I promised my father I would come home in one piece. He hated me going out solo on any mission.
“Your unit is the key to your survival,” he used to say over and over again. The Pathfinders were built on unity despite the odds.
Jakku was hopefully the end of a very long mission. Some of it had been done alone, but most of it was filled with bravery and sacrifice from Black Squadron, the rest of the Resistance, and just innocent bystanders who wanted to help. Flying solo to backside-of-nowhere Jakku to find one illusive old man was supposed to be a below-the-radar fly in, fly out mission.
Of course, it wasn’t that simple.
I remember laying in the interrogation room on the Finalizer and thinking about that promise. Kes Dameron wasn’t exactly going to begrudge his only son for holding out against the First Order and dying for the cause, but the broken promise still made the air even more bitter than just the scent of coppery blood.
As a precaution on this ‘easy’ mission, I had left any obvious earmarks of being the Wing Commander for the Resistance with my father on Yavin 4. The flight uniform, complete with the metal badge with the inverted “v” that I still remember the pride in the General’s eyes when she pinned on me. I left behind my Republic ident that I still carried, despite being a deserter in the eyes of the purposefully ignorant New Republic Navy. Black One was under the dense eves of a tree neighboring the homestead. I even left behind the one thing in the galaxy I knew I would never forgive myself if I lost: my mother’s wedding ring.
A ring is another kind of promise. One that is without beginning or end. Her’s was one pried from a modulator that was about to be scrapped from a post-battle retrofit of her RZ-1 A-Wing. Kes knew the ship, the squadron, and the Rebellion were as much a part of the promise as he was.
I made good on my promise to ol’ Kes. I came home and he hugged me so hard I could feel it pinching the burning nerves from the hours of denying the First Order what it wanted. I made good on that promise.
I put back on the flight suit proudly. It felt good to be free of the ashy sensation of the desert that clung to me and put on what felt like my second skin again. It came with my badge, a symbol of my duty to the Resistance and all her ideals.
He made a point to hand me the last part back, letting the ring dangle from its silver chain as he deposited it carefully back into my hand.
We had long ago settled our feelings about how the great Shara Bey lived on in both of us. He carried her duty to her squadron, the Rebellion, and for the two of us. I got to keep her fire, her drive, and her dedication. Love without beginning or end.
In those moments when you maneuver hard enough to lose gravity even in a gravity-controlled cockpit, you feel everything on your body lift. Those are the times that I’m the most grateful to have a piece of her with me, cool metal grazing up my chest just enough to notice. It reminds me of the hard banks we would take over the forests at home under the clear skies.
It's not just her promise I carry with me anymore. When I finally got back to myself after Jakku, feeling the Yavin 4 dirt beneath my boots before hopping back into Black One, I knew in my gut that the ring was also my promise to myself for the future.
I almost didn’t make it off the Finalizer. I can imagine may worse ways to go than defending the galaxy against the First Order, but a part of me always wanted to have what Shara and Kes had: a life after war. This time, when I slipped the chain I had worn the ring on for most of my life, I saw a new potential in it.
One day I would part with the old washer that my mother used to wear. Not because of some solo black-ops mission or because it and I were obliterated into stardust as so many pilots are. I suddenly knew with clarity that I wanted to make a new promise. Love without beginning or end.
But first I have other promises to keep: to the General, to the Resistance, to Kes Dameron, and to myself.