People flit in and out of Rey’s awareness when she emerges from darkness. They float in the intangible warmth of the Force, next to the cold, warning ache in her shoulder that clouds her perception and demands to be noticed and tells her that danger is near. Sometimes, their arms are ghostly, and she wants to ask why, even as she warns them of impending threat. But words are far away, and Rey’s arm is ghostly, too, so she cannot reach for them to bring them a little closer. All she can do is wait and feel. She’s good at that, but she’s had enough of it for a lifetime, and something is wrong. She finds herself reaching even without her useless wispy arm, stretching her awareness towards the bright spots that glow in her mind.
Finn and Poe are both there, and Rey thinks that they may be clinging to each other or to her or both. Their worry crashes over her like the waves on Ahch-To, and Rey wants to reassure them and protect them, but she isn’t sure how to manage that, when words remain elusive and so does her arm, and all she can do is stretch feeling as far as it will go. Her perception seems to go up against something, like a wall, and she wonders if that has anything to do with the cold. She lashes out against it ineffectively.
Eventually, the dark and the cold take over again, and when the warmth returns, Finn and Poe are no longer in her range. Someone else is. It takes a frustratingly long amount of time before Rey is able to tell that it is Leia and Chewbacca. She wants to tell the general that she must prepare for… well, Rey isn’t sure what it is, but there is something. A lurking sense of danger. She knows it. Her arm is telling her so. But again, something stops her from reaching as far as she wants, and again, Rey is eventually lost, slipping into the blackness that crowds the edges of her perception and mingles with the dangerous cold.
Finn and Poe return, or they don’t. Things move strangely, whenever Rey is aware enough to know that they are there, and she cannot seem to hold onto anything long enough for it to take shape.
And then Rey wakes – slowly, sorely, pulling herself up and over the cliff’s edge of the black and realizing that the cold is pain that throbs in her right shoulder, bone deep and aching. Panic grips her throat. She doesn’t know where she is or why she hurts, but she knows that something happened. Something might still be happening. Why can’t she just open her eyes?
So she does, pushing them open through sheer force of will, and the world spins in order to reassert itself. When it settles, Rey swallows her nausea and sees a ceiling and a dim light, smells unnatural and sterile cleanliness, feels something soft but not entirely comfortable underneath her, and knows that someone as strong with the Force as she is sits nearby.
She’s in the Resistance base’s medbay. But… why?
Rey turns her head to the left and sees Luke. He sits in a chair next to Rey’s bed, and his bowed head rests in his hands. She can’t see his face, but she can feel the roiling mess of emotion emanating from him, unusually unguarded. She fixates on that, instead of on her own or on the memories pressing up against her skull and trickling in or on the sustained throbbing in her shoulder. She reaches out – not physically, but nudging the warm hum of the Force between them.
Luke lifts his head abruptly; the sensation of tangled emotion is suddenly faint, reined in. “Rey,” he breathes, relief cracking his voice. His face is drawn and pale, like he hasn't gotten a good night's sleep in a while. “You… are you…?”
“I’m awake,” Rey says firmly, because this time, there is no oppressive unconsciousness holding her close and keeping her somewhere above dreams but below wakefulness. There’s a part of her that would certainly like to give in to it again, because she hasn’t been this achingly tired in a long time, but she ignores it.
“Good,” Luke says, and some of the tension in his frame eases. “You woke up a few times before, but you weren’t lucid.” His voice is deliberately light and steady. The obvious effort makes it sound hollow.
Rey thinks back. All she remembers is fleeting impressions and none of Luke. “Were you there?”
Luke nods. “The whole time,” he says, as if to reassure her that she hadn’t been alone.
Rey frowns. “The whole time?” Wouldn’t she remember that? The others burn so brightly in her memory, the only things that do.
Luke looks reluctant to elaborate, but he does, probably because Rey is looking at him so intently, bothered that she can’t place him anywhere in her fuzzy memories. “I’ve been… making sure you didn’t damage anything. With the Force.”
Rey’s stomach drops nauseatingly. She remembers what had felt like a wall at the time, stopping her from reaching too far. “Did I hurt anyone?” she asks, pushing the words out around the dread rising up in her throat. It isn’t the first time she’s unintentionally used the Force, ever since Luke had begun teaching her. Her power is growing and sometimes reacts to perceived threats without conscious input from her - a few times on pure reactive instinct and once while asleep and dreaming fitfully.
“No,” Luke reassures her. “No, I made sure of that. It’s okay. You didn’t.”
Rey narrows her eyes at him, at his exhausted demeanor. “I didn’t hurt you?”
Luke offers her a tired smile. His right hand comes to rest near hers on the bed, hesitantly reaching for her without quite committing or perhaps just steadying himself. Rey looks at her father's prosthetic hand and feels something tugging her gaze to the right. “You’re not there yet, Rey," Luke says, his tone joking. "You'll be able to soon, though, don’t worry.”
The attempt at humor falls woefully short, and Luke winces a bit even as the words leave his mouth. “That’s not funny,” Rey says softly. Her gaze fixes on the prosthetic again, because it’s easier than looking to the right.
Rey stares a little too long, her eyes caught by the metal glinting in the sunlight, and becomes aware of herself only when she feels Luke’s attention focus on her. She starts, and embarrassment floods her cheeks. “Sorry,” she says at once, casting her eyes elsewhere. She glances unseeingly at thick grass on which they sit, which covers the flat ground on top of the knoll where Luke teaches her the surprisingly rigorous practice of meditation. A moment later, she looks back up, biting her lip.
Luke, who sits facing her, seems amused, not bothered. “It’s alright,” he says. His right hand twitches, still resting on his knee, and the metal flashes. The island spreads out around them, dazzlingly green and similarly alight with the rays of Ahch-To's sun. The whisper of the breeze and the distant rush of waves are constant around them. “Most people stare, at first.”
That isn’t surprising. Most prostheses don’t look like that. They look, well… normal, with exoskin grafts covering the metal. Not real skin, if Rey's recalling things correctly, but virtually identical to it. Luke's hand and a little less than half of his forearm, however, is exposed metal, or else some approximation meant to look like metal. Some kind of modified durasteel, maybe, Rey thinks as she takes a longer look, feeling a little less awkward about doing so when Luke doesn't seem to mind.
It's almost jarring. In the short time that she's been here, while they wait for news that the Resistance has finished relocating its main operations to Dandoran, Rey has grown accustomed to Ahch-To's thrumming sense of life, so different from the barren sands of Jakku and the carcasses of old ships and tech that Rey had spent her days scavenging. There is so much of the Force concentrated here, so much teeming life, much of it in the water, and the only mechanical things are Luke's ship and his hand. Rey can't help but be interested in it. Mechanical things are her specialty, after all.
Rey shifts her head, leaning back into the pillow under it and looking at the ceiling again. She can’t ignore the throbbing in her right shoulder anymore or the memories consolidating in her mind piece by piece. She’d just… needed a few moments to let awareness catch up to her, to steady herself on someone else, to gather her scattered self.
Not all of it, though.
Rey forgoes the memories for now, lets her head fall to the right, and looks down at her arm – or, at the lack of it. At the shoulder, there is a thin line of skin that is twisted and scarred like a burn wound, not entirely healed. As far as she can tell, that is where the pain is concentrated. The skin gives way to a base metal structure that is already attached, resting on the bed beside her and perfectly imitating the mirrored contours of her other arm. Her own prosthetic. Rey stares at it and wonders how long she was unconscious, if there was time to outfit her with that much and presumably complete whatever treatment brought the awful wound down to mere scarring. And then she wonders why she’s wondering about that, instead of panicking or feeling anything other than numb. There is only the constant, low-level ache and the phantom sensation of an arm no longer there. Besides that, she feels as detached from the whole thing as her missing arm is.
She doesn’t need to see Luke’s face to know that he is staring at her, deeply worried. Waiting for some kind of reaction, probably. Rey considers dragging one up from somewhere, even though the mere thought exhausts her, and then decides against it. No – if anyone would understand, it would be Luke.
She turns her ahead again, to look at him. “I’m like you now,” she says, deadpan, because she needs to say something before the numbness unnerves her too much and because Luke looks even more tired than normal, simultaneously much older and much younger in the way that concern hunches his shoulders.
Luke lets out a strained little laugh, barely more than an exhale. His mechanical hand wraps around Rey’s remaining flesh hand – cool to the touch, with no warm sunlight to absorb. “I’m sorry you have to be,” he says quietly, and the momentary amusement dies away. He seems more upset than she is, though Rey suspects that her own reaction is coming. It just needs time to catch up.
“Can I ask you something?” Rey's question comes out very fast, as she stumbles over the words.
“About this?” Luke's right hand curls into a loose fist as he lifts it slightly, then relaxes it. Rey wonders if it's an automatic habit.
Rey nods, hoping that she isn’t crossing a line. She hasn’t asked him many personal things yet, too unsure of what the two of them even are to want to tread that ground lightly.
Rey takes a breath, trying to collect her scattered, flustered thoughts. “Why is it… like that?” she asks and then winces. She hadn’t meant it come out so blunt. “I mean… most people, they have skin over it. And you… you shouldn’t have had any trouble getting that, right?” Not everyone can afford or has access to seamless prostheses, she knows, but she doubts that Luke would have had that difficulty. Ships are more Rey's specialty, not prostheses, but though the metal and underlying technology that make up Luke's hand is a little worn, it seems top-of-the-line in Rey's estimation.
All of it probably sounds hopelessly rude, but Luke remains unperturbed. He looks down for a moment, contemplating his metal hand. It catches the sunlight again. “I did have it, for a little while,” he says. “And then I decided against it.”
“Why?” Rey asks, burning with curiosity.
Rey doesn’t know how to respond. The ever-present pain is beginning to grate on her, gripping all edges of her mind and demanding attention that she doesn’t want to give it. She thinks they must have given her some kind of drug to dull it, because her thoughts feel fuzzy in a way that can't be natural, and her shoulder feels like it should hurt worse, like it’s only waiting to. But the pain is not gone. It’s only numbed a little, like her mostly absent emotions. She wonders if the fact that it can cut through drugs means anything.
Rey lets her eyes drop down to Luke’s prosthetic hand again. His wrist is covered with a sleeve at the moment, but she’s seen it - where prosthetic meets skin, the flesh is still twisted and drawn up along the edges, and Rey knows there must be more of the same under the prosthetic. “Does it hurt?” she murmurs. She hadn't ever thought to ask that before, but pain is on her mind. She has to know, because there's something insistent churning in her gut that she's always associated with her quick instinct. Luke had told her that it was a gift of the Force. Precognition. An ability to simply know certain things, before they happen or before facts confirm them.
Luke’s expression softens into something like melancholy. He is silent for several long moments, so long that Rey fears that the question was the wrong thing to ask. But at last, Luke rouses himself. He doesn’t seem offended – just weighed down. “My father…” he says, then lapses into silence again.
His father. Darth Vader. Rey’s grandfather. The thought still unsettles her.
Luke tries again, cradling his metal hand with his normal one. “My father, he cut this off. That’s how I lost the lightsaber you have now.”
Rey blinks in surprise, hand drifting to the weapon in her belt that Luke had insisted she keep. She is overcome by a sudden sense of history and the knowledge that there is so much of it still unknown to her, things that just don't come up in between everything else that must be talked about and processed. There is a whole legacy resting by her side – her legacy, too, and the thought still makes her dizzy. She turns Luke’s words over in her head as he hesitates, letting them sink in.
How horrible, Rey thinks, to be maimed by someone who is supposed to love you.
She wonders if that is what goes through Luke’s mind as he struggles to find words again. He does not look bitter or angry about it. There is just that lingering weariness that Rey has come to associate with him, an indelible fact. Finally, Luke continues. “His body was badly damaged long before I ever met him. It relied on machines, but it was always covered up. There were rumors, of course, but I didn’t know the extent of it until I fought him again, during the Battle of Endor.”
Rey's heart skips a beat.
Luke's eyes widen at the question as he follows her gaze. His fingers uncurl from around Rey’s, and he withdraws the hand, absently wrapping the fingers of his normal hand around it. “Sometimes,” he says, as if he’d rather say anything else, and then he sighs and amends himself. “Often. Not unbearably, but… lightsaber amputations, they can cause nerve damage that doesn't heal. Not even with bacta treatments. It… it will probably be the same for you.” He looks at Rey like he’d give anything to change it.
That elicits a reaction from Rey. She thinks about dealing with this pain regularly for the rest of her life and balks, her mind grasping for any reason to deny it. But she finds nothing. Luke would know better than anyone. She thinks about Luke being in pain for the majority of his life, and her heart sinks. He hadn’t told her that. Then again, she hadn’t asked. It's not a thought that occurs naturally.
Rey wonders if she will look that tired, after years of it.
Endor, the Galactic Civil War… these are things that Rey has heard about only in stories, told mostly between traders who had frequented Niima Outpost. And in Rey 's sheltered little corner of Jakku, she’d had no way of knowing what was true and what wasn’t. She hadn't even known if the man who'd turned out to be her father had been a real person; with the exaggerated nature of the stories and the dismissive attitude of some of the outpost's regulars, she'd taken to assuming that he wasn't, only to find out the truth not so long ago when BB-8 and Finn had come into her life. She’d heard and learned a lot in her time with the Resistance and with Luke, eager as he is to open up to her in some ways and closed off in others, but it’s still disconcerting to hear such far away and mysterious things spoken of almost matter-of-factly by someone who had been there. By a mythic figure not-so-mythic after all, father and fallible and so different from what Rey had imagined. Her attention is rapt.
“I cut off his hand,” Luke says wryly. “It was a prosthetic, so it didn’t do much, at least not to him... just knocked him down, gave me the advantage. But... that did something to me.”
Rey gets the sense that he doesn’t mean it in a literal way. Part of this, at least, is something she knows. Everyone knows that Vader had been more machine than man.
“It made me realize a few things, and not all of them at once. But I wouldn’t have had the chance to think on it later if he hadn’t saved me.” Luke’s expression is deeply pensive as he looks at Rey.
Rey stares back, hardly breathing. This is something she hadn’t known. The stories are conflicting – Luke Skywalker had defeated Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, and there are dozens of different accounts as to how. “He saved you?” she echoes softly.
“It’s not all the time,” Luke continues, and Rey thinks that he is trying to reassure both of them. “It'll ease. And you'll learn to adjust.”
“I know,” Rey says, because she needs to reassure herself. She has dealt with frustrating everyday difficulty before. And she has dealt with pain before - the heat of the desert had often produced blinding headaches that had brought nausea and taken hours to ease. This is just pain in another form, and she can handle that, too. Besides, Luke has clearly learned to adjust, enough that he could successfully conceal it without her knowing. She wonders if that is why his mechanical hand is rarely completely still, why he grasps at it unconsciously at times. She wonders if anyone knows. Leia, probably, but Rey doubts that it goes beyond that. Luke’s father had left his mark, an echo of his own pain on his son, and that is perhaps something that is not easy to talk about, for all that Luke refuses to cover up his hand. And Rey thinks about that, about Vader’s mechanical body and Luke’s mechanical hand and, now, Rey’s mechanical arm.
“Third generation,” Rey says and is struck by the ludicrous desire to laugh and laugh and never stop.
Luke looks positioned somewhere between laughing and crying, though he does neither. “Maybe we’re cursed."
“The Skywalker curse,” Rey says, and she giggles. It’s a terrible sound. She decides that she hates drugs.
Luke nods. “The Emperor would have killed me had my father not intervened. I didn’t kill the Emperor. My father did, to protect me. It cost him his life.” He speaks in the same way he does when he is teaching, and Rey responds accordingly, carefully absorbing every word. “He chose the light, in the end.” Luke’s metal fingers curl again, absently opening and closing; there is pain and longing in his expression that Rey knows all too well, but also peace. He hasn't spoken about Vader much, but the resentment that Rey would have expected is not there. Instead, there is something much softer - love, Rey realizes wonderingly. “It didn't matter, how much of him was cybernetic. I thought about it, after everything was over. It had nothing to do with anything, certainly nothing to do with his evil. But... people would bring it up as if it did, when we were trying to dismantle the Empire's propaganda. It made for good propaganda of our own... a way to dehumanize the enemy.” There’s a quiet sort of anger in him now. He lifts his right hand again, studying it.
Rey thinks back to all of the stories she'd heard – everyone knows that Darth Vader had been more machine than man. Strange, what things in history become sensationalized. And unfair, now that she thinks about it.
“I suppose I took it personally. After all, I was part machine too, though no one could see it at the time. So,” Luke smiles, “I decided that I didn’t feel the need to hide it.”
Rey smiles, too, as she imagines Luke walking into a room with a prosthetic hand newly free of exoskin, everyone’s reactions just as awkward as her own. “Making a statement?” she asks. If there is one thing she’s learned since she’s met him, it’s that Luke has a flair for the dramatic.
There’s nothing really funny about it, but Luke laughs again, that same strained sound as before. Rey thinks it’s more of a release than anything, because here they are: the two of them laughing about the propensity for injury that seems to haunt their family, started by Rey’s Sith grandfather. It’s as unreal as the idea of Rey’s arm just being gone. She doesn’t even know where the damn thing went.
That thought makes her laugh again, and this time, the laugh hurts, sending a stabbing pain through her shoulder and making the ache worse. But Rey keeps laughing through it, her body going rigid as she curls in on herself against the pain. She’s vaguely aware of Luke moving closer, one warm hand and one cool one gripping her shoulders and holding her carefully, and she’s vaguely aware that she isn’t really laughing. She doesn’t know what this is, but she decides that she hates it as much as the drugs. It’s a faint wheezing sound, something like crying but not quite, and it’s hard to breathe. Her whole body, including the ghost of her missing arm, shakes as a million tiny needles dance across her skin. It exacerbates the pain in her shoulder, and Rey thinks that she really might cry. She doesn't.
It lasts a minute or so, before Rey calms down enough to become aware that Luke is cradling her upper body and stroking her hair, his metal fingers gentle and reassuring, and that her remaining hand clutches at his shirt so tightly that she has a hard time extracting it. But she forces her fingers to relax, and Luke pulls away and sits again and lets her settle back down on the pillow. He’s shaking too.
“That’ll happen a few times,” Luke says, because of course he knows firsthand. First hand, Rey thinks and viciously quashes her desire to laugh again. Maybe she’ll take pain over painkillers, after this, because her drug-addled brain wants to laugh at things that aren't funny and can't seem to grasp what just happened, that awful feeling that had risen up out of nowhere. “Just panic," Luke says soothingly, in response to Rey's desperately questioning look. "Nothing dangerous. Physically traumatic experiences, they hurt the brain as well. Your mind has to adjust and recover too.”
He sounds a bit like he does when he's teaching, but Rey doesn’t want that. She wants her father. “And when will it?” she asks with a frown, because she really doesn’t want to have episodes like that for all of the Resistance to see. She would almost be embarrassed about having one in front of Luke, but he's been here before. He looks at her with understanding, and she feels a little less terrible.
“There’s no way to tell,” Luke says apologetically. "It's not..." He hesitates, as if choosing each word carefully, then tries again. "... It depends. Recovery isn't just a forward progression. You'll feel like you're moving backwards, sometimes. So... it's okay, if you think you're starting to feel better and then one day you aren't. That's just how it works. Physically and mentally." His voice is soft and earnest, and the words ease some of the tension lingering coiled in Rey's insides. She still feels awful, but Luke's words stabilize her perspective somewhat. She can handle this.
Silence settles, as Rey nods and turns her thoughts inward in an attempt to process everything, and absently, she looks down at her new metal arm. The latent realization hits her like a blow to the chest: it hadn’t moved with her when she’d clung to Luke. Rey's breath catches again, but she immediately forces herself to take a steadying one. No, she thinks. She's not going to lose it two seconds after she'd calmed down.
There’s an amused gleam in Luke’s eyes, a little less tired. “Leia will tell you the importance of symbols, in politics,” Luke says. “In anything, really. It became more difficult for someone to talk about how the Emperor's fist had been nothing more than a machine when I was standing right there.” He softens, contemplative. “It was also for me. Mostly for me. To remind me of my father and the connection we shared, and... to remind me of where accountability really is. Not in our physical states, but in our choices. And only those. I could have chosen to be like Vader. All of us have the capacity to choose that. And my father could have chosen not to save me." His voice grows even softer. He holds out his metal hand once more, palm upward. “This isn’t shameful or evil, Rey. It's just something that happened. Any further meaning is something we choose to give to it."
He doesn’t say her name often – out of guilt, out of fear that saying it will make her disappear and revert back to being a ghost, or something else, Rey doesn’t know, but she suddenly wishes that he would. She has spent so long yearning for her family, and now it’s in front of her, and the sound of her name in Luke’s voice tugs at something painful in her. It isn’t a bad pain.
Rey gathers the words close to her heart as she reaches out on impulse and touches the skinless prosthetic, letting her fingers rest on top of Luke’s. There is so much distance between them – time cruelly stolen from them and the aching loss of it all, her own unsure feelings and Luke’s haunted guilt, the way he sometimes looks at her like he can hardly believe that she is real, so many things that have not yet formed themselves into words all making up the gulf – and she wants to lessen it, somehow.
Just something that happened. It's a good way of looking at things, at more than one type of loss.
Rey's face grows warm again a second later as she stiffens, resisting the urge to snatch her hand away immediately. They've embraced before, but this is different. It feels almost too vulnerable, like the action of a child, not someone her age, not a Jedi’s padawan.
But Luke doesn’t seem to think so. He just seems surprised for a moment, before his face softens. The warm metal fingers wrap around Rey’s. They are more worn than they appear, like his other hand and his weathered face, and there is a sense of life coursing through them too - different from the feel of the island, but no less alive. Rey tightens her grip.
It’s as if Luke senses where Rey’s thoughts head, or he just accurately reads her expression, because he speaks up again, before Rey can find the words for her sudden childlike fear. “You’ll be able to move it easily in no time,” he says. “The droids will finish it, and you’ll need to do some physical therapy to get used to it, but it’ll be fine. I’ll help you. I can teach you about cybernetics, too." He reaches out to lay a hand on her left arm and gives her a reassuring squeeze. "I think you'd have a knack for it."
Rey nods. She'd known all of that. Of course she had. But now she no longer feels as numb to the situation and instead feels disproportionately lost and young and unprepared. Hearing it aloud is comforting, and Rey finds herself looking forward to learning something from Luke that isn't concerned with the Force and the Jedi. Learning a different shared heritage instead. Rey looks down at her metal arm and once again contemplates three generations; the thought takes on a strangely encouraging quality, now. She does love mechanical things, after all - another thing that, according to Luke, they all have in common.
Luke’s words don’t summon the droids, but it's like they call someone whom Rey correctly assumes is the medical nurse overseeing the recovery ward. He shows up within the minute. The man is human and tall and moves briskly. “We’re ready to calibrate it and put on the exoskin,” he says, to Luke, not Rey, his voice sharp and business-like. Then he notices that Rey is awake. “Ah. We could put you under for it, if you want. It’s not a painful process in and of itself, but your shoulder will still be tender enough that it’ll sting like a-” He stops himself, coughing slightly.
Rey doesn’t know when she decided it. She doesn’t recall any conscious thought regarding it, but the decision is cemented in her mind. She’s more than certain. “That’s alright,” she says, her voice more composed than she feels. “I don’t need the exoskin.”
She hears Luke shift in his chair. The nurse’s eyebrows shoot sky high and then converge in confusion. “What?” he asks, as if it’s unthinkable.
“I don’t need the exoskin,” Rey repeats firmly, pushing herself up slightly on one elbow to look at him directly, even though the motion jars her right shoulder. The ever-present pain spikes and then settles.
The nurse splutters a bit. “That’s… why would you… of course you’re getting the exoskin.” He looks incredulous, and his tone is dismissive. “General Organa’s covered the cost, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“I’m not worried,” Rey says, more calmly than she feels, because it’s been a while since anyone’s pushed back like this, and she'd forgotten how annoying it is. But it’s gratifying to know that it’s no longer threatening. “I don’t want it.”
The nurse’s eyes narrow. “Did you just wake up?”
“No,” Rey says, calling on her considerable gift for patience, which is thinner than usual right now. “I’m completely lucid. I know what I’m doing.”
“This is unorthodox,” the nurse protests. “I can’t…”
Rey doesn’t understand the opposition. It’s not like it will hurt him or anyone else. Her patience is already frayed from pain, and her annoyance grows, and she opens her mouth to respond more sharply. But behind her, Luke stands suddenly, moving closer to the bed. It’s a deliberate move and an unspoken warning, Rey knows, even though she can’t see the expression on Luke’s face.
In the time that she’s known him, Rey has never known Luke to use his status in such a manner. It’s… nice, Rey thinks a little guiltily, as the protest leaves the nurse’s body and withers away instantly, and he shuts his mouth with a snap in mid-sentence. Rey is so used to standing up for herself. Until she'd met Finn and the others, she had always been the only one who would. She’d learned how to be more than capable of it, but… how tiring it had been. Now, her father stands beside her, shorter than the nurse but much more intimidating, and all he has to do is glare or pull that disappointed face that gets under people's skin. A quiet warmth settles somewhere in Rey’s chest.
“Right,” the nurse says. “Okay. No exoskin. We’ll just… fine-tune it, then. It'll probably need some adjustments without the extra insulation of the skin, but... I’ll get the droids ready with new instructions.” He stammers out the words, turns on his heels, and leaves immediately, not looking at either of them.
Rey keeps her face carefully composed until he's left the room.
They remain like that only for a moment, before Luke releases her hand and lets his own fall, drawing it close to him. There are things unsaid, so many of them that Rey cannot possibly begin to sort them out, and those things linger amid the wind and the waves around them, the only sounds. There is no map for figuring this out. But they don’t have to, just yet. Little moments like this put them on the path towards it. One day, perhaps, all that needs to be said - that hasn’t already been and that needs to be given meaning - will make its way out of their hearts.
For now, though… this is enough.
“Thank you,” Luke says.
“Asking.” Luke smiles softly, and Rey realizes that it’s an invitation. Whatever they are, whatever they will be... Luke wants her to ask. Not about the Force or Jedi teachings, but about anything she wants. She can feel that intent lingering in the one-word answer, in the hum of the Force between them. And Rey remembers that she is not just a padawan. She is a daughter, too.
Rey can't help but smile as she eases herself back down on the pillow and turns her head to find Luke with a matching expression on his face, bright and warm. “You should have seen when I asked to have it taken off,” he says. “I had to convince the doctor that I wasn't testing him. Always go straight to the droids, Rey. They're much more reasonable.” He sits down again, folding his hands together - prosthetic over left hand. He then looks at Rey with something she can't read in his eyes. “Are you sure?” he asks gently. “You don’t have to follow in my footsteps, you know.”
“I already have,” Rey says with a snort.
“True,” Luke agrees. “I just don’t want you to feel like there’s…” he spends a moment searching for the word, “an expectation.”
“It’s not that,” Rey says. “It's just… you’re right. I remember what you said, when I asked you about your hand.” Hesitantly, she reaches out with her left arm. Her fingers tremble as she touches her own prosthetic for the first time - the part of her that's machine now. It's cold beneath her fingertips, the dim light of the recovery ward not enough to give it warmth. She’s still mostly avoiding the memories of losing the arm; that will come later, maybe the next time that wheezing feeling of needles and chest compression grips her, and with it will come anger and other things that she is far too tired to deal with at the moment.
For now, it’s enough that, in this moment, she can look at her arm and ride out the pain of it without any particular feeling beyond resignation to adapt. It's not numbness anymore, it's... strangely peaceful. And she knows why: Luke sits beside her, and Rey feels safe. It's not the sensation of physical safety, which until recently had always been Rey's ultimate priority. This feeling is different, less straightforward and more layered, but Rey knows what it is. Her father is like her, has walked this same road, and there is safety in that. The safety of familiarity and shared experience, of knowing that someone else, someone she loves, understands.
Even if her newfound calm is only temporary. Rey runs her fingers over the smooth metal of her arm and continues. “This happened. It’s done. And I survived. I don’t need to hide it.” She survived. It's a good meaning, one that has always shaped her life. She glances back at Luke and grins. “And I’m keeping up the family tradition. Like my father.”
Rey had not realized how good it would feel to say something like that. Something lodges in her throat even before she notices that Luke’s eyes are suspiciously wet. He clears his throat, fiddling with his mechanical hand again. “The family tradition,” he repeats, and his voice is surprisingly steady. One corner of his mouth lifts in a crooked grin. He looks younger. “Making everyone with four intact limbs uncomfortable?”
“That’s the one,” Rey agrees, and the warmth in her chest burns brightly, banishing the ghostly cold clinging to her right arm.
This time, the laughter is genuine, and it doesn’t hurt.