“The Resistance needs you,” she says, urgently. “General Organa needs you. We all need you. You have to come back.”
He doesn’t answer her for weeks. He tells her to do things, instead: gather straight branches for a new ceremonial fire, fix the broken step (which one is broken, he doesn’t mention), bring me a cup of water from the bottom of the stairs, stand on one hand for three hours.
Some part of her wants to start shouting at him: the part that watched Han Solo tumble from a walkway, that wants to say why weren’t you there, but she remembers Maz Kanata’s gentle voice and reaches for calm instead, for the Force.
It’s been about a month. They sit at the top of the mountain, in the leaping light of the new-lit fire, and he looks out at the sprawl of the galactic arm across the sky and says, in his salt-roughened rusty voice, “I can’t come back.”
She thinks at first that it’s an opening, a chance to convince him. She takes a deep breath, gathers her arguments, the words she’s had weeks to plan out. “I know you blame yourself for Kylo Ren,” she says. The truth is, she blames him herself. But they still need him, their last Jedi.
“I can’t come back, because I don’t,” he says.
She stares at him. Luke doesn’t look back at her. His face is turned from the light of the fire, shrouded deep in his hood, stark black in profile.
“Ben knew what happened to my father,” Luke says. “He grew up with the knowledge of what Darth Vader did after he turned to the dark side. All the things he did. The Jedi destroyed, the Old Republic cast down. Trillions across the galaxy enslaved. The billions of Alderaan.”
“But Snoke was still able to seduce him.”
Luke’s silent for a long moment. Then he says, very softly, “Snoke didn’t seduce Ben. Ben reached out to him, first.”
The horror of it crawls over her skin, makes Rey hug her knees to herself. That’s--something she doesn’t, can’t, doesn’t want to understand.
“The Force is strong with all my family,” Luke says. “But so is the dark side. It comes to us easily, with great power. And Ben... Ben found it hard to reach the light side. He could do it, but it came to him slowly. And he wanted to be a great warrior.” His voice curls on the words, with something darker than bitterness. “He wanted power. And he chose to take it, no matter the cost.”
There are tears standing in Rey’s eyes. For power? She remembers every long, hot, aching day of her endless wait on Jakku, every notch she scratched on her wall, everything she gave and would have given just to have her family come back for her. And Kylo Ren had walked away from his own. Had walked away, and never come back, and salted the earth behind him.
“But why did you leave?” she says. “You could have stopped him!” She wants to howl at him. Han!
“Yes,” Luke says. She can’t see his eyes. “I could have stopped him. I could have struck him down, in all my rage and hate and anguish.”
His voice comes out of the darkness, and for a moment there’s someone else on the other side of the fire, a terrible presence that makes her hand grope after the lightsaber on her belt, that makes her breath stick in her throat: a storm-presence that makes the memory of Kylo Ren in that dark forest feel like a faint breeze.
Then he turns his head towards her. The firelight reaches into the depths of the hood, glistens in his sad eyes, and the moment is past. Her heart keeps pounding anyway, body shaken to her bones.
“The dark side comes easily to us all,” Luke repeats, low.