“Once there was a girl,” says Luke, “and she was beautiful. And there was a boy, and he was young, but old enough -- perhaps -- to know better and --”
He trails off.
Rey blinks at him. She inhales with a low, metal rasp.
He’s telling this story all wrong.
“It was eleven years after the Battle of Endor,” he says, instead, “and I was thirty one…”
He doesn’t remember what she called herself. This, he knows, is unforgivable in and of itself -- though, in his defense, she was not forthcoming with her name. She was beautiful, dark spill of hair and bright eyes, and she took him to her bed because his name was Luke Skywalker, because he was a hero, because he was a Jedi Knight -- the first of the last of the Jedi. And he was young, not in years perhaps but in life -- for he was overspilling with hope, giddy with it, singing with it, a new Academy opening up, the possibility of a new Jedi Council looming large -- he had a nephew, a sister, something approximating a family.
And he had an admirer.
And was it any wonder he let her take him? She was a little older than himself -- he never did find out her exact age -- and, as aforementioned, she was beautiful.
(Luke has says this three times already. Rey’s hawk-sharp brows have drawn together.)
(Does she suspect --)
(He doesn’t have to tell her --)
(Well. He does.)
Anyway. He bedded her. He moved on. Han laughed at the story -- farmhand seduced, Jedi Knight corrupted -- and that was that was that.
“No,” Rey says.
Her eyes are bright. Her hair is a dark spill. She leaps to her feet.
“No, no, I don’t want to hear it -- I don’t want to know. You left me.”
“I -- I didn’t know you existed, not until you were five, you were so far away -- and then by the time I got to you Ben had --”
“I don’t care. You left me.”
“It was for the best! You’re a Skywalker --”
“No. I’m not. I’m not a Skywalker, my name is Rey Organa, and I have a family and it is --” She hauls in another breath and then coughs, hard, as the apparatus jams up. “ Fuck -- I need someone to get a look at this.” It’s sleek, silver chrome, shining bright against her skin. “It should work damn it, it should work.”
“Rey -- shall I --”
She doesn’t hit him. She doesn’t need to. She flinches away, fast and bitter and shaking, and her cheeks are burned-red, as if scoured by sand, and her fingers flex. “You left me,” she says, again. “With --”
And then: the shove. Her mind against his, demanding, and he opens up for her, permits her to scour through his memories, lets her taste first-hand his guilt, his pain, his undying shame.
I am your father, and I did what I thought was right for you. By the time I knew you existed Ben had slaughtered every apprentice I had. The Skywalker name is cursed. All I wanted was for you to be safe. I didn’t know she would abandon you --
“You gave up,” spits Rey. “You gave up on yourself and on your family and you gave up, you ran away and hid, you --”
“I did what I thought was right --”
“You’re --” and words fail her entirely. She rubs the metal stitched into her throat until her wheezing subsides. “You’re just…” She shakes her head. “I have a family. I have a family and it isn’t you .”
“That’s theft .”
“It is not! It is commerce. I buy it from someone for one price and sell it to you for another. This is the way of trade.”
“You’re a Hutt. You’re a criminal .”
“My father was a criminal. I am a legitimate businessman. And,” adds Rotta, sounding more than a little pained, “I am one of the few who will trade with you. Most are too afraid.”
“Put the gun down, child, and then we may converse like civilised beings.”
Phasma shows her teeth, but complies.
“Why are they afraid? We are the New Republic. We are not the First Order.”
“The New Republic consists entirely of Resistance fighters and one-time troopers. Mainly the latter. Civilians fear you because you are seen to be the sort to -- oh I don’t know -- threaten a being with a gun when he offers you what is considered a very reasonable price?”
“An eighty per cent mark-up on songsilk is not reasonable.”
“I have had to brave the wreckage of the galaxy to bring it to you. There are pirates aplenty, and many difficulties --”
“Tell me where the pirates are; I will have them executed.”
“Now,” says Rotta, “ that is the sort of talk I can support. Pirates help no one. I would invite you for tea.”
“So that we may discuss terms.”
“Why not do it here?”
Rotta blinks. He looks to Phasma’s left, where two dozen armed guards bristle. He looks to her right, where another two dozen grin back.
“I feel rather uneasy here. It’s a quirk of my species. We dislike guns waved in our faces.”
Phasma waves her hand. The troops holster their weapons. They are dressed in a mishmash of white beetle-shell armour and olive-green jackets. They could be troopers. They could be Resistance. It is impossible to tell.
(What no one will ever, ever dispute: they are all soldiers.)
“You have fought a war and won it,” says Rotta. “Now, you must succeed in peacetime. Let me tell you this for free, Lady Phasma: winning is easy. Governing is far harder. What do you think of civilians? Truly.”
Phasma says nothing. Her tightened lips speak volumes.
“Well, there we go. You are a soldier; you are surrounded by soldiers; and yet you must learn to work with those who are not.”
“Very well. We will retire to my quarters.”
“Excellent.” Rotta undulates after Phasma. “Civilisation can be won with the blaster, but not kept with it.”
The Hutt brings novelties with him, like a soft-skinned Twi’lek girl who has no discernible purpose other to stand around, look pretty, and occasionally flick one of her long tentacles over her shoulder.
Two Sevens does not understand.
“You cannot fire a blaster?”
“Well,” says she, fluttering her lashes, “No. But I can use my hands for other things .”
She lifts the hands in question. They are green. The nails are long and gold.
“Like medical aid?” says Two Sevens.
“Like…” The girl blinks a few times. “What did you say your name was?”
“Two Sevens. And you are?”
“Jayda. Rott calls me Pumpkin Pie. I’m his bride.”
“He’s away a lot. It does get frightfully lonely.”
“I am sorry. You accompany him now, though.”
“I wanted to see what sort of revolution the troopers had organised,” she says. One gold-bright nail trails along Two Sevens’ chest plate. His head quirks on one side. “All these big, strong soldiers.”
He looks at her finger. She looks at him. Then, with a huff of irritation, she stands up. “I must find my husband.”
“Good luck,” says Two Sevens.
Civilians, he decides, are very strange.
“What’s the point of her then?” Two Sevens asks Bren. “All she does is stand around and complain.”
Bren tells him.
Two Seven blushes from jaw to brow. “ Oh .”
The strangeness of peace, thinks Phasma. There is time for luxury. For clothing of soft pretty fabric, for Twi’lek girls with long nails, for scents and jewellery and good food. She has no taste for it, but many of her troopers do, and soon she finds herself facing up to a trooper named Ceasefire and saying, “You’re getting fat.”
He does not look happy.
(This is an understatement. Phasma may not be Captain Phasma anymore, and she does not shoot people for insubordination, but she is still Phasma, the hard-featured, undisputed leader of the troopers and so, yes, they fear her. As they should. And they love her. As they should.)
“You are not the first. You will not be the last. We are soldiers, still. We will always be soldiers.”
“The war’s done,” says Ceasefire.
“Yes. But we cannot afford to be complacent. The Other New Republic was complacent, and they burned up.”
(That’s a story there. Once there was a Republic founded on war and they forgot the rules of war, they forgot what had bought them their freedom, and so they burned up. )
Phasma is not yet accustomed to giving lessons via stories. She says, instead, “Lose the weight. I’m starting drills. They are not obligatory.”
Here’s something the troopers learn quickly: when Phasma says that something is not obligatory it is a good idea to consider it obligatory.
“So, uh,” says Finn, “you trade all over the galaxy?”
“That I do,” says Rotta the Hutt. Rotta is a glutinous thing the colour of a fresh bruise. He’s considered a prodigy by Hutt standards; barely seventy years old, slithering along the straight and narrow and (largely) legal path that his darling Daddy never managed to navigate.
Finn likes him.
(To be honest, Finn likes everyone.)
“And if I gave you something, you could send it off everywhere?”
“For the right price.”
“I don’t have any money.”
“The price does not need to be in money,” says Rotta. Finn thinks of metal bikinis, chains and flushes all over. Rotta’s laugh sounds like swamp bubbles popping. “No, not that sort of thing. I deal in the currency of reputation.”
“What do you wish to be sent out?”
“Um. It’s probably easier if I show you”
There’s a painting on the side of the barracks-turned-courthouse.
She’s caught in the instant before saying something, lips parted, curving up into a smile. Her throat tapers into metal, smooth and gorgeous, and she’s in grey silk Jedi robes, and her lightsabre is green as any meadow.
“She’s lovely,” says Rotta. “You are a lucky man to have her.”
“I know. But-- look at her. So, when they started painting us we looked like soldiers. And now they’ve started drawing us -- me and Rey and Poe -- like we’re human. We’re smiling. Happy. You know? And that’s how I want the universe to see us. That’s the story I want to be told.” Finn sticks his hands in his pockets, hunches his shoulders. “The story of us, together, and of the Stormtroopers together -- of FN-2187 who was a Stormtrooper and who made friends and fell in love and, uh, of Stormtroopers who said they weren’t going to kill anymore and of how the First Order actually fell, how it collapsed in on itself, because we stood together and stood as friends and --” Finn trails off.
Rotta plants a supportive, if slimy, hand on his shoulder.
“Propaganda,” he says. “It is a vital part of any society.”
“The truth ,” Finn snaps.
“A truth,” Rotta comprimises. “I think I can help you with this.”
Kylo Ren remembers.
The woman was known as Fulcrum. She was fast, but not fast enough, and fell in two neat halves and as she died --
“No Snips, no no no, no oh Force -- oh Ben, what have you done --”
Kylo Ren remembers.
(Ben what’s wrong. Ben what are you doing. Ben why are you locking the doors why are you why are you)
( Master Skywalker there’s too many of them --)
A choice, always a choice.
(No please don’t but I must yes I must the draw of the Light is too strong they call me Jedi Killer they call me they call me they call to me )
(Ben please. Ben please I thought you were my friend Ben please Ben What Are You Doing Ben there’s so much blood Ben why are you doing this please Ben please)
(My name isn’t Ben.)
Kylo Ren remembers.
(I love you. I love you Ben, I love you, I’ll help you)
(Mummy I had a bad dream.)
(What was it)
(About the dark)
Once there was a boy called Ben Solo.
He grew up.
He did not die. He changed. He did not die it would have been easier if he had done because death, at least, is catharsis but he’s not dead, he’s strapped to a medical gurney undergoing surgery on the good ship Solo because Leia refuses to put him on Persephone because if he got loose, if he killed even one of her soldiers, one of her pilots then --
There’s a file in her hand. The name at the top reads POE DAMERON-ORGANA.
“What do we do with him?”
“Put him on trial, the same as the rest.”
“Because he’s your son?”
“Do you really think that little of me, Poe?”
“No General. No I don’t. I -- he’s killed so many people.”
“I know. So have I. So have you.”
An encounter Poe is trying not to think about:
“Tell us a story, Mister Dameron!”
He lifts the smaller of the children onto his hip. She clutches at his hair.
“How about the Battle of Endor?”
He tells the story. He makes appropriate sounds, mimicking X Wings and TIE fighters and BB-8 chitters like an Ewok, and at the end he does as his mother used to do, pattering the points of his fingers onto the girl’s head.
“And the drums rang out, for the Empire was no more!”
“But --” The girl’s eyes screw up, in the way of children everywhere when they are thinking terribly hard. “But what about the troopers?”
And then Poe remembers. He’s on Persephone. The child in his arms was a Stormtrooper. Her eyes are wide and she doesn’t look excited.
(They used Stormtrooper helmets as drums.)
(His mother had told him this as well.)
(He had giggled in delight at the image.)
“Uh...well,” he says, and shifts the child to the other hip, “most of them switched sides. To our side. To the good side.”
“No they didn’t,” says the boy at his feet. “They were loyalist scum, and they died.”
“They died, yes. But they weren’t scum. They, uh. They were fighting for what they had been told to fight for. And, later on, they would rebel. How about I tell you that story instead?”
The girl nods enthusiastically, so Poe tells the pair the story of FN-2187 who had been a Stormtrooper. He tells her of how Finn fell in love, of how the rebellion spread through murmurs and stories. He tells them of brave, noble Rey.
(BB-8 mimics her breathing: that low metal rasp. The girl laughs for joy, and the sullen boy grins.)
He tells them of the general Leia. He tells them of how Finn liberated troopers from the slave camps in the T’Sara system. He tells them of how you can name yourself whatever you want, and how no one will ever have a number ever again. He tells them all of this, and when he has finished both have forgotten the Battle of Endor. Both are trying -- with limited success -- to make Rey’s breathing noise.
(Every generation has a story.)
“And when you hear that noise,” says Poe, “I want you to think of Rey. Think of how brave she is, and how good. Think of how she protected her friends, how she got her throat --” he pauses, thinks that throat ripped out is probably the wrong phrasing for children, no matter their origin, and says: “ hurt . She did it because she loved her friends, because she wanted to care for them, because she was willing to do anything for them. And that is something we all need to aspire to .”
The girl’s name is Rozetta. She tells the story to her friend Songbird, who tells her teacher Fiver, and Fiver tells Shot-At-Dawn and Shot-At-Dawn tells Reyma Kiltjael. By the time the story has got that far, the impression has improved drastically, and Shot-At-Dawn uses a metal comb and a glass of water to convey it accurately.
Reyma smiles. She’d testified at Cass’s trial, and she’d sat in at General Asric’s and seen justice done twice over, and this is how the New Republic is built, on trials with evidence and sentences and justice, and the troopers are starting to understand. And Shot-At-Dawn tells her the story of a girl whose heart is ninety per cent of her bodyweight, a girl who you always hear coming, a girl who lived because of the metal in her throat.
(There are many, many troopers with wounds like that: torn throats and missing limbs and they are alive, they are alive because the Resistance believes in keeping soldiers going even when they can no longer fight -- and so these troopers hear the tale of Rey and to them the sound of her breath is not just the sound of victory but the sound of hope, because she could have died and did not, because they saw fit to keep her alive.)
Once, Rey was silent. She stole over deserts and between scrap and garbage as shadows do, slipping quicksilver slick into places where no man could follow. Once. And now she isn’t, and now you can hear her coming, always hear her coming, especially when she is upset and weeping and her breathing buzzes like a swarm of wasps caught in a droid.
Like Vader’s did.
Correction: like her grandfather’s did.
Sometimes, there is nothing worse than getting precisely what you wanted.
Her feet carry her through the camp, through the alleyways and tucked-away places, the hiding places, the places she makes a point to know -- because she was a scavenger, and she lived so long because she knew where to hide where no one could find her. Finally she finds somewhere small and safe and secret, between two weapons dumps, where the air is acrid with the reek of old blaster-fire and there’s blood rusting on the concrete and no one around.
Luke Skywalker is her father.
She is a Skywalker.
“No I am not . I have a family, I have a family, and it’s not the -- it’s not the ones who left me to rot on Jakku, it’s not, it’s not -- it’s --”
Her breath catches. Snags .
She looks up. There’s a girl. She seems vaguely familiar but Rey’s not Finn, and struggles with all the names. This one is small, and looks frightened.
“Just Rey. Uh.”
Her eyes are puffy and red-rimmed and her breathing is hideous . She sounds like she’s gargling with bloody gravel.
“I -- I’ll go --”
“No, don’t worry.” The girl, bizarrely, is smiling. “Can you stay? It’s just...it’s nice.”
“Hearing your breathing. We never quite get it right.”
“What do you mean?”
“When we tell the story -- your story. It’s nice to hear it. It’s comforting. It means hope and…”
And then: “Are you crying? Please don’t cry.”
Let me tell you about the Force.
It eats up its own, Dark or Light, because it is dumb animal hunger and all the humanity of a storm.
Once, there was a boy. He dedicated himself to the Light. He did everything right. He was alone all his long, long life.
Kylo Ren has spent his life not listening to his grandfather.
The machines whirr and start to sing out alarms as his heart-rate plunges.
“You bastard, you live, you live -- you have to live -- you have to face what you’ve done! You don’t get to die, you don’t deserve to die -- you don’t get to, do you hear me?”
Fortunately, he has picked an excellent time to start .
If you live long enough, you see the same eyes in different faces.
This can destroy a man.
Let me tell you about the Force.
It is hunger. It is wild. It is bloody mawed fury and it is the gentle touch of a mother’s hand -- it is everything, and in everything, and the only constant is that it eats up those who embrace it, eats them to nothing and licks the bones clean.
Light or Dark, right or wrong, they all burn up in the end. This is the way of the world, you know.
This is what it is to be Obi Wan: you have seen the same eyes in different faces too many times. You know that those who set fires are always eaten up by them in the end. You know that things come in cycles, that the past always repeats -- sure as tide on the shore -- you know that the best and bravest man you knew chose to fall to the Dark Side, and you know that his son chose to hide rather than face the pain of his nephews betrayal.
This is what it is to be Obi Wan: you have forgotten the rest of the story.
Aboard the Solo , Kylo Ren undergoes his fourth surgery.
“If I wanted,” says Leia. “I could give him bio-mechanics that didn’t quite fit, that always hurt him, that meant he would never be able to fight again. I could, if I wanted to -- if I ordered it -- ensure that he was always crippled, never a threat. I could have some implants put in that would explode if triggered. I could.”
Leia looks up at Phasma.
Phasma says nothing. Instead she reaches out and takes Leia’s hand. Leia hesitates, just for a moment, before squeezing back.
“I could,” says the General. “And I won’t.”
“And that’s the point,” says Phasma. “You could be that woman, and you’re not.”
Some wars continue. Some end. Three days after the return of Kylo Ren to Persephone, Osma and Snap announce their pending nuptials.
(That is: they announce them in the morning; by the evening the party is in full swing.)
(The end of war is a catalyst for all sorts of things. Joy. Pain. And, of course, weddings -- which are both of these)
“I am not well-trained in interrogation methods,” says Archer, once Colonel Archer of the First Order, named Brendol after the man his father fought alongside, now known to many by the unfortunate nickname of ‘Our Bastard’ due to his aforementioned lamentable career choice. “But I will start by removing your genitalia with a hackblade and busk it from there. And then, when you’re a mewling and bloody wreck, I would burn all you love to the ground.” He pauses, then lifts his glass. “But I am assuming that you will not hurt my Osma, because you will be a worthy husband to her -- I simply wish to illustrate what I, what we , would do to you if you did.”
Finn’s not been to many weddings -- to any weddings in fact -- but, judging by the strained look on Poe’s face, Best Man’s speeches are not meant to include graphic threats of violence.
“To the happy couple! Anyone else?”
“Uh, only one person is meant to speak --” starts Snap, but he’s drowned out by the exuberance of Reyma, Osma’s former squadmate.
“If you hurt her,” she says, bouncing to her feet, “I’ll vivisect you.” She’s ruddy-faced and grinning, slopping wine onto her hand as she brandishes her cup in a toast. “To the happy couple!”
Shannah Yzetta, not to be outdone, is the next to stand. “If you ever hurt him,” he trills, “I’ll strap you to the outside of my X Wing and orbit the planet a couple of times until you’re all blown up and dead. To the happy couple!”
“Is this tradition? The threats?” says Phasma to General Organa.
“Uh. Well. It seems to be now?” says Leia. Kylo Ren is recovering. Soon he will be strong enough to stand trial.
But now, right now, Poe leaps onto his chair and starts a lengthy discussion of the strange and varied tortures he would subject Osma to in the event of her infidelity.
Leia has learned to compartmentalise. She was a princess, then a diplomat, then a general.
Here, there is life. On board Solo is life of another kind. Both hold pain and fire, and both should be valued.
“I approve,” says Phasma. “It demonstrates the strength of the bond they have to their squadmates and reassures the couple that they will always be cared for, and that they may have chosen a partner and started a new life but they will not leave the old behind.” She nods once, decisively. “I will not speak, for I am not of her unit, but know that I too would skin alive the pilot known as Snap should he harm my trooper.”
“And I’d shoot Osma if she hurt Snap.”
They exchange a brief smile.
Poe concludes his toast: “...and then they would lick all the honey out of your hair and that would tickle . Enough chatter! Let’s get pissed!”
Finn’s drunk. Well. He thinks he is. He feels all fizzy, warm and bubbly and everything has a slight haze to it. There’s a glass of something blue and glittery in his hand, and Poe is trying to teach Archer to dance which is hilarious because the one-time Colonel has all the agility of a dead plank of wood and Poe --
Poe is undulating , spinning and grinding his hips in a way that is outright obscene . Finn flushes at the sight, thinks of long nights spent with Poe’s and Rey’s hands on him.
Archer’s pale face is ruddy-red, and Poe’s got him by the waist, rubbing on him.
A hot pang of jealousy lances right through Finn. It’s illogical, he knows, but Archer is so pretty , all sharp cheekbones and ghost-grey eyes and the sort of smile that suggests he knows exactly when the world is going to end.
He downs his drink, and strides over, interrupting Poe mid-thrust.
Poe immediately slings his arms around Finn’s shoulders and kisses him, hot and hungry and just a little too much for public.
Archer bursts out laughing. His hair is, as ever, an absolute mess, sticking up in deliberate defiance of the First Order’s protocol. “I’ll leave you ladies to it,” he says, and wanders off to resume his effort to get Shot-At Dawn into his bed.
“Hi,” says Finn, softly, once the kiss is done. Poe smirks at him, stamps a kiss to the corner of his lips. “Missed you.”
“Missed you too,” says Poe. His breath is warm and sweet and this is half of Finn’s victory, right in his arms.
“Let’s get Rey,” he says. Then: “Where is she?”
No one dances on Jakku, but Rey is determined not to be left out so she improvises a style best described as ‘fighting ten thousand enemies at once’.
Despite her outright hazardous approach to dancing, she’s not lacking for partners. Each one of them wants to listen to her breathe, ear to throat, hands on the sleek metal, and her skin is warm all over, the Force slick and fast over and in her, and she’s Rey Organa who is not a Skywalker.
Anakin killed children, she knows.
He killed children . How can anyone forgive him that?
Once, she thinks, there was a girl and she got what she wanted: a family. And then she got another one, only she didn’t want that one, because she already had one and the other family was bloody and broken and carried with it a hideous legacy and she did not want that. She did not want that at all. She did not want a legacy that was not hers, because she had only just got her own legacy and that was hard enough.
Here she is: a girl with a heart that could hold the universe, and breath that sings troubled troopers to sleep.
Once there was a man , says a voice in her head, and he made a mistake .
Then: I am not going to run from this. We need to talk.
Once, there was a man. He ran so fast and so far and found himself right back where he started
“I’m your father. I love you. I failed you, and I’m sorry. I’m going to try each and every day to make it up to you. I am never going to leave you again.”
(Not-leaving: the deepest sign of affection you can give anyone, especially Rey.)
Leia leaves the celebrations because she must, because she is a mother, because Kylo Ren is her son, was always her son.
(Once, there was a woman. She saved her children, even though it burned her alive.)
“I sentence you to exile.”
No prison can hold him, if he does not wish it to. Besides. Prison is not right for him, this burner of galaxies. This Jedi Killer. This frightened, angry child.
(Once, there was a man. He saved the life of a great warrior and the great warrior pledged a life debt to him. The man died. The great warrior fulfilled the life debt in another way.)
(Dying is easy. Living is hard. Fighting a war is easy. Governing is hard.)
“I will take him to Kashyyyk, where he might begin to atone for his crimes.” Chewie claps a great hand to Kylo Ren’s shoulder.
This is Kylo Ren: more metal than man. His legs are sleek chrome, plated and jointed, flexing perfectly -- covered with cloth you cannot tell that they are false. His face is another matter. It has not healed fully. Bits of it are still wet and red.
Half of it -- the half that can move -- shapes what could be a smile.
“You will not return,” says Leia.
(It burned her alive --)
“Not now, and not ever.”
(--she saved her children.)
Kylo nods, once, and that is it.
(Once there was a woman, and she had more children than she ever knew.)
(She did not fail them.)
“Dance with me.”
“I cannot dance.”
“Not a good enough excuse. Come on.”
Luke takes Rey’s hand.
“Do you think I have a chance?” says Phasma to Poe. They sit by a great bonfire, flames reaching for the stars, and Poe can still taste Finn on his lips. He’s aching for Finn, for Rey, but Rey is still dancing with Luke and Finn is working his way around the Stormtroopers.
“What do you mean?”
“Well...a General, and a soldier like me?”
“I will not call you Ben Solo. You have lost the right to that name.”
“That isn’t my name anymore.”
“ Nor will I call you Kylo Ren.”
“I don’t have a name,” says the man who was once Kylo, was once Ben Solo. He’s not in pain. He should be. He should -- and yet he is not, not in physical pain. He is whole, and he is strong, and his breath sings unhindered out of his lungs and his heart beats on, stubborn and hard, because he is Leia Organa’s son and he wants to live. He wants to live.
“Everyone needs a name,” says a voice.
There’s a man sitting opposite him. He’s got a scar curved over his left eye. He’s smiling, and it is a kind smile.
“Grandfather,” says Kylo, almost reverently. “You’re -- why are you here?”
“You are my legacy. You take after me more than I like. I’m not going to leave you. I promise.”
(Not-leaving: an act of affection that Kylo Ren has finally, finally started to appreciate.)
“Anyway. Names. You need one.”
“I’m not Ben anymore. I can’t be Kylo Ren.”
“Think of something.”
“You tell me.” And then Kylo stops, shakes his head, and corrects himself: “No. I need to choose, don’t I?”
“Yes. You do.”
“Then call me Ky. It’s close enough. Maybe...maybe one day I can change it to something else. But, right now, I can’t forget Kylo Ren. I can’t forget who I was. I am ashamed of the name, but I cannot forget that I once chose it.”
“Good boy,” says Anakin Skywalker.
This is what it is to be Obi-Wan.
There is a choice.
There is always a choice.
If Anakin can make his, then so can he.
Maybe it's time he started to remember the stories.
“I’m not crying,” Leia says, dashing tears from her eyes. “I’m not -- “
Phasma sits beside her. Below, on Persephone, the wedding celebrations continue.
Now? Phasma sits besides the General, and takes her hand, and she does not leave.
(Not-leaving: an act that Leia’s life has been sorely lacking in.)
A year later, and Finn finds himself in Coruscant, dressed in swooping robes of purple and gold.
“I still think they’re a little much,” says Rey.
Padme, translucent but still somehow the most strikingly lovely woman in the room, says, “You look gorgeous, son-in-law. Hold your head high, don’t stare at one person for too long --”
“I’m married to a Senator,” says Poe. “I’m married to a Senator and a Jedi, I cannot believe this.”
“When you live long enough, you see the same eyes in different people,” says Padme. “But when you live even longer you realise that people can have the same eyes and be utterly different people, because there is always a choice. Now, Finn darling, wear the indigo bantha-leather boots -- the black ones are far too military.”
Finn leaves his (absurdly opulent quarters) into sleek white corridors, only to be ambushed by the slimy embrace of Rotta the Hutt.
“Finn the Liberator! Finn the Defector! My darling, darling ally --”
“Finn Organa-Dameron, actually.”
“Excellent, excellent, congratulations -- you are all looking beautiful by the way --”
Poe and Rey follow. Poe, in his officer’s uniform, olive green and gold; Rey in her grey Jedi silks, her new lightsabre at her hip.
“Oh, we know,” says Poe.
“Here you go,” says Rotta, offering a datapad, showing his latest project. There’s a billboard. It’s bigger than most buildings, towering over the shuttleport, and on it is the latest of Shot-At-Dawn’s artwork: Finn and Rey and Poe, embracing each other, smiling bright and happy, eyes glittering and no weapons in sight. Finn isn’t wearing a shirt; he’s sleek and muscled and defined in a way that is downright obscene.
There’s a caption:
FINN WANTS YOU TO DONATE TODAY TO THE FUND FOR REFUGEES
“We’ve raised almost a billion credits,” says Rotta. “And they’re all over the galaxy. And there’s a holoplay in production -- and the story is on every datapad in the quadrant.”
He tugs a slim quadrant out of his velvet coat and offers it. Finn takes it; his eye is drawn at once to the first line:
Once there was a boy. His name was FN-2187 and he was a Stormtrooper…
This is not the end. Stories do not end because life is a story, and life does not neatly tie itself into a bow. People keep living, and there are always battles to be fought, and revolutions always come around again. Light endures not because of one great victory but because of a series of smaller ones, battles fought in private and in the hearts and soul in the people. There will always be another fight.
But this is an end. And a start.
Chancellor Leia Organa takes her seat at the head of the New Republic Senate. Phasma, in shining chrome armour, sits behind her, ready to gun down anyone who twitches a muscle wrong. She sees Finn in a train of purple, gold collar and gold torc and purple boots, diamond glittering on his ring finger, looking a little ill-at-ease in all his finery but unable to stop smiling. She sees Poe Organa and thinks
(she had more children than she ever knew)
that she will burst from pride.
She sees Rey, with Luke beside her, who are very much not the last of the Jedi. She sees Reyma Kiltjael, the youngest Senator since Padme Amidala herself; she sees Bren Archer, all decked out in olive green; there’s Shot-At-Dawn, sketching with fast, loose motions of her wrist. There’s Sekhmet, pressed up against Two Sevens’ flank like she never wants to be anywhere else.
It’s probably the most chaotic Senate she’s ever attended. The delegates share floor-space with those they represent, and everyone clamours for attention.
(Chewbacca and Ky are such a long way away.)
(She burned herself alive to save her children, but she survived.)
“Order! Order!” she sings out, and the hubbub dies down.
And so it begins.