The adults were acting weird. Weirder than usual, at least.

An off-worlder landed outside the Niima Outpost and sent all of the grownups running around as if the Jawas had stolen their best friend and refused to give them back.

Rey had only caught a glimpse of the stranger when they entered the house with the weird smelling drinks that kids were banned from entering. He looked like a droid with all of that sparkling silver armor and had a super big and super awesome blaster slung across his back.

A couple of the stall owners in the market area started sprinting away the moment the stranger turned his helmeted head in their direction.

There were a few groups of older scavengers standing in the peripheral. With their hands on their weapons, they looked like they were about to start a fight. But some of them had that glint in their face that Rey knew to mean that they were about to snag up a really good piece of scrap.

She didn't get what all of the fuss was about. As cool as he looked, the Droid-man couldn't possibly cause as much trouble as the Blobfish's henchmen with their scary-looking weapons.

There was only one Droid-man and like, a bazillion thugs working for the Blobfish! No one wanted to get on the Blobfish's bad side, and that was a fact.

But that armor-

It was shiny, clean, and expensive looking.

Three almost completely foreign concepts on Jakku.

Lots of people have told Rey that she was young and stupid, but even she could tell that even a tiny little bit of some of that metal could get her more food portions than she'd ever received in her life.

So that's when she hatched her plan. She'd grab her best friend Mr. Stick, and the two of them would follow the Droid-man back to his ship. Then, when the Droid-Man wasn't looking, she'd climb aboard the ship all sneaky-beaky like and scavenge some of that metal.

She'd only take a small amount. The Droid-man wouldn't even notice, and Rey could get some good portions that would fill her belly with yummy yum yums. Besides, it didn't look like he needed any extra metal since he had so much of it on his person.

Rey hid behind some trash cans, eagerly watching the entrance of the adults-only restaurant, waiting for her target to come out.

It didn't take too long, the sun had barely moved in the sky before the curtained door was pulled away, and the Droid-man came out, his hand hovering over a small blaster attached to his hip.

"So cool," Rey breathed as she pulled Mr. Stick close to her, "Come on, let's follow him!"

Rey quickly ducked her head and got down on her hands and knees. She crawled out from behind the trash cans and scuttled over to one of the abandoned market stalls.

She was pretty sure that whoever ran that stand was one of the people who hightailed it out of the Outpost when the Droid-man arrived. But in their hurry, they left behind stacks upon stacks of crates and boxes behind the counter that she could use as cover.

Rey sat down and peeked out of her little hiding spot, moving Mr. Stick with her so that he could also see.

The Droid-man walked right past Rey's position without noticing her, but then he stopped just a few paces away. The sun silhouetted his form, and little beams of orange and gold bounced off the edges of the armor. His cape billowed in the light breeze.

Rey covered her mouth and tightened her grip on Mr. Stick. She pressed herself into the boxes, hoping that her beige clothing would make her blend right in with the sand and junk around her.

It was time to play the quiet game. Rey always the best at it, especially when she played with her parents.

There was a stillness.

Then the Droid-man snapped his head around!

Rey retracted her head out of his line of sight as fast as possible. She couldn't stop her body from jittering at the unexpected movement. Rey focused hard on keeping herself from squirming and kept her heartbeat under control.

The best way to win the quiet game was if you were calm.

Rey counted to ten in her head then on her fingers just to double-check and then decided that enough time had passed to risk a look.

Her target was still there, but he wasn't looking her way anymore. The Droid-man stayed put for a few moments longer. Then he started moving forward, making his way out of the settlement and towards the neverending wasteland of the desert.

Rey smiled and mentally did a victory dance.

If there was one advantage Rey had over anyone on this side of the desert planet was that she was a kid, and she was small. No one paid attention to small kids.

And it seemed like the Droid-man didn't notice small kids like her either, which worked well in Rey's favor.

She followed the Droid-man. Always keeping her distance, always ducking behind dunes when she thought he was about to spot her, always making sure her target was in her line of sight.

Mr. Stick helped too! As Rey's best friend who also doubled as her right-hand man, it was part of Mr. Stick's job description to be her backup and protect her should the need arise.

And he was great for whacking things. And people on occasion.

But only if they were trying to steal Rey's spoils of the day, or being jerks in general. Rey didn't go around whacking people with Mr. Stick if they didn't deserve it.

She was a nice little girl if nothing else.

The Droid-man trekked on and on, over dunes, and past skeleton ships.

The sun beat down hard against Rey's back, and even though she was covered from head to toe in her light desert garb, the heat was still painful. She was getting tired, but she wasn't about to give up now. Rey was going to follow him until he led her right to his treasure!

There were portions on the line here!

But when the Droid-man's ship came into view, Rey thought that it surely must have been some sort of mistake.

She pinched her forearm, stretched her cheeks, moved to use another dune as a hiding spot, and even rubbed her eyes so hard she saw stars dancing around like bits of sand in the wind. But nope, the same sight greeted her.

The ship was a dumpster-fire, plain and simple. Even worse than the garbage, the Blobfish kept under a tarp by the Outpost.

Rey could only identify the ship as a Razor Crest because she'd found so many beat-up models that she'd stripped for parts while she was working. They were all so old she never even considered that there would be any left in the whole entire galaxy that could still fly.

It had to be a joke, or a trick, or something like that.

But no, the Droid-man pressed a button on the side and stepped aside to let the hanger door slowly fall open. Then he walked inside like he owned it.

This was not good. If the Droid-man was as rich as his armor said he was, then how come he flew around in a pile of flaming trash?

Maybe Rey was wrong, the metal wasn't actually that valuable. It could just be like one of those dud-pieces that only looked nice but was completely and worthless and wouldn't get her any food.

And then Rey deflated, hunching her shoulders as she exhaled.

She couldn't take anything from him if he didn't have much, to begin with. Rey couldn't do that to the Droid-man, he never did anything wrong to her. And the idea of snatching some scrap from him suddenly made her feel twisty and guilty and unpleasant on the inside

It was wrong to steal from those who were worse off, and if she did, she'd be just like the Blobfish. Rey never wanted to be like that big old jerk-face.

Besides, just the sight of his ship alone made her so sad that she wanted to leave out some of her portions for him to make sure that his stomach wouldn't grumble when he went to bed at night.

Rey gasped out loud as her energy suddenly returned to her.

"New plan, Mr. Stick! We're going back out to the Starship Graveyard and find more scrap! Then all of us can have food portions, and Droid-man won't starve to death!"

The Droid-man was a traveler, and Rey remembered when she was a traveler herself. Back when she was still with her parents. It wasn't as rough as it was on Jakku, but Rey knew there were long periods where they didn't stop the ship to get food, and had to live off of what little they had on them.

The hunger had always felt like what Rey imagined a blaster to the stomach would feel. Empty and painful at the same time. It only got worse when she arrived on the desert planet.

Rey didn't want the Droid-man to suffer like that. So she was going to feed him.

With that resolution set, Rey nodded to her right-hand man, slid down the dune a few feet so that she was completely out of sight of the Razor Crest, and pushed herself off of the ground.

She had just the spot in mind, just west of the Niima Outpost. Rey had overheard some of the older scavengers talking earlier that morning about a new ship being uncovered during the last sandstorm.

The area was 'supposedly' unstable at the moment so the scavengers said that they weren't planning on heading there until next week, but Rey wasn't buying it. She knew those scavengers, and they were probably just saying that to keep others away from their new-found treasures.

Plus Rey was small and light, she could get into places that others couldn't. Rey did the additions and multiplications in her head and then figured that even if the older kids were right, she'd still manage to reach the ship without dying. Probably.

She planned on grabbing the navigation parts from the ship, especially if they still worked since she could get a whole lot of portions for those. Also, if there were any weapons or boobytraps, those would be good. And games were fun! She'd like to get some of those!

Oh! And rainbow-colored lights, a pilot helmet, some big ol' switches, and buttons, and toggles, and, and, and-

-And there was a trail of glitter in the air.

Hold on, no-

No, there wasn't. Wait, yes, there was.

There was a trail, a feeling, an urging. Rey shouldn't go. Not to that ship. Not yet. There was something there. A flash- THERE!

Rey blinked her eyes furiously and clutched her head.

It was a feeling. A feeling, a feeling, a feeling.

The same bursting feeling that would warn Rey if she was about to step on an unstable foothold while climbing up the side of a massive starship. The same twist of intuition that would tell her to back away from some angry adults that didn't look angry. The same guiding hand that would lead her to a shelter in a vicious desert storm.

It was there. It was talking to her without speaking.

She shouldn't go to the ship in the west. Rey slowly turned her head, eyes falling once again on the Droid-man's dumpster-fire. She should go to that one.

Something was there. Something was on that ship, and she needed to get there.

The message was loud and clear, and Rey couldn't contain herself.

She had a feeling. Not just any feeling but a connection. Something so strong, and so potent that it wrapped around her very being and held her in a big hug that was warm enough to keep her comfy even in the coldest night.

Rey hadn't felt a connection like this since- since-

"Mommy and Daddy," she whispered.

Not since her connection to her parents was severed.

She had to get inside that Razor Crest. She didn't know how, but she had to.

It was as if her feet had developed a mind of their own because suddenly she was airborne. Rey leaped over the crest of the dune, tucked her head and twisted her body around so that she could cushion her fall, and roll down the hill.

She landed at the bottom in a plume of dust, then wasted no time scrambling up to her feet and shooting off towards the ship at a full-blown sprint. The open hatch was right there. All she had to do was get to it.

Rey was vibrating with energy, and her fingers were trembling. Her hairs were standing on end, and there was a distinct smell of burning wires in the air. Or maybe it was cleaning products. Why would there be cleaning products out here?

Rey didn't care, she had to get into the ship.

Into the ship, into the ship, into the ship.

She had to get into the ship now.

With a final burst of speed, Rey pushed forward, going faster than she ever thought she could possibly move-

And immediately slammed into the landing gear of the Razor Crest.

Rey miscalculated her trajectory. She wasn't able to slow down in time to avoid the collision in her mad dash.

Ow, ow, ow, ow, owwwwwwww that hurt!

There was a loud ringing in her ears as she pancaked against the sand with a loud "oof." The wind was knocked right out of her chest, and Mr. Stick flew out of her hands.

She lay there like a dried up starfish for a few seconds, desperately gasping for air, when the clang-clang-clang sound of footsteps echoed from the ship. Rey raised here head up dizzily before she groaned and let it fall back down.

The vast sky lay open in front of her. That dull pastel blue that always looked like it was covered in a layer of dust. It was cloudless, dull, flat, and unsettling.

Rey hated that every time she looked up, all she could think of was the ghost of her parent's ship. Flying away without her on it.

It was a mistake and an honest one. They didn't mean to leave without her.

But even now, she could see it up in the sky. That big silver block of metal with sharp edges, and points, and a black, sideways 'T' right smack dab in the middle of it…

Wait, that wasn't her parents' ship.

"You alright, kid?" A robotic voice asked. It was the Droid-man. The Droid-man was here. He was kneeling right next to her. Oh, shoot, this was supposed to be a stealth mission, he wasn't supposed to see her.

Rey quickly propped her upper body up on her elbows, "I wasn't scavenging your ship!" She blurted out, because that was the truth, even if it wasn't initially.

The Droid-man tilted his head to the side, and Rey wished that helmet wasn't in the way so that she could read his facial expressions. It was harder to tell if he was upset or not.

"That's good to know." He said in a way that Rey just knew that he didn't believe her, and that was not good. Not good at all.

"It's true! I wasn't!" Rey insisted.

"Alright," the Droid-man said, "And I'm guessing that you didn't follow me all the way from the outpost, either."

Drat. He knew. And what's worse, Rey couldn't tell if he was mad about it. She hoped he wasn't. But just in case, Rey decided to play innocent.

"Nope!" she lied like a lying liar, "I was, uhhhh, looking for other ships to scavenge! Not yours, of course, because, uhhhhh… Too pretty! It's too pretty! So I'm looking for another ship! Not yours! And- and- and-" Rey trailed off because, for the life of her, she didn't know what to say to make sure the Droid-man didn't get mad at her.

The Droid-man sighed before sitting back on his heels. Every movement he made caused his cape to shift and swirl around his form. Rey was completely entranced by it, watching the creases disappear and reform like sand ripples in the wind.

She wondered if she could ever get a cape as awesome looking as that. And a helmet to match too.

"That bruise looks nasty." the Droid-man observed, his helmet tipping down as if to indicate towards the throbbing bump growing on Rey's forehead. "If you would let me, I have some medical supplies on my ship."

Rey immediately scrunched her face together in displeasure, "What do you get out of it?" Because medical help on Jakku always came with a catch. Always.

The Droid-man was quiet for a moment like he was contemplating the answer. "I tracked a bounty here. I've got the chain code, but no puck or fob. You can help me identify the person I'm looking for,``he said after what felt like forever.

Rey shook her head and narrowed her eyes, still suspicious, "So why ask me, then? Aren't there, a bunch of people way more qualified to help?" she dug deeper.

"Kids are a lot more observant than adults give them credit for." The Droid-man simply said, then he stood up. "Listen, I can bring the medical kit out here," he lifted his hand to gesture at the deserted desert landscape, "or I can treat you inside." He pointed with two of his fingers at the open hatch of the Razor Crest, "Your choice."

A lightbulb went off inside Rey's head, and her suspicions were allocated to the back of her mind. This was it! This was her chance to get on the ship! It wasn't the sneaky route she expected to follow, but it would get her to her intended destination all the same.

She closed her eyes, inhaled, and with renewed giddiness, she noticed the connection was still there. It was faint, but there all the same.

Rey eagerly nodded her head, "Inside, please." Then she patted the ground until her fingers wrapped around Mr. Stick. "My friend comes too."

The Droid-man shifted his helmet towards the object in her hand, "That is a metal pipe." he stated flatly.

"His name is Mr. Stick," Rey said, feeling a little offended at the Droid-man's dismissal of her right-hand man.

The Droid-man didn't move for a few beats and then, "Alright, Mr. Stick can come too. Can you stand?" he asked.

"Uhhhhhhhhh, maybe. Probably. Wait, let me do it myself! Yup! See, I can stand just fine." Rey said as her legs wobbled slightly underneath her. She waited a few seconds to allow herself to stabilize, and then she gave the Droid-man a thumbs up, "I can stand super duper well. No help needed."

The Droid-man slowly nodded, and then turned "Good. Come on." He gestured to follow him.

Rey didn't need much more prompting because she quickly fell in line and trotted up the ramp after the Droid-man, and crossed the threshold into the ship.

Author's Note:

This story was inspired by the amazing mutalune on AO3 and their story dry as a bone because I cannot get enough of the idea of Din going around adopting all of the kids. Seriously, go check out their story, it's basically marshmallow fluff in fanfic form, and at this point its cuteness levels has reached lethal proportions.
I probably shouldn't be starting another story when I have so many others that I need to work on, but I just couldn't help it. The Mandalorian has become my favorite show so far this year and I'm also not entirely happy with The Rise of Skywalker narratively speaking so this fic is just me sitting here molding canon to do my bidding. Meaning that the timeline of events have been moved around, the ages of the sequel trilogy characters have been changed, and some backstories have been modified (but not all!).

Thank you for reading! Until next time!