” Maz asked intensely, almost feeling like an interruption to Rey's thoughts.
“I don’t know! I was so shocked, I couldn’t think. I ran around, hoping that if I could figure out where he was, I might be able to reach him. He said my name again and then it felt like as I got closer, he got further away. The last thing he said was ‘I’ll find you again.’”
Maz sat back in her chair, switching between the lenses on her glasses the way she did when she was deep in thought. Rey didn’t say anything, just in case Maz had an answer right then and there, she didn’t want to distract her and have everything lost again. But it was difficult. Rey could feel the adrenaline returning to her body. As Rey started to pace, Maz suddenly got up. She went over to the books that Rey had left with her, the Jedi tomes that she had taken from Ach-To. Before she even had flipped to the page, Rey knew what Maz was thinking. They said it at nearly the exact time, as Maz held up the book with the page opened:
“The World Between Worlds.”
As she left Maz’s, she felt like she didn’t have any more of a plan than when she went in. But she couldn’t dwell on that. That would have to come in time. For now, Rey was thinking about the fact that somehow, sometime, Ben was alive. Or alive enough to still feel their connection.
So why hadn’t Ben ever shown up to her as a Force Ghost? She knew that he had turned before he died. She knew that he had joined the Force, and she knew that he and Leia had disappeared at the same time. But beyond that, she realized she knew nothing. All logic should point to the fact that he had found his way to Leia; that he could appear to Rey when she needed it, the same way has her master and Luke did.
But he hadn’t yet. And she had asked Leia more times than she cared to admit.
At first, Rey assumed it was because he didn’t want to. She couldn't be sure, of course, because after he had died, she had never felt anything like the connection again. It didn't make sense to her. Ben had said they were a dyad and she had thought that had to mean something. But once he was gone, she couldn’t sense him at all anymore, and after a while, all she had was the briefest memory. And the dreams. The same dreams she used to have about taking Ben’s hand, even when he was still Kylo. And then after a while, those stopped too.
She opened the door to leave Maz’s and found BB-8 waiting for her.
She ran over and knelt down, and hugged him, then pulled back and checked his antennae the way she always did. He rolled back, suspicious beeps emitting from him.
“What do you mean, ‘what was that for’? Can’t I just be happy to see my friend?”
More beeps of disbelief.
“Well, I do feel better now, let’s head back.”
And she did, she felt better than she had in a long time. She suddenly realized that she now had the one thing that she thought had been taken from her: the hope of being with Ben again.
On the way back to their settlement, she quickly came back to reality.
How could she possibly explain to Finn and Poe what was happening?
If she dared mention Ben’s name, she knew the look that they would shoot at each other first, and then the concern that would show on their faces when they looked back at her. A mixture of pity and something. Disgust? Despair? Annoyance? It was sometimes difficult to tell those things apart.
When she had first returned from Exogul, it had all been such a whirlwind. Relief at first, relief at having done what had once seemed impossible. The Sith were gone. That didn’t mean that there wouldn’t always be a threat, the Force would always need to maintain a balance, but she could be vigilant. And more than that, she thought that she could teach others to be vigilant by her side as well.
But things had moved so quickly that she hadn’t had much time to think much less make a plan before Finn found her and turned her world upside down.
“You know, when you were there, on Exogul, when you were…dying,” Finn said slowly, “the one thing I regretted, I mean besides thinking you were dying, was not being able to tell you how I feel.”
“Oh, Finn…I don’t know if now is the…wait, how did you know I was dying?” Rey had asked, confused more than anything.
“You told us when you got back, didn’t you?” Finn said, suddenly looking away from Rey, finding some nearby cords incredibly fascinating.
“Nope. No, I did not. I remember specifically NOT telling you because I didn’t want to worry anyone more than they were already worried,” Rey said, stepping back in front of Finn and pointing her finger at his shoulder.
“Oh, ok, so then, yeah, I guess I should tell you that thing that I’ve been meaning to tell you,” Finn said, sitting down on a crate.
Rey walked over and sat down next to him, “Yeah, I guess you should,” she said, now slightly less worried about what he was going to say. She reassured herself that no matter what it was, they’d figure things out together, like always.
“So, I wasn’t sure about it. I wasn’t sure about anything until you started training on Ajan Kloss. But when I heard you talking about how you felt, after you trained, then things started to become a little bit clearer. But there was so much happening…”
“Finn,” Rey interrupted, placing a hand on his leg, “Finn, please, just tell me.”
“Ok,” Finn said, breathing deeply in and then quickly out, “I feel it too.”
“Excuse me, but…what do you feel?!” Rey asked, slightly frustrated now.
“Oh, the Force,” he said simply, with a shrug, as if she should have known it without him having to tell her.
“Are you sure?” Rey asked, searching her own feelings, and then she could feel it too. It was faint, but she realized that it had been Finn there with her, after Ben. Finn worried and scared and not knowing what was happening until Red 5 had joined the other Resistance ships on the way back from the battle.
“Well, I do have to say, I did not see that coming,” Rey admitted, relieved and terrified at the same time.
“I mean, neither did I,” Finn laughed, “but I definitely thought you would!” He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer. “Some Jedi, you are,” he said, kissing the top of her head.
“Well, then,” Rey pulled back and looked at him, “I think you’re gonna need a teacher.”
Even as she hugged him back, the flood of excitement was immediately followed by concern and anxiety. Finn would now be looking to her to teach him the way she had looked to Luke first and then to Leia, and her first thought was, “I’m no Leia.” No one was. And though she had chosen to be a Skywalker, that didn’t mean she actually had any idea of what to do with that. She just had known that she had wanted to belong, at that the blood of the Skywalkers had taken her in, had taught her, had given her a place to exist in this world. And now she had to figure out how to do that for others.
Her next thought was that she could not, and maybe more importantly, would not teach Finn by herself. She had seen what had come from the old training. She didn’t want Finn to learn the Force just from her. She wanted it to be his own experience. He would wield it differently. He had been shaped by it differently, and so had many others.
In the short weeks that followed Finn’s revelation, things continued to move at what felt like hyperspeed.
There was a group of the Resistance trying to follow in Leia's other footsteps, the footsteps of Senator Organa. But Rey had decided to stay away from the governing side of things. Though Leia had let all of her beliefs be a guiding principle in their training, Rey had just never felt called to the actual politics of it all.
In fact, she hated the idea of power. And even though she knew there were some things she couldn't escape, she figured if she could at least stay away from politics, it might be best for everyone. Still, she did her best to help those who did step up to the responsibility of getting things set up.
Leia’s plans would serve as the blueprint for the Galactic Commonwealth that she had envisioned. Rose was one of those eager to help, and she was making Senator Organa proud. Rose and Connix had taken to reading up on Leia’s mothers, both powerful figures in their own rights and were attempting to figure out where all of those ideals met. Even five years in, it still felt like the early days, but the people, at least some of them, believed in something again.
Poe and Finn, always together, stayed with Rey, and for the first two years after the Battle of Exogul, Chewie had stayed with all of them. In the aftermath of everything, once Finn and Jannah were able to get the word out, some of the displaced troopers, those who had been taken at birth and had worn the mask, would ask how they could get back to their families. Finn and Jannah would help them locate their worlds, and once they had a group together all going to the same place, they flew them in the Falcon, back to those who loved them. It was the easiest flying the Falcon had ever done.
Eventually, Chewie had gone back to Kashyyk. Now that he was a representative, Rose heard from Chewie more now than Rey and the boys did.
Then, in the last three years, with Chewie away, no one really knew what to do, and Rey knew she had put things off long enough.
She had reached out to Luke and Leia before intermittently, asking for guidance in Finn’s training.
After several months of reaching out to him and getting half-hearted answers, but some decent lesson plans, Rey finally asked Luke why he was so hesitant.
“Fear doesn’t go away just because you’re a ghost,” he said. “I carry myself wherever I go, no matter what form.” He was afraid of making the same mistakes again, always.
“But master, you won’t be alone this time. We’ll all be here."
She had worked with both Luke and Leia, determined to commune with as many Jedi as she could. All of those who had helped her defeat Palpatine she wanted to have a hand in training Force Users. She was determined to help Finn in a way she hadn’t been in those early times as she was navigating her powers.
Eventually, she convinced Luke to take more of a role. He would come up with the meditation exercises for Finn and helped her lay out the training course when Finn was ready. She didn’t run it with him, but she did work with him, at each point, when he hesitated or became frustrated with what he perceived to be a lack of progress. Initially, Finn had used her lightsaber on the course, but now it was nearly time for him to build his own.
Before they made that journey though, Poe had wanted to drop in on Takodona for a while. He knew Maz might have something to keep him flying. Things had gotten quiet, and Poe didn’t know how to do quiet well. Still, it was good for all of them to be together.
But after this morning, Rey was worried Poe and Finn would start to pull away. It was another reason she was terrified of saying anything. She couldn’t go back to being alone. But she couldn’t ask them to go down this path with her either. Not if they didn’t want to. And why would they want to help her find Ben? She had never been able to tell them why she needed to.