Rey didn’t notice the package on her bed right away. She tried to pull her gown off the moment she entered her room, eager for a shower and still distracted by Ben’s kisses, but the fastenings down her back snugged it too tight for easy removal.
She stopped wrestling with it when she saw the package, small enough to fit inside BB-8, wrapped in brown paper and twine. No markings suggested where it came from or how it got there, and Rey probed it warily with the Force.
When nothing pinged against her senses, she delicately untied the twine and pulled the plain brown paper away, revealing a smooth, glossy black cube with a press-latch.
It opened at a touch, and Rey blinked at a sealed letter at the top of the contents. The seal looked familiar, but she couldn’t place it until she broke it open and glanced at the signature.
Her breath caught.
Her eyes flew over the short note before she slowed down to read it again more carefully.
It will not surprise you to learn of my shock when I heard you were to be married to Kylo Ren. I do not know how this came to pass, but I have every confidence, my dear girl, that you will be a good influence on your new husband.
However, you must permit me to worry about you. If my hope for the two of you proves to be in vain, please know that you are always welcome here with me.
I have included several wedding gifts, family heirlooms that I have kept for the daughter I never had. Please accept them as a testament to my sincerity when I wish you every happiness.
Take care of yourself. And him.
Rey read it a second time, her eyes stinging. It had been carefully written, the words taking on new depth when Rey considered that by marrying Ben, she was indeed becoming Leia’s daughter. And Leia had offered to be her haven, though doing so would undoubtedly widen the rift between Ben and his mother.
Rey traced the final sentence with her fingertips, the weight of those two little words settling heavy on her heart.
A second page contained a detailed list of the gifts in the box, including such items as “the surviving royal jewels of Alderaan,” “mother’s wedding veil,” and “Breha’s bracelets.”
Rey pulled small velvet pouches from the box and set them in a row on the bed, finally lifting a delicate veil of antique lace and intricate beading from the bottom.
She considered wearing it for her own wedding, attracted to the idea of connecting her present to Ben’s past, but she grimaced at the thought of all that lace and set it reverently back.
Perhaps her own daughter would want it.
She halted and flushed at the thought, even though she’d already admitted to Ben that she wanted children. It had seemed so abstract, a hazy fantasy without much thought of how she would get there.
She’d kissed him since then.
She closed her eyes and let herself imagine children running and laughing in the sunlight as warm arms slipped around her from behind. When she looked into the face of her mystery man now, his face was no longer a vague collection of indistinct features. Now he had silky black hair, sensitive lips, a long scar, and a smattering of small moles.
And he looked at her like she hung the stars in the sky.
Rey read the letter several more times before looking in the velvet pouches. Of all the things Leia had sent, without even having to look, the letter meant the most.
But that didn’t mean that Rey didn’t look in the pouches.
The Alderaanian royal jewels sparkled with a light all their own, so spectacular that Rey was afraid of ruining them if she touched them. She carefully packed them back away, not wanting to damage them with her inexperience.
The bracelets were better, a pair of simple bronze cuffs embellished with a symbol Rey didn’t recognize – that of an upside-down triangle made of interlacing curves.
Rey tried one on, the metal cool against her wrist. She wondered what Ben would say when he saw what his mother had sent her.
But… maybe he didn’t need to know about the letter where Leia offered to whisk Rey away. Would it upset him? The letter meant the world to Rey, even if she didn’t plan on taking Leia up on her offer.
She read it over again, trying to see it from Ben’s perspective, and chewed her lip. She would tuck it away against her heart for now and worry about whether to show it to him later.
“Oh, Leia,” she sighed pensively.
The bracelet lit up.
Rey wrenched it from her wrist and threw it on the bed.
The light grew, staining the room blue, and a voice crackled into the bedspread. “…hello? Are you there?”
The familiar rasp had Rey leaning forward and turning the bracelet so the blue light resolved into a staticky hologram.
Rey took the bracelet set and slipped them onto her wrists. Immediately, the hologram resolved into General Leia Organa’s face.
“There we are! Much better. As I was saying, you need to wear both bracelets to get a clear signal. One amplifies the other.”
Blue hologram Leia gestured at Rey’s other wrist.
“G-General?” she stammered.
“Don’t look so surprised. You think we’d really leave you in that pit of vipers without a way to keep tabs?”
Rey sat heavily on her bed by all the pouches of pretty things Leia had sent, doubt rising like bile. Had she even meant a word of that letter? Or did she plan to use Rey as a convenient spy? “How did you get the package to me?” It wasn’t the question burning a hole in her heart, but she was curious. Whomever left it had had to sneak past both Ben and herself as they slept.
Leia waved the question away. “I’d be a terrible resistance leader if I didn’t have at least one spy on that ship. That’s not why I want to talk to you.” The older woman’s sharp eyes pinned Rey in place. “What happened?”
They spoke for almost an hour, mostly about how Rey had come to find herself in her current situation. Chewbacca had filled Leia in on what he knew about Rey’s mission as well as the little he understood of the Force bond. Rey had had to tell him about its existence to get him to drop her off at the Supremacy.
“That was a stupid thing to do,” Leia said when Rey told her about the deal she’d made. “Holdo sacrificed herself to disable Supremacy. We would have gotten away just fine without you selling yourself to that boy.”
“I didn’t sell myself,” Rey said, offended. Sure, Rey’s sacrifice wasn’t as profound as Holdo’s, but she’d still made one.
“You’re telling me you would have married Ben if he’d kept firing on the transports?”
“Well, no.” Obviously. She couldn’t just throw herself into the arms of a man who slaughtered her friends. She had some standards. But his concession had opened the door and allowed her to make one of her own.
Leia shrugged. “You sold yourself.”
Rey stood, her temper snapping. “I did not!”
Instead of getting angry, Leia observed her. Rey kept her chin high. She didn’t know what Leia saw, but she wouldn’t cower before anyone, not even Leia Organa.
When Leia spoke, it was with utter contempt, clawing Rey’s bruised heart into shreds. “Then why did you do it? And don’t tell me it was for the transports. You’re not the type to stay somewhere you don’t want to be. Why join the First Order? Why chain yourself to a cold-blooded murderer?”
“Stop that,” she snapped.
Rey struggled to get the words past her anger. “Talking about him like that.”
Leia scoffed. “I can talk about my own son however I want.”
“That doesn’t make it right.” Rey’s face flamed with indignation. “He deserves better.”
Leia looked at her for a long, assessing moment. “He’s a murderer.”
Rey faltered. “Yes,” she almost whispered. “But he’s… more than that. He’s…” She trailed off, unable to encompass the maelstrom of traits that was Ben.
Sad, confused, lonely, impulsive, angry, kind, awkward, bitter, thoughtful Ben. He was a mess of contradictions, and he was hers, and no one was going to talk about him like that in front of her, not even his mother.
Leia’s expression cracked into a slow grin. “I see,” she murmured.
Rey frowned at her. “What?”
The grin stayed, turning smug. “You care about him.”
“Of course I do.” She narrowed her eyes at the general, off-balance because she’d been braced for a fight. “Wait. Is that why you said all of that?”
“Mm,” agreed Leia. “I had to know your reasons for being there. If you were just going to use my boy and break his heart, we were going to have words.”
“You could have just asked,” muttered Rey, suddenly embarrassed.
Leia shrugged. “Visceral reactions are more honest. Now, tell me.” Leia’s sudden ferocity was tempered by the aching throb of her voice. “How is my son?”
Rey told her, and Leia absorbed every word with the greed of a mother separated from her child for too long. The unwavering focus reminded Rey of Ben.
When the conversation turned to the Resistance, Leia sighed heavily. “We’re doing our best. Morale is low after losing you and Holdo, especially since there are those who see your defection as betrayal.”
Rey winced. She’d known her decision wouldn’t be a popular one. “How is Finn?”
“He got into a fistfight over you,” Leia told her with an exasperated eye roll.
“What? Why? How?”
Leia shrugged. “Like I said, tensions are high and you don’t have many fans. Someone said something particularly vulgar, and Finn tried to defend your honor.”
Her skin prickled with guilt. “Is he okay?”
“Of course. We know how to handle hotheaded men around here. Patch them up, throw them in their bunks for a few hours to cool down, and pile them with so much work when they get out that they won’t be able to cause any more trouble for at least a week.” Leia’s eyes twinkled. “Finn is mopping the entire base. Twice.”
They caught up on Chewbacca and BB-8, and Leia asked about Luke. Rey told her what she could. They danced around locations and strategies, agreeing without words that Resistance and First Order business had no place here, too much of a conflict of interest.
The conversation eventually lagged, and they ended the transmission after Leia told Rey how to use the bracelets to get back in touch with her. Apparently, they had to be switched on and then activated with a password – “Leia,” in this case. Rey could switch them off in public to prevent accidents.
This development, Rey decided as she removed the bracelets and packed the other items back into the black box, was not something she would be mentioning to Ben.