Chewbacca is the first one to show her the kitchen garden. He’s not sure what he expected, but it definitely wasn’t this tiny person dropping to her knees and burying her nose in the basil.
When she looks back up at him, she’s wide-eyed and shocked silent, and then she looks back down and shuffles on her knees to oregano, cilantro, rosemary, lavender.
And then sneezes, and laughs, and climbs to her feet. “Where do they come from?” She asks it in passable Shyriiwook, which will never not sound funny coming from an infant. “How does it work?”
Chewbacca isn’t sure if the question sounds odd because she doesn’t know the right words in his language or because she doesn’t actually know how to ask. “They grow from seeds,” he says, bending down to pick some off a browning cilantro plant.
He drops them in her hands, and she rubs off the husks until the brown seeds roll around clean in her palm. “How?” Rey looks up at him like he’s told her the Millennium Falcon sprouted from an X-wing, disbelief and wonder warring for position on her face. Chewbacca shakes his head and finds the little work shed. It’s not locked, but it’s tiny.
“Go find a pot and a shovel,” he says. Rey keeps the seeds clenched in her fist as she ducks inside, comes back with the tools. Chewbacca finds an empty corner of the garden, dumps some soil unceremoniously into the pot. “Now the seeds,” he says, and Rey drops them on top. “Cover them,” he says, holding out a shovelful of soil. Rey crumbles it gently over the seeds, careful but still skeptical. There’s a water faucet, and Chewbacca takes the little pot over, wets it. Rey watches, expectant, and Chewbacca chuckles. “It takes a few days,” he says. “They have to wake up.”
He hands her the pot. “Keep it next to your window,” he says, “and keep it wet.” Rey takes it, nods, and disappears.
The next day she shows up at the Falcon looking nervous. “Chewbacca, it’s still the same,” she says. “I think I did it wrong.”
Chewbacca blinks. “Wait seven days before deciding,” he says. “As long as the soil is moist they will be fine.”
Rey chews her lower lip for a second. “What’s moist?” she asks.
Chewbacca tries to say it in Standard. Rey rolls the syllables around. “Moist?” she asks. “I don’t know what that means.”
“A little bit wet,” Chewbacca says. “Like after a small rain.”
Still, puzzlement. “I’ve never seen a small rain.”
Chewbacca growls in frustration and she flinches, just slightly. “If you touch the soil,” he settles for, “it should leave water on your finger, but there shouldn’t be standing water in the pot.”
Rey nods, ducks into the maintenance bay to keep checking wiring.
It’s been eight days when Rey comes running to the Falcon with her pot held tight in both hands.
“Look!” she says, in Standard. She shifts the pot to one hand and points with the other, to where the small green leaves are peeking out of the soil. “Baby plants!”
She’s practically vibrating, and bouncing on her toes. Chewbacca wants to put a hand on her head to hold her still. Han Solo did not bounce. Chewbacca wasn’t aware that bouncing was something humans did. Rey dashes off to find a sunny spot to leave her plants, rushes back and flings her arms around him. “Thank you!” she says, into his fur. And she pulls away to go back to work.
Rey carries her plants around with her for another two weeks, until the stems are long enough they tangle in things. One snaps off as she’s setting the pot down and she cries out. “Oh!” she says, holding up the thin stem, fragrant where it’s broken. “Oh, I broke it!”
She bends down to look. “Can we glue it?” she asks, “It’s all…moist…I don’t know if the epoxy would stick.”
Chewbacca shakes his head. “You can’t fix it,” he says, and she looks like she’s about to cry. “It will grow more stems,” he adds, trying to be comforting. “And you can put that in your lunch, it will make it taste better.”
Rey sniffs at the leaves, slowly smiles. “You’re sure it will grow back?” she asks.
Chewbacca hesitates. “Probably it will grow back,” he says, to be honest.
Rey nods. “Okay,” she says, sets down the broken stem, and goes to work.
The next day she doesn’t bring the plants but when they finish she asks Chewbacca to come with her. They duck around to the back side of the barracks, and there in a sunny spot against the wall is a whole row of pots full of soil. They’re all sizes, all stages. A few have tiny seedlings just peeking out of the soil, some are full-sized plants, a cherry tomato with a few fruits just coming ripe, a pea plant climbing up the wall.
“People gave me them!” Rey says, half-garbling her words in her excitement. “They’re all food, and they make more just with water! And there’s so much water here!”
She’s bouncing again, but this time Chewbacca recognizes it as harmless excitement. She is, after all, very small. “That’s good,” he says.
Rey turns her brightest smile towards him. “You showed me how to make food!” she exclaims, “It’s the best present ever.”
Chewbacca is pleased. Enjoys that even her excitement is, at its root, all practical. He puts a hand on her head and she looks up at him. He grumbles, walks back towards the Falcon, but not before turning back to watch her bend down to touch a leaf, quiet, like a prayer.