The last time Jaina Solo saw Luke Skywalker was the day he officially declared her training to be complete.
"You are a Jedi," he had proclaimed for all to hear. His eyes were sad - he was always sad in those last days - but they had taken on that far-away look he always got when the Force spoke to him most clearly. "You are the future of our order, the guardian of our hope. I name you the Sword of the Jedi, for you have been tested and honed like a steel blade, and you will be raised to defend us all."
It had seemed a hollow blessing even then, for of all Luke's students she was the last who had not died or fallen. What was left for her to defend? But she had accepted it, as was her duty, not knowing what the future might hold.
The next day Luke was gone, and she was left alone - guardian of a lost legacy, charged with a mission she did not understand, fighting to save a galaxy that no longer made sense.
Poe found her in the middle of running pre-flight checks on her X-Wing.
"For what it's worth," he told her, "I think you should be the one going to Jakku."
"But the General needs me at the negotiations on Naboo," she said without looking at him, just a hint of sarcasm in her voice. "That's Jedi business, after all."
They both knew very well that Poe's mission was Jedi business as well. For her, though, it was also of personal importance. Her Jedi instincts told her that this lead was real, the first real lead they'd had in ages. A chance to find Luke, the first hint of an answer to so many questions…
"You know I'll do my best," Poe continued earnestly, "And if this pans out, I'm sure you'll be the one sent to find him."
It really wasn't fair for her to keep giving him the cold shoulder, so she turned away from her fighter's engines, letting go of all her frustration, just like she'd been taught.
"I hope so," she admitted.
"You will be," Poe insisted with a grin. "Who else would it be? After all, you're the Sword of the Jedi - not to mention the second-best pilot in the Resistance."
She allowed herself a small smile at the familiar joke. "Oh really? Have they found a new recruit who can outfly me?"
"Never," Poe said with a laugh. Her old friend pulled her into a fierce hug, which she gladly returned. "Take care of yourself, Jaina," he said as he pulled away, one hand still resting on her shoulder. "And good luck."
"May the Force be with you," she responded. He grinned again and gave a mock salute as he left, no doubt to begin preparations for his own mission.
She turned back to her X-Wing, doing her best to ignore the small, petty voice at the back of her mind that still whispered It should be me.
Jaina had not been part of the group sent to Takodana.
Poe had led the fighter squadron, of course, in spite of having been tortured by the First Order and survived a crash landing within the last forty-eight hours - Poe Dameron, the favorite son of the Resistance, was always sent on the most important missions.
The General had gone herself, a rare trip to the front lines for the Resistance's leader - the value of the information BB-8 was carrying apparently made it worth the risk.
Jaina had been left behind to manage things at the base in her absence. Though technically outranked by Statura and Ackbar, they both deferred to her as a Jedi - as the only Jedi, though perhaps not for much longer.
When the coded message came through that the team had successfully recovered the droid, she felt a rush of relief and excitement so strong that she struggled to keep her voice from shaking as she gave orders to various personnel to prepare for the team's return.
They had the map, and the map would lead them to Luke, and then maybe she would finally know - why he had left, why he hadn't come back, what she was supposed to do. There must have been a reason for all of it. There had to be.
This was a turning point, she knew. When they got back, things would be different.
As soon as she could escape from the central command room, she sought out Poe on the landing field, running to embrace him as soon as his feet touched the ground.
"You did it!" she cried. "You got the map!"
"Of course I did," Poe boasted good-naturedly, "with some help from BB-8."
They were interrupted by the droid in question, who was rolling towards his master at top speed, beeping excitedly. Poe greeted his mechanical friend with equal enthusiasm.
"Poe?" an unfamiliar voice called out. "Poe Dameron? You're alive!"
The owner of the voice was a young man Jaina had never seen before, but Poe apparently knew him, because he ran to greet him, BB-8 trailing in his wake.
"You completed my mission," Poe was saying when she caught up with them. The stranger noticed her first, and looked from her to Poe questioningly.
"This is Jaina," Poe offered by way of simple introduction. "Jaina, this is Finn - he helped me escape the First Order."
He had told her the full story upon his return - this young man, then, was very brave, and had been through quite an ordeal. "We're all in your debt," she said diplomatically, extending her hand. Finn hesitated only briefly before shaking it. "Thank you." With a pointed look at Poe, she couldn't resist adding, "I don't know what the Resistance would do without its second-best pilot."
Poe gave her a friendly jab with his elbow and shot Finn an exasperated look. Finn smiled, relaxing slightly at being included in the joke. But he quickly became serious again.
"There was someone else who helped me get BB-8 here - a girl from Jakku," he said urgently. Jaina felt the slightest flutter in the Force, barely there, but enough to make her take notice.
When they returned to central command, Poe immediately escorted Finn over to the General, to share with her what he had told them. But Jaina's attention was just as swiftly drawn to someone else, standing a little apart from the rest of the group.
Finn had told her exactly who it was that had brought him to Takodana, and part of her had been anticipating this even before. It was not a surprise to see him.
He looks so old, she thought, studying him from a distance. In truth his hair was not much whiter nor his face much more lined than she remembered, but he seemed more tired. The last few years had worn him down.
He's not the only one.
Her father noticed her at last from across the room. His eyes widened slightly, the lines around his mouth softened, and she felt a sharp pang of emotion. He never could hide that, it always spilled over through the Force, even when he was supposed to be scolding them-
Deliberately, Jaina turned away from him and went to speak with Admiral Statura. She wasn't ready for this.
All eyes were on Threepio as he removed the tiny recording device from BB-8's storage port and placed it in the input slot on the table projector.
A star map flickered into existence, one system and the hyperspace lane approaching it highlighted in orange. Eagerly, Jaina studied the hologram, looking for reference points, trying to assign meaning to the blue orbs that floated before her eyes. She knew everyone else in the room was doing the same, could see the desperation in the General's eyes without having to look at her - and felt the bitter sting of her disappointment and the exact same moment as her own. Gradually, the other observers reached the same conclusion.
"Unfortunately, this map is incomplete," Threepio said unnecessarily. "And it does not match any system in our archives."
Across the table, the General met Jaina's eyes - a rare occurrence these days. Before Jaina could say anything, she broke the connection, shaking her head sadly. "What a fool I was," she said to herself, "Thinking it would be that easy, that we could just find him."
"Leia…" her father said gently.
"Don't do that," her mother cut him off, walking away. He followed her out of the room, the two of them still arguing.
Just like old times, she thought bitterly, as she looked at the star map again in vain, leaning against the edge of the table. Maybe I've been a fool, too, all this time.
She felt Poe place a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"I was so sure," she whispered, as much to herself as to him. "For once, I was so certain of what the Force was telling me - that the key was on Jakku."
"I'm sorry," Poe said simply.
Jaina allowed herself a single moment to let his sympathy wash over her. Then the Sword of the Jedi straightened her back, let go of her disappointment, and turned her attention to Finn, who was explaining what he knew about the First Order's secret weapon to Admiral Ackbar.
Nothing had changed.
When the group reassembled around the table projector, it was a hologram of Starkiller base that filled the air between them. Poe led the briefing, explaining what they knew about the weapon from Finn's report and Captain Wexley's reconnaissance missions.
"They built another Death Star," Major Ematt summarized when he had finished. The veteran of the Rebellion sounded unimpressed.
Poe's demonstration of the difference in scale between the two world-destroying superweapons caused several audible gasps throughout the room, and even Ematt paled a little. Han Solo was not so easily moved.
"So it's big," he said from his position at the General's side. "How do we blow it up? There's always a way to blow it up."
"Han's right," the General agreed, and Jaina caught the brief look of surprise on her father's face before she spoke up herself.
"To store that much energy, the weapon has to have a thermal oscillator of some kind," she speculated, an idea beginning to form.
"It does," Finn chimed in, and indicated its location on the schematics.
Statura was clearly considering the same idea she had. "If we can disable that, the solar energy would be released, which should permanently cripple the weapon," he theorized. Jaina nodded her agreement.
"That will be impossible as long as the planetary shields are still up," Ackbar pointed out.
"You used to work there," Jaina said to Finn, "Do you know how to disable the shields?"
Finn thought for a moment. "Yes," he said finally. "I'd have to be on the planet, but I can do it."
Jaina felt a gentle suggestion from the Force to press him for further details, but Han cut her off. "I can get you there," he declared. As the General questioned how he intended to do that, Jaina put the feeling aside. There would be time for that later.
"It's settled then," Poe said, bringing the meeting to a close. "Han and Finn will disable the shield, then we'll go in and take out the oscillator." He glanced at Jaina before he continued. "With your permission, General Organa, I'd like Commander Solo to fly as my wingmate."
It was a request he'd made in the past, which was usually granted. It always irritated Jaina a little, no matter how badly she wanted to fly these missions, that the General seemed to need Poe to remind her that she existed. Mom always liked him best, some petty part of her would think.
But this time, any such unbecoming thoughts were overpowered by the sudden knowledge of where she would truly be needed.
"Actually," she interjected before the General could say anything, "I think I should go with the team to disable the shield."
The General nodded, considering. She could feel her father's eyes on her, the mixed emotions rolling off of him, even as she studiously ignored him. It's not for you, she thought. This has nothing to do with you.
"If you think that's where you'll do the most good," her mother said to her at last. "Then I trust your intuition."
High praise, coming from the General.
Poe dismissed the meeting, and pilots, officers, and technicians all began preparing for what they would have to do. Han did not move, still studying her in silence. Finn looked around uncertainly, not knowing what to do with himself. She took pity on him.
"Come with me," she said, leading him from the room. "There's a few things we'll need."
She had sent Finn ahead with the supplies to load onto the Falcon while she said her goodbyes to Poe and her other friends. When she finally made her way to where the infamous light freighter was berthed at the end of the landing field, she was surprised to find her father holding her mother in a gentle embrace.
It felt so agonizingly normal, catching her parents in a tender moment. The sort of thing that just didn't happen to her anymore.
Seeing her standing there, Han reluctantly pulled away from the hug. "You're ready to go, then?" he asked. The first words he'd said to her in seven years.
"Yes," she answered curtly, still not ready to face that demon.
"I'll just...start warming up the engines, then." With one last smile in Leia's direction, he turned and boarded the ship, leaving Jaina and her mother alone.
"I know it's been hard for you," Leia began after a momentary silence.
"It's been hard for all of us," Jaina responded.
"Still," Leia insisted, "I'm your mother. I should have been there for you. I wish I could have. If I had completed the training like Luke wanted me to, maybe I could have helped you. Maybe I could have helped both of you."
The part of Jaina's heart that belonged to him twinged painfully. Not for the first time, she wished she could simply cut it out. She pushed the pain aside instead.
"I know you never wanted to be a Jedi," she told her mother. "And I understand that. There are times I don't want it either. But I am a Jedi, and nothing will change that."
"You're right," Leia admitted. "I didn't want any of that. But that never meant I didn't want you."
Her mother's eyes were shining with unshed tears, and Jaina knew hers must look the same. The chasm that had opened between years ago was still too wide to be closed, but for the first time it seemed small enough to be bridged. She reached out and took her mother's hand.
"You did as much as you could."
"I'm sorry it wasn't enough."
Leia pulled her daughter into a hug, and Jaina did not resist. "Come back safe," Leia whispered, "All of you."
The hyperspace jump from D'Qar to Starkiller base was just long enough to be tense.
Han remained in the cockpit, while Chewie and Finn checked and double-checked their weapons. The whole setting was unnervingly familiar - the dingy main hold, the distinctive hum of the hyperdrive, Chewbacca's occasional barked comments. She could almost be a teenager again, having adventures with her family…
Except Finn was decidedly not him, for which she was grateful.
All their gear thoroughly inspected, Chewie loped off towards the cockpit to keep Han company, and Finn and Jaina started up a game of Dejarik to pass the time.
"You never mentioned," Jaina said casually once the game was underway, "How do we deactivate the shield?"
Finn tapped his fingers against the edge of the game table, considering either his next move or his answer. "There's a series of codes that have to be entered from a security terminal," he said at last, moving his Houjix holomonster a few spaces to the right.
"And you know these codes?" she asked as she captured the Houjix with her Molator.
"No, I don't," Finn admitted quietly. "I just want to get Rey back."
The girl from Jakku again. Based on Finn's earlier stories, the girl was clearly clever, and to inspire such loyalty in someone who had just met her, she must be special in some way. The Force fluttered once more, as if in agreement, but offered no additional insight.
"We will get her back," she assured Finn. "But the Resistance is counting on us. How are we going to fulfill our mission if we don't have the codes?"
"We'll figure something out," he said determinedly. His eyes brightened as he had an idea. "We'll use the Force."
An angry voice from behind her forestalled any further discussion. "That," Han Solo growled, "is not how the Force works."
Finn's face fell again. "You heard."
"I heard," Han echoed, then turned on Jaina. "You knew."
"I had a feeling," she said evenly.
"When were you planning to say something?" he demanded of both of them. "When we landed on the surface of the enemy superweapon? When the Resistance showed up to find the shield still operational?"
"I'm sorry," Finn offered. "I know I shouldn't have lied, but…"
"I understand why you did it," Jaina interrupted him.
"You do?" Han and Finn responded in unison.
"Yes," she said, looking her father square in the face. "He cares about her, and he doesn't want to abandon her."
That doused the fire in Han's eyes immediately, and she could feel his emotions spilling over into the Force again - grief, and remorse, and pain, so much pain. She didn't want to feel it, couldn't stand to feel it when she wanted to have no sympathy for him.
So she focused on her own pain instead, on all the ways he had hurt her, though she knew this wasn't the right time or place for that.
"You left," she spat at him. "He betrayed us, and Uncle Luke disappeared, and Mom was devastated, and you just left." Tears fell from her eyes, not the ones she had held back before, but tears of anger, burning hot.
"We needed you," she went on. "You lost your son, but you still had a daughter, and I needed you. You should have been there for me, and for Mom. We could have dealt with it together, if you had cared about us enough to just stay."
With each accusation, her anger grew, drowning out any unwanted second-hand emotions. Her father took each blow in silence, which suited her just fine. She didn't want answers or explanations or apologies, she just wanted to punish him for hurting her.
"You are a coward," she said darkly, "and I hate you."
Still her father offered no defense, uncharacteristically vulnerable, with eyes so wide he looked just like…
Just like him.
The same person Jaina had begun to sound like.
She fled the main hold for the crew quarters further aft, where she spent the rest of the trip in meditation, trying to release her anger and let go of all those hurts, to find the balance she knew she would need for the task ahead.
Following the rough landing, as the team geared up in terse silence, Jaina saw Finn hesitate for a moment before removing something from a storage locker and attaching it to his belt.
"Is that a lightsaber?"
Almost sheepishly he nodded, unclipping it at holding it out for her to see. "Maz Kanata gave it to me - she wanted to give it to Rey. I don't know where she got it. I know I'm not a Jedi or anything, but I've fought with staff weapons and I figured it might come in handy…"
Jaina hardly heard his rambling explanation. She recognized the hilt resting in his outstretched hand. Though she had never seen it before in person, Luke had described it to her, and there were a few surviving holorecordings from the Clone Wars in which it was visible.
"That lightsaber belonged to Anakin Skywalker," she said softly, nearly speechless with disbelief at what she was seeing.
"Yeah," Finn confirmed. "That's what Maz said, I think. Oh…" He seemed to suddenly remember who he was talking to. "Do you, uh, want it?"
Jaina placed one hand on the hilt of her own lightsaber, the one she had built with her own hands, resting faithfully at her side. It had been her constant companion for over a decade.
The Sword of the Jedi, raised to defend the order. She had her own destiny; she didn't need to take up another's.
"Hold on to it," she told Finn.
As soon as Jaina laid eyes on Rey, she knew.
The girl was practically glowing in the Force, a bright oasis amidst the darkness that pervaded Starkiller base. There was only one other person Jaina had ever known who had a Force presence like that, though this girl was wilder, entirely untrained.
It's not possible, she thought, as Han chastised Rey and Finn to escape first and hug later.
Abashed, they broke apart, and Rey noticed her for the first time.
"I'm Jaina," she said as they made their way down the corridor, knowing there was little time for introductions. Does she know?
"Rey," the girl said with a smile, "Nice to meet you."
She had no idea, Jaina realized.
New questions rose to mind - always questions and more questions and never answers, wasn't that her life as a Jedi? She didn't even know where to begin. But that would be a problem to solve later - right now, they had to focus on getting off this planet before Poe and the others destroyed it.
Still, one thought nagged at the back of her mind as they made their way through the enemy base: all this time Rey had been on Jakku, where the Force had told her she would find the first of the answers she sought.
And now that she had found her, the Sword of the Jedi for the first time knew what her purpose was.
As the group split up, Jaina felt Han grab her arm, holding her back for a moment. She looked up at him in annoyance. "What is it?"
"You were right about what you said earlier."
Her heart skipped a beat. "Not everything I said," she argued, pulling her arm away. "We can talk about this later."
But Han was determined to say his peace. "I was a coward," he admitted. "I should never have left, and I'm done abandoning people I care about. Jaina, I'm..."
"Later, Dad," she interrupted, turning and following Finn and Rey down the corridor and away from him. This was not the time for a heart-to-heart.
But, she realized after a moment, she had called him Dad.
The two figures on the bridge below seemed impossibly far away, yet in the Force, they were as close to her as she was to herself. Two pieces of her heart, both of which had hurt her, yet who remained a part of her no matter what.
Before she could do or say anything, she saw her brother ignite his fiery blade, piercing their father through the chest. Han reached out with one hand to touch his son's face, and then his body crumpled, tumbling into the bright void below.
She was vaguely aware of Rey's scream. Even more distantly, she heard her own. The two cries echoed through the artificial cavern, mingling, two women grieving, two daughters left behind again.
On the bridge, he was climbing to his feet. Someone had shot him - it must have been Chewbacca. The distance was too great to see his face clearly, but she knew he was looking directly at her.
Why, she screamed into the Force, reaching for the bond that connected her to her twin for the first time since his betrayal. Why why why why why - that word that had haunted her, defined her all these years, the ultimate question with no answer.
But there were Stormtroopers closing in on them, and no time to wait for the response that she knew would not come. She still had a job to do.
Grabbing Rey's hand, she ran.
They met him again in the forest.
Pale, haggard, and limping, he looked more like a wounded animal than the boy who used to like to tell her jokes and steal her toys, who had followed Poe Dameron around like a second shadow, who would wrinkle his nose but smile when his mother kissed him and run to his father's arms whenever he came home. That boy was gone.
But a wounded animal could still fight ferociously.
Rey's attempt to shoot him was easily deflected, and she was thrown backwards with alarming force, leaving her motionless at the foot of a tree.
Finn did his best to help Jaina fend him off, wielding their grandfather's blade. That angered him, when he recognized it, and he made quick work of incapacitating the inexperienced swordsman, leaving Jaina to face him alone.
In unison, brother and sister each threw out a hand, reaching for Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber - him, to claim it for himself; her, to keep it out of his hands. The saber shuddered, moved slightly in one direction, then another, then flew through the air past them both…
To Rey, who shone more brightly than ever.
He snarled and moved to attack her, but Jaina intercepted him before he could gain any ground.
"She is untrained. She needs a teacher," he growled as their blades locked.
"She has one," Jaina replied, then ducked to the right and slashed at his wounded side.
He brought his own saber to parry, but not quite fast enough, and the tip of her blade grazed his leg. "You?" he scoffed, swiping at her throat as he recovered. She batted the wild swing away. "What can you do for her?"
"I can protect her from you," she declared, as she scored another hit on his shoulder. The fight continued in that manner, the Sword of the Jedi pressing back the master of the Knights of Ren, until finally she found an opening to dislodge his saber from his hand, slashing him across the face in the process.
He stayed down for a moment, and she considered ending it.
Before she had the chance, the ground shook, and a rift opened up in the ground between them. The planet was falling apart - Poe's squadron had done their job. It was time to leave.
She spared no backwards glance for her brother as she and Rey hurried to Finn's side.
The flight back to D'Qar was just as long, and even more somber, in spite of the success of their mission. It was a victory for the Resistance, but the price had been high for them personally.
Chewbacca tended to the still unconscious Finn - returning the favor, he said. That left Jaina and Rey to pilot the Falcon, and Jaina noted numbly that the girl was, of course, a natural at this.
There was so much she needed to tell her, so much she deserved to know - and most of it Jaina could not give her, for she didn't have those answers herself.
She began, instead, with the one thing of which she was certain.
"The Force is strong with you," she said, when they had made the jump to lightspeed.
Rey looked down at her hands. "I know that, now," she said softly.
"I know you were hoping to find Luke - and I'm not him, not by a long shot. But I am a Jedi. And if you are willing, I could train you."
Rey looked up at her in surprise. "You really meant that?" she gasped.
"Of course," Jaina replied. "I've been the only Jedi left for far too long, and you deserve to learn the ways of the Force."
Rey glanced aftward, towards where Finn was still lying unconscious, out of sight. "I just never thought that I mattered," she confessed. "I never thought that anyone would care about me."
Jaina reached out and covered one of Rey's hands with her own. "It's your choice if you want the training," she said. "But you will always matter, and I will care about you either way."
Rey was silent for a moment, thinking. "Then I suppose," she said at last, "if you want to be my teacher - I would be honored to learn from you."
Master and apprentice smiled. It was not the answers either of them had been seeking, but it was a start.
Leia met them when they landed, as soon as the medical technicians had whisked Finn away. She didn't need to say anything - Jaina knew just from her face that she had sensed what had happened. After a moment's hesitation, she stepped forward and embraced her mother. They needed each other now - they had needed each other all along - but now neither was going to abandon the other.
When she pulled back from the embrace, Jaina looked to Rey and saw her fidgeting nervously. "This is my mother, General Organa," she said. "Mom, this is Rey, my apprentice." A faint glimmer of pride shone through the sadness in Rey's eyes at the title, which reflected how Jaina felt using it.
"It's an honor to meet you," Rey said politely.
Unexpectedly, Leia drew the girl into a hug as warm as the one she had given her daughter. "I'm glad you're here," she said, then looked at Jaina again. "Both of you."
When Rey and Jaina went to check on Finn, they found Poe already at his bedside.
"He's stabilized," he told them. "And his wounds are healing, but it might be a while before he wakes up."
Rey nodded in understanding. Poe gestured for her to take his recently vacated chair, and she did. He and Jaina stepped into the corridor to give her a moment alone.
"How are you holding up?" Poe asked.
"Stabilized," she quipped. "And healing. But it might be a while."
"At least your sense of humor is unscathed," he said dryly.
She tried to smile, but her heart wasn't in it. "What about you?"
"Ah, you know me," he said with a grin. "I always bounce back."
"Good," she replied. "The Resistance needs its best pilot in full working order."
Poe laughed and threw one arm around her shoulders, drawing her to his side. "Well now I know you're not okay."
It was a strange feeling, to laugh while she had tears in her eyes. "I'm not," she admitted, returning the hug. "None of us are." Force, she had thought her family had been screwed up before…
Poe said nothing, he just continued to hold her. There were some things for which there were simply no answers. Jaina was learning to live with that.
Artoo had had the rest of the map all along.
There was no debate over who would go, when the pieces had been put together. Her mother simply turned to her and said, "Take the Falcon."
It was a long journey, and Jaina took advantage of the time to give Rey her first lessons, teaching her how to use meditation to open herself up to the Force, to feel its ebb and flow around her and listen for its guidance.
"If we find him," Rey asked hesitantly after one particularly difficult lesson, "will you still be my teacher?"
Jaina was struck by the memory of when her parents had sent her and her brother to train with Luke full-time. As exciting as the prospect had been, it had not entirely overshadowed the sense of being made someone else's problem, for either of them.
"Yes," she answered. "I made you a promise to train you, and I intend to keep that promise."
They arrived a few hours later. Jaina let Rey take the controls for the landing, telling her to let the Force guide her to their destination. They broke through the planet's cloud layer to see a sparkling ocean. A prominent, rocky island lay directly ahead.
Jaina could feel the light radiating from the island, and she saw Rey's eyes widen in recognition. Somehow, the girl who had lived on Jakku as long as she could remember had seen this world before.
As Rey set the ship down, Jaina came to a decision.
Luke was there, at the summit of the island. She could feel him. But she would not go to him, not yet. This was not her moment - there was someone else who needed answers even more than she did, who deserved to see him first.
Rey did not understand, but she did not argue, setting off on the trail with only a single backwards glance. Jaina watched her apprentice climb the ancient stone steps, leaving her behind.
The Sword of the Jedi settled in to wait.