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Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts

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It was strange to have company after all this time. Luke tried to get used to it, and he was quite pleased with his progress until Chewie told him that he had to leave to be with his family. He knew this was coming, but it didn’t make it easier. Having his old friends around helped with the adjustment to this new presence in his life. They alleviated somewhat the disruption in the Force caused by Rey.

The girl was quiet and polite, almost unobtrusive. But the Force was so strong in her, he had felt her arrival before the Millennium Falcon even landed, so having her physically close was downright distracting. She was aware of her power, and she showed patience and resolve when faced with his taciturn behavior.

Chewacca and R2D2 had informed him that the legend of Luke Skywalker had spread the across the known Universe. In his exile, he had spent all this time being consumed by guilt for failing his most important student. Every time he caught Rey looking at him with awe, he felt even more like an impostor.

The first thing they found they had in common was the ability to fix things when they were restoring some of the ancient circuits. The Jedi temple had been built to house dozens of people, but it had fallen in disrepair in the centuries of neglect. He had restored most of the rooms in his long years on the island, but the only livable quarter was his.

Working together made them less uneasy around each other.

Rey never asked him to become her master, but Luke didn’t need her to say the words to know that was the only reason she was there. He was grateful to her for the patience. It helped him open up to the idea of teaching someone again.  

Luke had always known that one day his peaceful exile would end. In his good days, he imagined Ben would find his way out of the darkness and he would be the one to walk the stairs. In his bad days, he imagined confronting his former padawan. And in his worst days, he saw himself killing his nephew. The more time passed without Ben arriving, the worst the days got.

With Rey’s arrival, a new scenario started playing in his mind. Since Ben had made his choice, Luke understood so many of Obi-Wan’s choices. Until then, he hadn’t really understood why Master Kenobi hadn’t trained him on Tatooine. Now it was his turn to decide if he should teach someone else.

In the long years of solitude, Luke had come to accept that he had done the best he could for Ben. His best just hadn’t been enough. Maybe he had even made things worse because Ben had joined the dark side well trained even if incompletely. He wished he could tell his old mentor that he understood, but Obi-Wan’s ghost hadn’t showed itself in decades. Thinking of all the similarities, Luke saw a new path, that had been close to him before Rey’s arrival.

In his solitude, Luke got used to mapping possible futures. Her presence opened up the final possibility.

Luke’s memory of the moment Darth Vader had killed Obi-Wan was perfect in every detail. He remembered the shock and the pain. He remembered the wailing in the Force when he died. And most of all, he remembered the solidification of his resolve to end Darth Vader. Rey witnessing his death at the hands of Kylo Ren would be an appropriate end of their relationship.

The challenge was to build up their relationship to the point where his death would set her on that path. Whatever the end, they had to start somewhere. He had to build a report with a child who saw him as some mythical figure.

They were having tea, celebrating the restauration of the kitchen the evening Luke felt ready.

“What do you know about the reasons why I am here?” he asked.

His voice was as calm as he could make it. He didn’t want to influence her on this very important question. He was listening to what words she would choose and was tuning his senses to find out if she was lying or leaving things out. He didn’t expect her to lie, but he didn’t expect her to trust him right away.

“I was told you left after Ben Solo turned to the dark side.”

The words were simple and honest. She had made the difference between knowing and having been told, which told him that her mind was a lot sharper than his had been at that age. But he had also felt the spike in her aura when she said Ben’s name. Like plucking a chord in the infinite web of the Force. He wondered if it was because of her friendship with Han Solo – Chewbacca had mentioned that Rey and Han had hit it off instantly, bonding over their similar feelings for the Falcon. No. It felt different. More personal. She had met him.

“You know him,” he said, looking at her.

“I met Kylo Ren,” she replied, holding his gaze.

Luke felt the same tremble in the fabric of the Universe. So… the connection wasn’t due to him being a Solo or a Skywalker.

He thought of his nephew’s passionate nature. His lack of restraint. He had tried to help Ben deal with these traits which were unbecoming to a Jedi. He knew that his nephew’s temper, coupled with his charisma made him irresistible to many people. Even to his enemies. Even to someone as restrained as the girl sitting before him. Maybe especially someone calm and collected would be vulnerable to the pull of such a personality.

“How?” he asked.

It was his turn to wait through Rey’s silence. The tea grew cold before she spoke.

“He was looking for the map that leads to you. BB-8 had shown it to me, so he captured me to get it out of my mind.”

Luke’s fist clenched at hearing this and his precious self-control slipped from him like a heavy robe from his shoulders. It left his mind naked and writhing. What Rey was describing in a few words was one of the most reviled ways to use the Force. That evil being that had replaced his nephew had penetrated someone’s mind without their consent. Using what Luke himself had taught him. It was the fifth time in his life when Luke felt this level of anger and hatred.

The death of his aunt and uncle.

Obi-Wan’s death.

When the Emperor told him the Death Star was operational and his friends were about to die. 

When his apprentices were killed.

And this.

Rey was looking at him, and so consumed was he by this rage that he saw the fear on her face and in her body language instead of sensing it through the Force. He shielded his emotions instantly, aware that having her see that part of him was not a good way to earn her trust. He was a Skywalker, like his father before him and like his nephew after him. The same tumultuous nature.

“Forgive me,” he said as soon as he could trust his voice to be steady.

The girl surprised him. Her fear had turned to curiosity.

“How did you do that?!”

“Do what?” he asked, genuinely confused.

“You were so angry, and now… nothing!” she tried to clarify, her hand twitching toward him, as if she needed to touch him to make sure he was still there.

He had used a crude shield, but her reaction reminded him that there were so many things she needed to know. And if she had already been subjected to mind probing with violence, no wonder she was interested in this technique. He felt bad for what she had been through, and guilty for having taught her torturer the basics mind manipulation. He left the shame and anger to burn in a corner of mind, hidden from the girl. He would meditate and cleanse himself after talking to Rey. Scaring her was yet another thing he had to atone for later.

“Shielding. It’s a skill I had to learn pretty much on my own. Jedi are taught control so they don’t have strong negative emotions to conceal, but I was too old when I started training. It became essential to learn to hide what I could not control.”

He lapsed into silence, falling into the memory of the duel with his father. How easy it had been for Darth Vader to see into his mind. As if his mental shield had been made of glass. It had shattered as soon as the Sith had started probing. And the hastily reconstructed second one had shattered moments later when the Emperor had goaded him. It seemed that three decades later, his ability to control his darker emotions was not much improved when it came to reacting to an innocent’s suffering or danger.

“How old were you?”

He smiled, glad to be brought back.

“When Obi-Wan started teaching me I was 19, but my real training started with Master Yoda when I was 22.”

“22 is too old?” she asked, eyebrow raised, trying to figure out if he was making fun of her.

“Oh, yes. Master Yoda at first refused to train me because of my age. Jedi used to be trained from childhood.”

“Am I too old?”

There was a tinge of concern in her voice. Like she was worried he might refuse to teach her. He refrained from sending a wave of serenity in her direction. It might not be welcome to prove to her that he had the ability to manipulate her mind.

“No. Do you want to learn?”

He heard the same shade of concern in his own voice. He knew it was the reason she was there, but maybe after meeting him…

“From you. Yes,” she answered immediately.

“From me…” he repeated, raising an eyebrow.

For the third time that evening, he felt the same tremor. By now he was convinced that it was like a signature. What had his nephew done to her? She couldn’t have heard his question, but she started answering it.

“He… offered to teach me about the Force. When we were fighting,” she said with a shrug.

He felt her holding back, and almost sighed. It was even more difficult than he expected. Maybe he should take advantage of his myth status. After all, he had trusted Yoda just because of his reputation. He had given himself fully to the training based just on a message from Obi-Wan’s ghost.  He looked into her eyes with all the warmth he was still capable of feeling, which sadly wasn’t much.

“You can tell me anything. I’m not going to judge,” Luke assured her.

“I…,” her voice trailed off, and her gaze fell from his. “Why were you so angry before?” she asked studying her hands.

Apparently the mythical hero reputation wasn’t working on her. Not after his previous display. Honesty then.

“Going into someone’s mind like that… is abhorrent. We can use the Force to influence if necessary. Not to plunder. Never to harm… I tried to teach him that,” he added bitterly.

She was still looking down while he spoke, leaving him to wonder if he had just linked himself to a traumatizing event in her life.

“When he entered my mind… I tried to stop him getting to the map, so… I… pushed back, and I got into his mind.”

“Very well! You stood up to him!"

She looked up at this. Her eyes sparkled. Maybe the mythical hero façade was working after all. Trying to explain how horrendous he found mind rape he had accidentally caused her worry about the fact that she had done the same to her torturer, and all it took to reassure her were a few words of praise from him. 

“Will you teach me?”

“Yes.”

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They progressed fast after that evening. Not out of a sense of impending doom. Not out of a fear that their time together would end too soon. The rhythm just felt natural to both of them. Rey was a quick learner. Luke was not bound by any rules in his teachings. There was no Academy. There were no more Jedis. Just Luke, whose mistakes weighed so heavy he had to divest himself from them or risk being paralyzed by fear of repeating them.

The second thing they found they had in common was the desert.

“How was Tatooine?” Rey asked him one morning.

They were watching the mist rise from the ocean before dawn break. Talking still didn’t come easy to them. When either of them spoke, the other knew that it was important. And when one asked a question, the other tried to open up as much as possible. They were aware how much depended on the strength of their connection, yet they each were holding something back. Luke knew his secrets and could feel that she had hers. There was so much Luke wanted to share with her and yet so much he needed to keep from her.

“When I lived there, I used to think that it was the farthest planet from the bright center of the Universe. I was about your age and all I knew was how to tinker with droids and race T-16s in Beggar’s Canyon. Everything was just sand as far as the eyes could see. But I miss watching the suns.”

Rey allowed him to wrap himself in the memory of his innocent youth, and just when his mind was about to reach the moment when he found the corpses of his aunt and uncle, she spoke.

“I don’t miss the desert. I just don’t like all this water around us. It feels… wasteful.”

They walked back to the temple in silence. Luke ran his hand over a shrub covered in due as they passed. He closed his eyes, letting his mind record the sensations. The girl was watching him out of the corner of her eye. He had the impulse of touching her forehead with wet fingers, like a benediction. It was an effort of will for Luke to stave the incipient affection for her. She was everything he could have asked for in a student. Or in a friend. He had renounced the Jedi training methods, but experience had taught him that one of the pillars of their faith had to stand. Attachment was forbidden.

Attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed, that is.

The vivid memory of Yoda’s words worried him.

He stretched the wet hand above the shrubbery and made the drops of water lift from his skin. The perfect little spheres were floating a few inches above his palm, catching the shades of the flowers in an unreal, fragmented rainbow. Rey’s smile was brighter than the rising sun. She was mesmerized by the little spectacle he had created for her. Soon, as he expected, he felt her trying to participate. Her innate ability with the Force was at its best in high stakes situations and when she had to deal with massive amounts of power. She had told him about the fight with Kylo Ren and Luke had a few theories about what had happened. One of them was about the reason why the earth had opened up between them.

Since the challenge for Rey was to do the small things, Luke was hiding some of the lessons inside delightful puzzles. She often didn’t even realize they were lessons until they were over.

She was making the water droplets dance in the air, even created a tiny tornado above his palm, which reminded Luke of the dust devils he would see on the dunes of Tatooine. She then paused all the drops in the air, and concentrated on only one. She pushed it with her mind towards him. Slowly, as if it weighed as much as an X-wing fighter, she guided the drop higher, closer to his face. Luke could feel her strain and knew it was caused by her difficulty to hold back the immense power at her disposal. The drop reached his forehead, just about his temple, and as soon as it touched the skin, it slid down, along his cheek and jawline.

Don’t be afraid. I feel it, too

He heard the words as clearly as he had heard Yoda’s earlier. But the voice was not from any of his memories. Rey’s concentration broke and all the water suspended in mid-air splashed onto his open palm.

“Sorry.”

He didn’t have to ask. Luke was always mindful of her, especially during lessons, and he did not miss the signature. As much as he would want to postpone the moment, they had to talk about that connection.

She took a step back, and he was proud of her for not running away.

“Rey, when you feel ready, tell me about Kylo Ren.”

She almost gasped at the sound of the name. His skin definitely crawled when he uttered it. In his mind, there was always Ben and the thing that took Ben’s place. Saying its name made the monster real. He was abandoning hope that Ben would return.

“You want to know about the fight again? The interrogation? About the night he burned to the ground a village on Jakku?”

He let her accusatory tone wash over him, expecting her reluctance.

“You can start with whatever you want. When you’re ready,” he said.

They resumed their walk. She was distracted, probably sifting memories and sensations in her mind. Luke steered their steps towards the beach. The sand was wet, but it was the only sand on the island, and more than once being there had helped his ability to focus on the past.

“You know, don’t you?” she asked.

Luke shook his head.

“Just that there’s something.”

He sat down on a rock facing the ocean, making room for her to sit on his robe instead of the wet, moss-covered stone. To his surprise, she sat next to him, so close they were almost touching. The warmth of her young body was causing tingling all along his arm. An alien sensation for him.

“I don’t know what you expect me to tell you about him. I already told you everything that happened and your memory is legendary.”

His memory was legendary? Everything about him was legendary, so why not his memory, as well. He decided to nudge her along.

“Every time you mention him, I sense a wavering in the Force.”

“Only when I mention him?”

“No. Sometimes when we spar.”

“Only then?”

Her repeated question bothered him. He nodded, not knowing what to expect. And he waited. He was aware of her physical presence as much as he was aware of her in the vastness of the Force. He couldn’t hear her breathing over the sound of the waves crashing to the shore, but he could see her chest rise and fall in an unusual rhythm.

“I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what it is. He’s constantly on my mind. Something between a memory and a ghost. You heard him earlier, didn’t you?”

Luke wondered if she thought he was spying on her. Judging by her demeanor, she wasn’t upset with him. He was worried she had said “constantly”. That meant that he only picked up the peaks of their… connection. In his mind, he didn’t shy from the label. Rey had a connection to Kylo Ren that bypassed his abilities.

“My sister once heard me when I needed her most.”

He was thinking of those moments, after he chose death instead of the dark. He remembered how much he wanted to stay alive at the end of that long slide into the unknown. He remembered calling out Ben’s name before Leia’s while cradling his stump, legs wrapped around that fragile weather vane, death lurking for him in the vastness of space. He looked at his metallic hand, flexing the fingers, one by one. He startled when her small hand snuck into his.

“I listened for him, you know? I was his teacher since he was a teenager. We’re related by blood. But his call never came,” he confessed.

The girl was now squeezing his metal hand and she propped her forehead against his shoulder.

“Why me then?” she asked, her voice muffled against the sleeve of his undertunic.

He sighed and her body shifted a little, almost snuggling next to him. The revelation of their constant connection worried him. Because there was a chance that Kylo Ren might be able to find her through it. Because he might use it to lure her to the dark side. No other reason. Not because in his self-imposed exile he had dreamed of a desert planet, with coarse sand and only one sun.  Definitely not because he expected her to have this connection with him.

Chapter Text

Their days started with light physical exercise. He was amused to see her surprise that he was in great shape. She probably expected him to be a shriveled husk who only lived by being in contact with the Force. He was forced to throw her to the ground quite a few times before she truly got engaged in the fights. And once she got into the mindset of truly fighting him, he was glad he had stayed in shape.

The middle of the day was spent with restoration activities. Luke had chosen to weave her into his life by involving her in the monumental work of restoring the temple. At first they worked together, but the skills she had acquired as a scavenger were serving her well and more often than not, Rey would refuse his help. He liked the girl and was getting used to the idea of being her teacher but he couldn’t help feeling relieved to have his solitude.

So the third thing they found they had in common was a bitter self-sufficiency. They often worked in different parts of the massive complex. Luke was accustomed to immerse himself in what he was doing that the whole day could pass without him noticing.

However, on such days, when he would lose himself to the point that he wouldn’t show up in the kitchen for lunch, Rey came looking for him. She was quiet, and he was so deep in his thoughts, he wouldn’t even notice her presence. He realized that she had been there only later, when he reconnected with the present. Other times, he noticed her presence and saw her watching him fixing ancient circuitry with such focus that the rest of the world seemed to fall away from her.

The answer for this strange behavior came unexpectedly. That day he decided to meditate while he had to wait for the wall he was rebuilding to dry from the previous day’s rain. He chose to insulate himself completely from his surroundings to delve into the darkness within. He knew that he was going to leave the planet with Rey when her training was completed. For years, he had ignored Leia’s calling. She had never stopped reaching out for him, but the reasons for his exile always trumped his need to answer. Things have changed with Rey around. He could not ignore Leia’s chosen messenger. If he returned to his sister, if he had to go back into the fight, he had to be ready. He had to be sure that the darkness wouldn’t rise again and threaten to swallow him.

He was diving into his own mind, completely unaware of his environment when he was brutally brought back. Rey was on her knees next to him, shaking him, her fingers were digging into his shoulders and her mind was ramming against his shield. He changed the consistency of his shield to absorb the energy of her crude attack against his mind without allowing her entrance in his thoughts. He didn’t want to teach her about entering anyone’s mind. He definitely didn’t want her to reach the dark thoughts he was entertaining at the moment.

She sensed him coming back and pulled back from him, mentally and physically.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“What’s wrong?! WHAT’S WRONG?! You were gone! Just disappeared!!”

She had crawled away from him, and pressed her back against a wall. She was hugging her knees to her chest, refusing to look at him.

“Rey? Rey, I’m fine. I’m here,” he said worried and confused. “Rey, look at me!”

When she didn’t answer, he went to sit next to her. She inched away from him.

“I’m sorry,” he said, feeling responsible for her distress. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”

“I… I shouldn’t have panicked. It’s just… the world seemed so cold all of a sudden.”

Her words surprised him, although they shouldn’t have. His mind skimmed over the past few weeks and realized that she always needed to make sure he was within reach. He was tempted to search her mind for an explanation. Instead he chose to ask her.

“Why are you worried about me?”

She looked at him now. He read sadness and determination. Faithful to their unspoken agreement, she was forcing herself to utter an uncomfortable truth.

“I’m afraid you are going to leave. Like my family.”

He was such a fool! How did he not realize that she was afraid that he would disappear from her life? That he might abandon her, like her parents had. He wished he could comfort her. But how could he promise her that he would never go away?

Luke put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. His mind was marking the progress on the path that ended with his death at the hands of Kylo Ren. His heart was breaking.

“I’m sorry.”

She rested her head against his shoulder. Luke felt her shivering. Her next words chilled his blood.

“Sometimes… you fade away. And then all I can feel is… him. And… without your light… he doesn’t seem so dark.”

He squeezed her shoulder, and the girl sighed. He was troubled by her admission. To know she was connected to Kylo Ren was not good. To know that she had to use him as a contrast to keep seeing the darkness in Kylo Ren was alarming.

“There is light and darkness in everyone. Leia and Han never gave up the hope that light will win, and their son will return.”

“What about you?”

“I… I don’t know. I want to hope.”

“He killed Han,” she said.

“No one is beyond redemption,” Luke replied.

After that incident, each time they were far from one another, or when they were meditating in the same room, Luke made sure his shields were supple, strong enough to conceal his thoughts and emotions, but transparent enough so that she would be able to find him.

He could sense her ping against his mind once in a while. He was disappointed that Rey had to voluntarily look for him, while Kylo Ren was just always present in her mind. Had she reacted to the seductive pull of darkness? Or was she somehow bound to Kylo Ren himself, not to what he represented?

Luke pondered these questions during his meditation, wondering which would be worse. His instinct was warning him about the second hypothesis. Things would be so much simpler if she had that connection with him instead of his nephew.

An image of Rey’s eyes broke through his thoughts. Her eyes were full of fear as he had seen them twice in their brief acquaintance. Fear caused by him both times. His reaction to that memory made him realize that he was wrong. Things would not be simpler if the two of them or connected. The realization did not stop him wanting the connection anyway.

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Lightsaber combat was Luke’s least favorite part of training his apprentices. Even teaching Form I was not enjoyable, although most of his apprentices had found it to be a lot of fun. Han and Chewie, too, had enjoyed his first lesson in this Form, on board the Millennium Falcon, when Obi Wan had challenged him to deflect blasts without seeing them.

Teaching Rey was different from his other students, yet he could not bring himself to relax and relish the lessons with such a gifted pupil. She breezed through the first traditional exercises due to her remarkable sensitivity to the Force. Despite his uneasiness, he was thorough, teaching her the basics of attack and parry, body target zones and velocities.

Having repaired the training area of the temple, they used droids to simulate attacks from multiple adversaries. Form I was suited to deal with numerous adversaries. Her natural instincts were guiding her to such extent that sometimes she would guess the correct movement before he even demonstrated it.

The difficult part about using Form I in combat was the pull to kill, instead of disarm without injuring. The girl had demonstrated self-restraint on countless occasions in their lessons, but during combat, her emotions were closer to the surface than ever. This was normal, and learning to control emotions during combat was at least as important as practicing until the movements became reflexes. What worried him was the nature of her emotions – the pull to kill and the need to surrender.

He devised new and intricate exercises for her, minimizing the number of times they sparred because his proximity always tipped the balance in favor of surrendering. However, he could not eliminate sparring sessions. He fine-tuned her skills, aware of her obvious enjoyment. He wished he could believe that her exhilaration had to do with the beauty of combat, the elegance of this deadly art. He could not afford to fool himself.

He had made another lightsaber years ago, and he used it during their matches, while Rey used his old, legendary weapon. Every time he took it up, he sensed a wave of emotion from Rey. Every time they fought, a part of her was returning to her first fight. As if she was drawing power from that memory. Yet, she held back. She never won a single match against him because she didn’t engage all of her resources.

Part of her was permanently locked in combat with Kylo Ren. Another part of her did not want to defeat Luke Skywalker.

He was not training her to be his sidekick. He was training her to be able to win against Snoke himself. As soon as he deemed she learned enough technique, he decided to awaken that part of her she still kept hidden.

The match started with Rey’s glorious smile lighting the room. It didn’t take long for her to feel the change in her Master’s mindset. For the first time, Luke unchained part of his anger. He employed an aggressive and fast paced style that in itself was not a surprise. She had bested droids programmed with this style without any serious difficulty. The droids were faster than Luke, physically they were able to deliver harder blows, and did not feel pain when Rey’s lightsaber maimed them. But the droids had never projected emotion.

Luke knew his student well and intensified the attack. Soon her surprise turned to fear. She tittered on that edge for a while, parrying his attacks on pure instinct. He did not relent. He took off another layer of protection between Rey and his anger. The terror in her eyes was going to give him nightmares, but he was proven correct. He felt the signature of the connection. Rey stopped seeing Luke Skywalker and finally saw him as a real opponent. He was sure that at least for a moment, she saw in him the face of her enemy.

She no longer backed away, but was unable to push back. Mentally or physically. Their duel had started in a large clear area but he had maneuvered her against the rocky side of the mountain. She was fighting the image of Kylo Ren and Luke sensed the vortex of raw emotions. Then the earth started to shake.

This was the confirmation he was expecting. He slipped away the mask of anger and allowed the frightened girl to slide into his mind. The earth stopped moving and she seemed to melt against him. They both turned off their lightsabers at the same time, and Rey all but fell into his arms. She was pulling him close, her body shaking but her arms around his neck were steady. He was prepared for this reaction and let her use him to soothe her nerves.

Now he was sure that she had unknowingly used the Force to split the ground between her and Ben. She was not ready to kill him. She found comfort in her Master’s mind, thus stepping closer to the moment where his death could complete her training.

 

“Why aren’t you teaching me how to block him?” she asked when they were walking back.

“It doesn’t work that way. Connections through the Force are delicate bonds. Severing the connection might do more damage than… cutting off an arm.”

She stopped abruptly. He stopped as well, and looked at the determined face of his young apprentice.

“You’re not helping me get rid of this evil, loathsome presence, because you want me to be able to reach him. You’re using me to get him back! Like you brought your father back to the Light.”

Her accusing tone was hurting him. She had guessed that he was using her. Although she hadn’t identified his darkest plan, she wasn’t wrong. If anyone had a chance to save Ben, it wasn’t going to be him. He was part of the reason why Ben had turned away from the Light.  Rey might bring him back.

Rey’s eyes were sparking with tears. He wanted to deny it.

"The worst is that his presence, the flashbacks and the dreams… replaced the island where I felt safe. He stole that place from me!”

Before he could think of stopping himself, he put his arms around her. He was hugging her, whispering against her temple. She tensed at first in the embrace, which was not fueled by fear as when she had clung to him only moments earlier.

“Oh, Rey. You’re here. The dreams were a vision of a possible future. This future.”

She hugged him back with fierce intensity.

“He made me feel things.”

Luke’s heart broke a little to hear that. A small voice in the back of his head whispered that he was a hypocrite. He did want to help her break the connection. He didn’t need proof that she could cause earthquakes. He needed her to remember the darkness in Kylo Ren. He wanted to hear her ask for his help to break the bond.

“Make it stop. I don’t want to feel… unworthy to be here.”

“You are exactly where you were meant to be,” he told her, holding her tight against his chest.

She was going to be free of Kylo Ren’s influence. Because it was the right thing to do. Because she was not a pawn in his game. If she was going to be the one to kill or save Kylo Ren, it would be her choice, not his design. He ignored the slithering joy he felt to know that she wanted to break the bond.

The future was not written. All the paths were still open, the dark ones and the light.

Chapter Text

 


 

He helped her untie the complicated connection Kylo Ren had somehow established with her. It took long weeks of frustrating trials and errors. Her valiant struggle was mirrored in an inner battle of his own. Luke was beginning to care about the girl more deeply and less dispassionately than the Code advised. At every little victory that she had against her dark escort, Rey reached out for him, and every time, Luke distanced himself from her. He felt the beauty and depth of their connection as he helped her undo it and he also acknowledged his own jealousy. Unworthy of a Jedi.

It was a beautiful spring day when the final thread was severed. Rey hugged him and let him go so fast that he didn’t even have time to tense as he usually did in order to discourage her to touch him. She had learned her lesson. Whatever her feelings were for her Master, she held them to herself. 

“I’m going to tend the garden,” she announced happily before running away.

He watched her skipping like a child on her way to their garden, which was one of her least favorite chores. He was too tired to smile although he was happy that she was free.

For the first time in decades, he sensed Ben reach for him through the Force. All of a sudden he was encased in darkness and ice. He couldn’t see, or move or breathe. He heard the voice, filled with hatred, burning him with its rage.  

“You ruin everything! Always taking what belongs to me! My mother. My lightsaber. My prize. I will kill you, old man! I’m coming to get what’s mine.”

The connection broke abruptly. Luke fell to his knees. Ben was dead. That creature had betrayed and killed his nephew. There was no trace of the boy in that malevolent presence.

“Oh, Ben,” he whispered, thinking at the same time of his old master and his lost apprentice.

He felt a knot in his throat and tears stinging his eyes. Apparently there wasn’t enough humanity left in him to be able to cry. He leaned on his staff and stood up, his heart turning just a little more to stone. He looked away in the distance, his features freezing once again in a mask of grim determination. That was how his young apprentice found him a moment later.

Rey had run back to him sensing his distress.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

When he didn’t answer immediately, she reached out to touch him. He had strengthened his shield instinctively as soon as he had sensed Kylo Ren. He was in too much turmoil to allow her more access to his mind. She had to settle for access to his body. Her hands were on his upper arms preparing to shake him back to consciousness. He looked at her, trying to calm down enough to speak. Her grip loosened to see him awake and aware of her presence but she was not letting go. Her palms were scorching his skin even through the thick layer of the cloak.

“It’s time to leave this place, Rey,” he said.

“Leave?” she whispered, bewildered. “Am I ready?”

“I was hoping to complete your training here. Perform your trials and leave as a Jedi Knight.”

He saw a sliver of fear and a lot of determination in the girl. Like looking in a mirror.

“You are going to do great things. Many great Jedi won their knighthood on the battlefield.”

He cupped her cheek with his metallic hand – the proof of his Trial of Flesh passed in the battle with his father.

“And some fool Jedi, too,” he added.

He kissed her forehead briefly before stepping away. Her hands slid along his arms, unwilling to let him go. He turned to go back to the temple, but Rey wasn’t moving.

“Come on, we have some packing to do,” he told her over his shoulder.

She brightened up instantly.

“We? We? You’re coming with me?”

“Yes.”

She jumped to hug him and his usual reaction did not discourage her. She ignored his tension, locked her arms around his waist and pasted herself to him, pressing her face into his shoulder. Her breath on his neck was disturbing his calm. He put his hands on her shoulders, intending to push her away delicately.

“Not yet,” she whispered. “Don’t let go of me yet.”

He accepted her plea and put his arms around her shoulders, effectively enveloping her in his robe.

“I’m going to miss this place,” she said, raising her head without letting him out of her embrace.

Her eyes were searching for something. They probably did not find it in the cold blue of his eyes because she sighed and let go.

“You will always have this place,” he told her careful not to slip up and say what he was actually thinking. We will always have this place.

They left the planet together, aware of their responsibilities, willing to take up the challenges that lay ahead.

Luke chose to soothe his weariness meditating on the Jedi maxim of Courage

To be a Jedi sometimes means choosing the more difficult path, the personally expensive one. A Jedi knows they must make the right choice, take the right side and that the weak they have sworn to defend often stand alone.  A Jedi puts aside fear, regret, and uncertainty yet knows the difference between courage and sheer stupidity.

Rey smiled at him and it warmed the stone he felt in his chest where once a human heart used to beat. He knew all too well that the one thing a Skywalker could not afford to have was a heart.

The two Jedi were returning into the world which needed them to be guardians of peace.