Everything We Need: Chapter 7- Mothers and Sons
Soon after they landed on Yavin and finalized all of the transport flight documentation, Poe and BB-8 left the base and began following the familiar path back to Poe’s old home. It was the same way through the forests he had taken as a child, the winding and weaving etched in his mind the same way he had always managed to memorize his flight plans.
When they arrived at the house, Poe suddenly remembered why he didn’t often stop by. His old home wasn’t much anymore, standing as barely more than four walls. He recalled his previous visits, which had been few and far between at best, during which he had told himself he didn’t have time to make any repairs, not even the superficial ones that would probably be easy and make the place feel more like it used to. He had somehow managed to always be too busy for anything that could remind him of the past.
Now, he deposited his bag on an old, rotting table in the middle of what used to be his kitchen. He looked around briefly and decided again that he didn’t have time to start fixing anything. The repairs could wait. He needed to clear his head. He was beginning to think that Yavin may not have been the best place for him to forget things.
“It’s ok, BB-8, you can stay here. I’m just going for a walk,” he said, heading out the door and closing it behind him before the droid even had a chance to respond.
With every step Poe took, a new thought popped into his head: maybe Rey was crazy. Or maybe he should help her. Maybe it was time to figure out what he actually wanted instead of just floating from place to place. He missed Finn and Rey. He missed Leia. He missed his parents. The thoughts got louder the further he went.
And then, in an instant, they all stopped. Poe's mind went blank. He tilted his head and tapped the heel of his hand against his ear. Maybe he was just re-adjusting to the atmosphere. When that didn’t work he quickly thought, “Or maybe I’VE finally gone crazy.”
But then he looked up to see where he had stopped, and if he hadn’t already been standing still, the sight in front of him would have pulled him up short.
The Uneti Tree.
Poe realized he had actually just walked in a full circle for twenty minutes, and now was back at the courtyard near his home. He hesitantly walked closer to the tree. But even as he did so, Poe wasn’t quite sure why he hesitated.
When his parents had been alive, Poe had loved to check on this tree. As a child, he would take the short walk from his house to the tree, and he could swear that he saw a new leaf or a new sprout every day. When he would tell his mother about it, she would nod her head in agreement. He would then pull her by the hand to bring her out to see what he was talking about. She would lean very close to whatever Poe’s finger was pointing at and say, “I think you’re right, Poe! Imagine how big this tree will be when you’re my age!”
Back then, Poe couldn’t imagine being as old as his mother. He smiled at that thought for a moment before the realization hit that, when Shara had been the age Poe was now, she had not only been through several battles, but she also had a toddler. She had somehow managed to do everything Poe had done up until now AND have a family.
That fact, and the thoughts of his mother in general, struck him like a shot to the chest. He was suddenly thankful that no one else was around as he walked up closer to the tree and put his hand out to touch the trunk. He used the tree to steady himself just as tears started to fall into the soil below.
As he touched the tree, it felt like everything Poe had tried to force far below, all of the feelings he tried to dismiss, all of the things he never wanted to talk about, began to push up to the surface. The sensation overwhelmed him, and suddenly his vision was filled with the images of the people he had lost: Snap, Tallie, Paige, Luke, Han, Leia, his mother, his father. All of them gone. The feeling of loss was so strong he felt like he was drowning in it. Poe dropped to his knees, his hand still on the small trunk of the tree.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, to no one and to everyone at the same time. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to be here without you or without something to fight for,” he continued. “I feel like I’m just wasting time and letting you all down,” he finished. He stayed that way for a few moments, feeling like he simply couldn’t move.
And then he heard her voice.
“Poe, there are two things I thought I had taught you: there is always something to fight for, and you’re never really alone.”
“LEIA?!” Poe couldn’t even stand up, he just sat down in the dirt and slid around to face her.
“So,” she said, walking over, sitting down on a root to meet his face, “what have you gotten yourself into now?”
“What do you mean, 'what have I gotten myself into?' How are you HERE? How can I see you? Oh god, I have gone crazy!” Poe shouted, holding his head in his hands.
Though the surrounding settlement was mostly quiet, a small Ithorian, drawn by the noise, leaned out of a doorway and then was quickly pulled back in.
“Poe, Poe…you’re not crazy!” Leia said, putting her hands on his shoulders, “And maybe let’s stop with the shouting. I know this is a surprise, but, you know, pull yourself together!” At this last statement she smiled at him.
“Since when do you make jokes?” Poe asked.
Leia waved off the comment, “oh please, I have always made jokes! Maybe just not around you,” she shrugged.
Poe smiled back at her, and then the smile melted away a bit.
“But seriously, how are you here? Why are you here?”
Leia paused for a moment and then began.
“The answers to both of those questions are incredibly long and detailed, and, quite frankly, I’m not sure you can sit still long enough for me to answer them. But if you think you can, I’m happy to try.”
Poe settled himself in the dirt a little more, folding his legs under him, and fixed a slightly snarky look on his face before responding, “Yes, General, I think I can.”
“So, HOW I am here is perhaps a little easier to answer than WHY I am here, so we’ll start there.”
“Now that I’m, one with the Force,” she continued, a slight smile playing on her lips, as she gestured around to everything, sensing how ridiculous this could sound to the uninitiated, “It's easier for me to manifest like this in places where the Force is strong. Sometimes, that’s with a Force User, like Rey. But there are places in this galaxy so strong in the Force that they act as a beacon. They pull the Force together, they lift the veils between worlds. This tree is one of those places. The older texts refer to these placed as Achtlineans- Force Lines. Some people call them Crosspoints.”
“Did Luke know that this was a…a Crosspoint or whatever… when he had my mother bury the tree here? Is that why it was buried here?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Leia shook her head, “In fact, I think it’s more that the tree is the beacon and it created this Crosspoint. Even Luke didn't know how strong the great trees are. I don’t think he knew that they could actually weaken this world’s barriers with the Force. So the Crosspoint is a big part of why I can appear to you,” Leia finished, "as with many things in life, it's the right place at the right time."
Poe sat quietly without even realizing he was nodding. “I guess I’ll accept that answer for now. I mean, it makes as much sense as this conversation that we’re having.” He smiled at her. "wait, a big PART of how you're here?" Poe stopped short.
"Well, we can talk about the other part later," Leia said a little too casually, but Poe decided to let it go for now.
"Ok, so then WHY are you here?” he asked.
“Ah, yes, the even better question with the even longer answer,” she responded, and this time her voice was filled with wisdom and a calmness that caught Poe off-guard.
“Well, let’s say that I know what Rey is trying to do,” Leia started cautiously as Poe’s eyes narrowed a little. “And let’s say that not only did she tell me what she was trying to do, but when she told me, I asked her to keep going. What would you say?” Leia asked, genuinely curious about Poe’s answer. The way she asked the question made Poe feel like there was a right answer. If only he could figure out what it was.
“Well,” Poe began, but as soon as he started, as soon as he thought about Ren, he could feel the anger rising up in him, “I would say that it’s reckless and thoughtless, maybe even dangerous and definitely,
“Well,” there was a brief pause as Leia considered the rest of her response, “you’re not wrong. Rey’s mission is possibly all those things. Though I keep hoping the danger is behind us now. But tell me in your own words what Rey is trying to do.”
“I know that she’s trying to reach Kylo Ren,” Poe said, stubbornly, standing up, "trying to bring back everything it seems we worked so hard to destroy!" Poe said, throwing his hands up. He felt backed into a corner, talking about all of this again, and he was lashing out the only way he could.
“Poe, you know very well that’s not what she’s doing,” Leia looked down, hurt, and then back up at Poe and patted the ground beside her.
“Fine,” Poe said, sitting back down miserably, “She said that she thinks she's found Ben. She said that she thought he was OUT THERE somewhere,” he gestured wildly with his hands, “and that she needs to bring him back, whatever that means.”
“Thank you, Poe,” Leia said, her smile genuine and her eyes shining at him.
“For what?” he asked, confused.
“For saying his name. For calling him Ben. It's something I never thought I'd hear you say."
Poe softened, for the first time realizing what this might mean to Leia.
“You know,” she started, “when I lost him to the dark side, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Worse than Luke going away, worse than Han leaving, even worse than learning who my father was. It was the realization that I hadn't been able to protect my son and that the one thing I had feared for so long had come to pass. And then I began to think about how that was all my fault.”
She was lost in her memories now. The ghosts of the past becoming present again, even as she was one herself. “I had spent so long convincing myself that I could protect Ben, believing that everything I did was to save him from that fate," she was looking down and shaking her head.
"When I was pregnant with Ben, I was so terrified of my visions that I stopped training with Luke. All I could see at the end was darkness, and I thought, ‘If I stop now, I can stop that from happening.’ But as he grew, I watched his power grow, I kept trying to think of ways to suppress the darkness I saw. If I could snuff all of it out, maybe Ben could avoid what seemed to be our family's curse. But it turns out, you can’t control destiny, yours or anyone else’s,” she said sadly. “And much to my disappointment, I’ve found the things you try to run from the most are usually the ones that find you.”
“I’m sorry, General,” Poe said, his interruption breaking the spell, “but I don’t believe it was just destiny. Ben had a choice, we always have a choice," Poe needed to make Leia understand this wasn't her fault as much as he needed to believe that his choices were what made him better than Ren.
Poe continued, "Ben had you AND Han! He HAD his parents! He had everything I didn’t! He just decided to throw it all away, and for what? For Snoke? For power? For vengeance?” his righteousness sounding like justifiable anger to his ears.
“Poe, I know you think you’re right," Leia answered, "We all want to believe that if everything were just a choice, we’d all do the right thing all the time. But that kind of thinking only comes with the luxury of looking back. Everything is so simple, given enough time. The path so clear once it’s already been cut. But when you are in the midst of those moments, when you are in the middle of carving your path, it rarely feels like a choice. Those are the times when the word ‘destiny’ is the most dangerous. Because those are the times when you convince yourself you're just becoming who you're meant to be, no matter the cost."
Poe turned steely, crossing his arms and hugging them tightly to his chest.
“But he still had YOU…he had a mother. Do you know what I would have done to have that?”
“Oh, Poe, that’s where I have to tell the truth to you and to myself. Ben was so young when I sent him away…so young,” she said, staring out beyond the tree, “I told myself I was doing the right thing for him, but really it was a choice I made for me too. You see, I was already afraid of his power. He couldn’t understand it, and he was looking to me for guidance. His power, that responsibility, it scared even ME. So imagine how a child would feel, knowing he had a power that scared not only himself but his mother! I sent him away, hoping that Luke could do something more for him. But in Ben’s eyes, I was just passing him on to someone else. And soon, he thought he was alone in the world. And that is the worst thing that can happen to a person.”
Poe finally looked at her, wanting to deny the realization he had just had.
“So, you see,” Leia said, looking at Poe sadly, “I wasn’t the mother I wanted to be to him; I wasn’t the mother he needed me to be. I used to think I was the only mother who felt this way. That I was alone in my perceived failure, but now I think that’s every parent's burden. We always believe our children deserve more than ‘just’ ourselves. If I had known then that all Ben REALLY needed was Han and me, and that I was enough, maybe things would have been different.”
“But you were ALWAYS enough,” Poe said, taking her hand.
“Well, it takes a person’s whole life for them to believe that. And in my case, if I kept myself busy enough, I didn’t have as much time to worry about my feelings. If I just kept moving, kept battling something bigger than myself, I didn’t have to think about all of this. Does that sound familiar?”
Poe nodded, “But Leia, I still don’t understand why I have anything to do with this. Why is it so important for ME to believe in Ben?”
“I guess because, selfishly, I realize that I may not be able to change the way the galaxy thinks. I may not be able to keep the name of Kylo Ren off of people’s lips, but I need to know that the people that I love know the difference. I saw what happened to my father. I even hid within a lie to keep people from knowing who I was. I don’t want that for my son. I don’t want the people that love him to be driven into hiding in a lie. He died protecting the light. He sacrificed himself for the greatest thing in the world: love. And if that's not how he can be remembered by those that know the truth, if only the lie of Kylo Ren survives, then we've given too much power to the darkness,” she said to the tree before turning her gaze on Poe. “But if you can believe in the goodness of Ben, maybe that can help to set things right.”
“I’m asking you for me, and for Han. I know Rey has already asked for herself. I’m asking you now to do the same thing I asked Han to do and bring him home. Or at least, bring him back to me.”
Poe dropped his head and let out a long sigh. “Is it an order?” he asked.
Leia looked down at her hands and then back to Poe, “No, Poe, I don’t give orders anymore, and if I could, I wouldn’t make you do this. I know how unfair this is to ask. Some people die, and you never see them again,” she said, putting her hand on his shoulder.
“I know you’re not my son, so maybe it doesn’t mean the same thing coming from me, but no matter what you do, Shara would be so proud of you. She would tell you that even though you feel lost, you’re not. That she loves you no matter what, and that if you’ve already done everything you think you can in your life, that would be more than ok. That she knows there’s so much more you have to give. And I know she would say those things because that's what every mother wants her child to know.”
Two tears were making their way down Poe’s cheeks as Leia held his face in her hands.
“But even if I don’t get the chance to tell those things to Ben, I’m glad I got to tell you.”
“Well,” Poe said looking up, “how am I supposed to say no to that?”
“If anyone could think of a clever way to get out of something, it’d be you, Poe,” Leia said, smiling. “I hope you’ll help Rey. I hope you’ll do it for her and for me, but mostly for you. If you can learn to let go of your hatred and anger now, if you can see Ben for who he is, if you can see the gray between the black and white, maybe you won’t have to make the same mistakes I did. Maybe you’ll be better.”