Rey is surprisingly good at meditation. It reminds her of holing up in her walker during a sandstorm; with the lights out and the generator on low to conserve energy, the only thing left to do was to retreat into her own head.
She learned patience the hard way, scratching a line into the wall for every day she spent on Jakku, and it's paid off. This whole Jedi business is no different. She meditates sitting on a rock that overlooks the sea, syncing her breathing to the steady whoosh of the tide, imagining those waves dissolving her and carrying her away. She can sense the schools of silvery fish flickering in the shallows, and the larger things lurking in the depths. Luke has promised to teach her to swim, but for now, she's content to learn the ocean from a distance.
She jolts out of her trance with a start, the air around her suddenly charged with electricity. She jumps up, reaching for her staff, but it's not there. Instead, her fingers close around the lightsaber she can't bring herself to think of as hers. She'd tried giving it back to Luke but he hadn't taken it from her. In fact, he'd insisted she keep it with her at all times.
Her breathing loses its rhythm, goes weird and stuttery as her heart rate speeds up. "Luke?"
"He's in the temple," a voice says behind her. "Be mindful of your surroundings, young one."
Rey turns, still clutching the lightsaber, and finds herself staring at a holovid of a man, but there's no projector in sight. "How are you doing that?" she asks, curiosity winning out over fear for the moment.
His mouth quirks in a half-grin. "With the Force, all things are possible."
"Are you from the temple? I thought it was deserted." She'd thought she and Luke were alone on the island since Chewie and Artoo left, promising to come back as soon as she called.
"It is," he says. "There's no one living here, except for Luke. And now you."
Rey opens her mouth and closes it again. Luke likes to talk in riddles sometimes, saying things that have more than one meaning, and she's learning to stop and puzzle out those various layers rather than taking everything he says at face value. It's different from life on Jakku, where no one ever hid the fact that they'd kill you as soon as look at you if you got in their way.
"So either you're not here or you're not living," she says.
He reaches out and though he doesn't touch her, all the hair on her arms stands up, the way it would during an electrical storm back home. "I'm definitely here," he replies, and there's amusement in his voice.
"Oh." She lets the hand holding the lightsaber, still unlit, fall to her side. She's pretty sure you can't kill someone who's already dead.
"I was never very good at meditation when I was a padawan," he offers when she doesn't say anything else. "You're already much better at it after a couple of weeks than I was after ten years of training."
She shrugs off the praise and looks away, confused. "There's not much else to do during a sandstorm."
"My mom used to tell me stories during a simoom," he says.
She didn't have a mom, at least not one she can remember, but she chooses not to say that. It always makes people look at her differently. "You're from Jakku?"
"Tatooine," he says. "But it's all desert there, too."
She nods. Luke is also from Tatooine, so this might be--She shies away from that thought for now. "Did you ever learn to meditate?"
"Yes." He frowns for a moment, his edges flickering, but then he solidifies again. "I learned there are many different ways to meditate. And that stillness in the body isn't required to produce stillness in the mind."
"Can you show me?"
"I'd like that." His smile is wide now, pleased and eager. Not what she'd have expected from--she doesn't complete that thought either. Instead, she decides he's probably one of the old Jedi Masters whose statues lines the long hallways of the temple.
He leads her through a series of slow, deliberate movements, like the lightsaber katas Luke has begun teaching her, and the sound of her breathing once again matches the sound of the waves. He makes no sound at all, but even with her eyes closed, she can still feel his presence, like electricity on the wind. She finds she doesn't need her eyes to see him move, and her body follows his as they stretch and turn. Her mind empties again, and fills with the knowledge that she is here, and it is now, and the Force flows through the air and the water, through the blood in her veins and the muscles and bones of her body, and out into the world, the galaxy, the universe.
She's not sure how long she stays in that place, fully aware of her position in the universe, but when she comes back to herself, she feels centered, grounded, at peace.
The man is gone when she opens her eyes, but that's okay. She's sure she'll see him again.
She doesn't mention him to Luke.
Rey learns other types of meditation with Luke. He makes her run until her legs ache and her mind is empty, up and down the steep paths around the temple, using the Force instinctively to keep her balance as she goes. He teaches her forms with the lightsaber (she still doesn't call it hers, though she thinks it's not his anymore either) that remind her a little of what she learned from the holographic man, but she's too conscious of the powerful hum of the thing, and the history behind it, to let herself sink easily into the Force.
He asks her to split the household chores with him and assigns her to wash (with water, which still seems terribly wasteful) and dry the dishes after he cooks their meals, and she discovers that having her hands busy with a routine task also allows her mind to clear.
He teaches her how to stand on her hands, and once she's learned that, he makes her hold the position for as long as she can while he tries to distract her. That one is harder than the others, especially when he asks her to only use one hand, but he encourages her relentlessly, always pointing out the progress she's made when she starts to feel like she's failing him.
One morning over breakfast, Luke says, "I'm going fishing. Do you want to come with?"
Rey's seen his flimsy little wooden fishing boat, and she still hasn't learned to swim. "No, thank you."
He laughs. "You can have the day off after you do the dishes." He's halfway out the door when he stops and says, "You might find something interesting on the lower levels, if you can get down there."
Rey stares after him, bemused, and doesn't think to ask what he'd meant by interesting before he's gone.
There are stairs cut into the rock of the cliff inside the temple, but Rey has better ways of traveling that distance. She threads a flexible flashlight through her hair, hooks the lightsaber onto her belt, and gets to work. The grapple gun is nicer than the one she'd had on Jakku, but the principle is the same. She climbs down, paying the slack out slowly; the temple is no larger than, and without Luke's presence, as desolate as any shipwreck she's ever stripped for salvage.
The flashlight illuminates very little as she descends: carvings that have worn away with age and time; platforms that were likely once used for loading cargo or passenger vehicles; tunnels leading deep into the rock, now home to all manner of creature she has no desire to run into.
And on a level only a few meters above the sea, there's an abandoned hangar. The durasteel doors hang open on their hinges, pockmarked from the salty air and rusted with age. Panels in the walls flicker to life as she drops past them, and shafts of daylight come in through the open bay doors. She clicks off the flashlight. No need to waste battery life.
There are a few old speeders left to rot in the bays, far older than anything in the junkyard on Jakku, older even than the Falcon, which is the oldest (not to mention only) ship Rey's ever flown.
She wonders how long they've been abandoned here, and if any of the parts are still worth salvaging. It's proof of how hidden away this world, or maybe just this island, is. None of it's been stripped. Maybe it's silly, but she wants to find out.
She's bent over the rusted-out engine of an old skyhopper, trying to determine whether it will run if she cleans it up and finds fuel cells that fit, when the Force pings like a proximity alert. She straightens and turns to find her dead friend glimmering beside the driver's seat.
"Luke gave me the day off," she says before he can take her to task.
He inclines his head in what feels like approval. "You don't call him 'Master,'" he observes.
She blinks, a little confused at the non-sequitur. "Should I?"
"That's up to you." He peers down at the engine. "I think this one's too damaged to fix, but there might be enough parts among all of these to put a new engine together." He points to a speeder with its chassis still relatively intact. It's a design she's never seen before, the front end curved elaborately and the back end shaped into sharp fins. "We could put it in that one, I think."
She nods and gets to work. He floats beside her, occasionally offering advice or humming with approval when she does something right. He radiates a pleased serenity that slowly seeps into her consciousness as she works, and she finds herself opening to the Force. She knows, now, which parts will be worth pulling out of their rotted shells, and how to fit them all together once she's got them.
She's not even sure if she's hearing him talk or if he's speaking directly into her head through the Force, when he says, "This was always the best type of meditation for me. If I had spare parts and time to tinker, I was happy."
"Me, too." She rubs the back of her hand across her forehead, which prickles with sweat. "I never thought of it that way."
"Most people don't."
"Luke says that any kind of work can be a meditation."
The ghost--she still balks at thinking his name--smiles. "That's just because he doesn't want to wash his own dishes anymore."
She laughs and gets back to work.
Later, at dinner (fresh fish, which she's never had before), she asks Luke, "Should I call you 'Master'?"
He looks at her, startled, fork halfway to his mouth. "That's up to you," he says. "It was traditional among the Jedi before the fall of the Republic, but I don't claim to know everything they did."
"Okay," she says. "I'll think about it."
He gives her a small smile. "Okay."
Rey does think about it, but it rubs her the wrong way, and the Force is silent on the matter.
"Luke said it's up to me," she tells the ghost a few days later.
"What is?" he asks.
"Whether I call him 'Master.' It doesn't seem to matter."
The ghost nods, as if that makes sense. "It wouldn't, to him."
"It did to you?"
"It did." He looks down at the motivator she's trying to remove from a decrepit old speeder to stick into the one they're fixing up. "I was born a slave, you know. The Jedi bought my freedom with money I'd won myself." He shakes his head. "When I grew older, I resented the fact that the Jedi Council wouldn't give me the title. I'd done a good job training my padawan, but she never became a knight, and that was a requirement." He laughs softly. "And though they didn't know it at the time, I'd broken my vows to the Order years before by getting married. I never did think rules applied to me.
"Ironically enough, I thought embracing the Dark Side would mean I'd finally become the master and be truly free, but instead, it just made me a different kind of slave." He looks away, towards the open bay doors. "It took me many years to understand that."
"Did you ever tell that story to Kylo Ren? He practically worships you." She can't pretend not to know who he is anymore.
He doesn't dispute her conflation of him with Vader, the way she half-expected him to. He rubs the back of his neck, something she's noticed Luke also does when he's not sure how to answer her questions. "I've tried." His form hasn't changed but he suddenly looks old and tired. Rey wouldn't have thought a ghost could do that. "He doesn't listen to me. Snoke has filled his head with lies and carefully constructed half-truths, and his anger and pain leave him open for that sort of manipulation. I should know." He sighs. "Death brings a certain clarity with it."
"I'm sorry," she says, and means it. "What happened to your padawan?"
Despite the subject change, he still looks sad. "She was betrayed by a friend and by the Jedi Council, and she did what I never could--she walked away." He smiles then, small and rueful. "I like to remind your--Luke that I'm the only one left whose padawan didn't fall to the Dark Side. Though that was more her than me. Maybe someday you'll meet her."
"I'd like that."
He turns that smile on her now, wider and brighter than before. "I'll see what I can do."
"You never said your father was born a slave," Rey says to Luke that night at dinner.
Luke makes a strangled sound and she's afraid he's choking on his food but after he clears his throat, he says, "It didn't seem relevant."
"It's nothing to be ashamed of." She doesn't mean it to sound like a rebuke but she's afraid it does.
Luke gives her a surprised look. "I'm not." The Force hums with his sincerity.
"Slavers sometimes stopped at Niima Station, but there was no one who could afford to buy, and few who were unlucky enough to get taken." She swallows a mouthful of rice and takes a sip of water. "Why hasn't the Republic done anything about slavery?"
"The Republic is barely holding itself together," Luke says sadly. He keeps his gaze on the dish in front of him. "They don't have the resources to do anything about it."
"I meant before. Why didn't the Jedi--"
Luke sets his fork down. "What has my father been telling you?"
"He's helping me find parts to salvage, and we've talked." Rey straightens up and meets his gaze squarely. "We haven't done anything wrong."
"Don't blame Rey." Anakin appears, and Rey wonders how long he's been watching, unseen. "I've shown her the katas your mother taught me." He glances at Rey and explains, "They were popular meditation forms amongst the Naboo, where my wife was from, and are the basis for their martial arts." He gathers his robes and settles into the chair beside hers, close enough that the hair on her arms prickles. "And today we continued working on building an engine, as I expect you intended when you sent her down to the hangar in the first place."
"She's very good at meditation," Luke allows.
"And engines." Anakin sounds as if that's the more impressive part.
"She's sitting right here," Rey says, annoyed.
"So you are," Anakin says, smiling. "The Force is strong with you, young Rey, and hopefully you can do some good with it in the galaxy. Don't let anyone, even my children, ask any more of you than that."
"Father." Luke sounds exasperated, which is interesting. He hasn't really shown much emotion in the few weeks she's known him, and most of what he has, has been some form of sadness or regret, occasionally shaded with guilt. She's become familiar with those emotions in the Force.
"I thought we agreed to be as honest as possible, so we didn't make the same mistakes again." Perhaps Anakin does mean that to sound like a rebuke. Luke doesn't flinch, though. "So I gave her a history lesson. Very instructive on how to avoid giving in to the Dark Side."
"I'm trying," Luke says. He sounds surprisingly young. "But I still don't know why Ben fell."
"He's obsessed with you," Rey insists, looking at Anakin. "He really wanted your lightsaber."
"But you took it, and you beat him," Anakin says matter-of-factly, though there's an echo of pride in it as well.
"He was injured, and I don't think he wanted to kill me. He offered to teach me."
Luke leans forward. They haven't discussed this yet. "But you didn't go with him."
"I needed to rescue Finn. And I'd just watched him kill Han." She shakes her head and blinks back the tears that threaten to well up at the thought of Han. "Han was so kind to me--he offered me a job on the Falcon." She can't help the pride that seeps into that, around the edges of her sorrow. "He wanted Ben to go home with us to the General, and Ben killed him. His own father." She takes a deep breath, trying to keep her emotions under control, the way Luke's been teaching her. "I don't remember my father. I waited fourteen years for him--for someone, anyone--to come back to Jakku for me."
It's Luke's turn to look away. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
Rey shakes her head. "Why would you have?"
Anakin speaks before Luke can answer. "And who is Finn?"
"He's my friend."
Anakin and Luke exchange a look she can't interpret, and Luke says, "You have good instincts. You should trust them."
"If he'd killed Finn, I'd have killed him." It's the truth, but she's not sure what their response will be.
"It's a Jedi's responsibility to kill Sith," Anakin says. Luke's mouth twists, but he doesn't dispute it.
She glances between them. "But the General thinks there's still good in him."
"There may be," says Luke, but he doesn't sound convinced.
"It may be that she's the only one who could reach it," says Anakin. "And it still might not be enough to save him."
Well, Rey figures, he should know.
"Have you spoken with Leia?" Luke asks his father, and then looks slightly surprised at the question.
"I--No. Not since--Ben turned." He looks at Rey and then looks away. "We have a complicated relationship. Even before that." Rey didn't think it was possible for a ghost to look ashamed but he does. "I can't expect her to forgive me."
"No," Rey says. "You can't."
"Right." Anakin nods. "I'll just--I'm going to go."
"No, don't--I didn't mean--" She huffs in annoyance and glances at Luke, who gives her a look that even without the Force connection between them would clearly communicate how much this is her problem to deal with now. She turns back to Anakin and steels herself. He takes everything so personally. She'd have thought being dead would make a person less touchy. (It's only later, when Luke tells her more about Darth Vader, that she realizes that maybe this is the less touchy version.) "You can't expect forgiveness. You don't deserve it."
"You're right, I don't." He starts fading away.
"But that's not why someone gives it."
He flickers back in, startled. "What?"
"A person forgives not because it's owed or expected or deserved," Rey says, feeling her way to the truth she knows is there somewhere, the same way she can feel a problem in an engine or a storm rising on the horizon, slowly and surely. "We do it because it's necessary, sometimes, for the person doing it. Or the person receiving it." She looks down at her hands, which have knotted themselves together on their own.
"I forgave my family, eventually, for leaving me. I don't know who they are, or why they did it, but for me to be able to survive on Jakku, I couldn't hold onto that bitterness. I had to let it go and forgive, and hope that they would come back." She lets out a soft huff of laughter, though nothing she's saying is funny. "They didn't, of course, but the hope that they would--that's what I needed.
"It may be that the General will forgive you because she needs to, in order to forgive her son. But if you never speak to her, you'll never know."
Anakin is looking at her like she's just done something wonderful, which is ridiculous. "Luke is right," he says. "You do have good instincts. You already sound like a Jedi." He smiles at Luke. "And good teachers learn with their students. I think you're on the right track with this one."
Luke smiles in return. "We all still have a lot to learn, but I hope so."
Rey returns to her dinner--now gone cold--content, as if she's passed some secret test. She has a good feeling about it.