Her hands were scratched with and she was bone tired after the series of exercises Luke had her go through for hours on end. She was used to scrapes and cuts from her scavenging days, but she felt entitled to complain, in his absence.
“Could you find a worse place?” Rey was muttering under her breath while she was gathering wood for the fire.
She wasn’t really mad at him because her faith in Luke was unshakeable and she believed he had a reason to choose that part of the planet for the lessons. She had a healthy awe for the legend of Luke Skywalker from childhood. Meeting Leia had sown a strong seed of trust in her brother. Getting to know Luke, living with him, being his student had turned the seed into a mighty oak. The shadow of that oak was that his devotion to her training had spoiled her just a little. Rey the orphan was sometimes acting up like the only child of a doting single parent.
It was getting dark and when she tripped on a root she said something very unladylike about her Master.
He was waiting for her outside the cave, having the nerve to look worried about her. She passed by him and threw the kindling in the makeshift fireplace. She liked the neat way in which he had arranged the stones. She was still unhappy about being in that cave instead of her bedroom in the temple so she decided not to smile or say anything nice. Like that was a decision she could stick to around him!
Luke arranged the kindling in a pyramid shape and Rey charted every one of the small, precise movements. She was always fascinated to watch him work. During their training sessions, he was a force of nature. Every time her concentration wavered, he would capitalize, always point out weaknesses she should improve. She had a collection of healed bruises on her body from their physical combat lessons, and a collection of scorches on her robes from their lightsaber training. This man was able to touch her with the lightsaber with such precision that he would only singe her clothes, and now he was using the same attention working with wood and stone to make a safe fire. She shook herself knowing that he was uncomfortable when he caught her being too reverent.
“Do we have anything to eat?” she asked trying to make it sound like “did you manage to find something to eat while I was doing all the hard work gathering wood for the fire”.
“In the backpack,” he said.
She opened it and frowned to find a single ration, neatly packed. It looked small and dry to Rey who had gotten used to the food grown in the temple’s garden. It wasn’t a matter of size. It just… didn’t fit with this paradise. Eating that spaceship food she found completely devoid of taste after he got her hooked on fresh salads. It felt wrong. She took a bite and then she realized it was the only food they had. She broke it in half and gave him the other piece.
“I had one earlier,” he said smiling.
She knew he was lying but that smile lit up the cave and she couldn’t call him out on the lie. She ate it slowly, but she still coughed barely able to swallow the dry food.
“Thank you,” she told him and meant it.
He looked at her, and she knew he could see she was disappointed with the food. She was beginning to feel like an ungrateful brat when he sighed and reached into his pocket.
“I have something else, but I would have rather you not eat it at night.”
She perked up at the way he said this. It sounded mysterious and delicious. And not to be eaten at night? She absolutely had to try it. He shook his head, resigned to indulging her again.
He extended his arm and in his palm was a leaf and on that leaf a small pile of delicious looking beads. The smell coming from them made her mouth water. They smelled like the hot chocolate he sometimes made for her, but with a hint of… she couldn’t say what.
“They are cacao beans. They’re sweet on the outside, but the inside is bitter. The flavor is more intense but you have to prepare for the bitterness.”
She took one at first, then, seeing he was still holding his hand out, she took most of them. He closed the leaf back over the ones she left and put them back in his pocket.
“Why shouldn’t I eat them at night?” she asked with her mouthful and her eyes closed, savoring the taste and the aroma.
“They are… energizing. You might have trouble getting to sleep.”
She considered swallowing the bitter, amazing tasting bean she was sucking on so that she would sound more outraged but couldn’t bring herself to give up the pleasurable sensations.
“Then why did you give me this?” she said, sounding intimidating not at all.
Luke didn’t even pause from arranging the sleeping bags to answer her.
“Come on, after what you’ve been through today? You’re already half asleep.”
She wanted to argue for the sake of arguing with him. Instead, she yawned. She crawled into her sleeping bag. It was the one closest to the fire, she noticed. He was always so kind to her, she thought drowsily.
“Thank you,” she mumbled drifting to sleep, and she smiled content as a kitten to feel Luke’s hand patting her shoulder and mussing her hair a little.
She woke up abruptly. It felt like she only slept for five minutes but the fire was gone. She looked at the pathetic cinders and wished she had gathered more wood. The sounds coming from outside the cave were making things even worse. It was raining. Not only she heard the incessant sound of water falling from the sky, but the occasional flashes scarring the sky offered enough light for her to see the torrent.
Rey wasn’t afraid of the storm. After the first months on this planet, she got used to the abundance of water. What still bothered her was the cold. She willed her body to remain calm. Shivering was a sign of defeat. Not to mention she might wake up Luke. Bothering him was the last thing she wanted. As if he heard her thoughts, Luke’s voice broke the silence.
“The rain will stop in a few hours. Here, have this,” he said.
She felt the weight of another blanket on her and she turned to face him.
“Are you crazy?” she asked looking at him, covered only with his robe while she had his sleeping bag as a second blanket on top of hers.
“I’ve been through a lot worse,” he said.
She knew about Hoth. She knew that he nearly froze to death on that planet. She decided there was no point in arguing with him, so she just unzipped her sleeping bag, inched her way closer to him, pulling her sleeping bag from underneath her. She put both sleeping bags on top of them.
“Don’t say you’re not cold,” she warned him, feeling him try to get away.
She was nestled against his chest now. His body was as cold as hers. She put an arm around his waist and his arm instinctively closed around her shoulders. She was so tired, but the fluttering in her stomach was chasing away the sleep as much as the cold. She shouldn’t have eaten the damn, delicious cacao nibs. His beard was ticking her face. She could feel herself further and further away from sleep. She sighed. Her breath probably bothered him because he fidgeted, trying to find a better position. After a few more attempts to find a comfortable position herself, Rey regretfully turned his back to him.
She missed the feel of his strong body under her arm. She missed the way her palm rested against his back. She even missed the tickling of his beard. The new position had advantages though. Now his arm was draped across her waist. She felt more comfortable. Her back seemed to fit perfectly against him. She snuggled into him. She closed her eyes and listened for the beat of his heart. It was strong and fast. Like the rhythm of a war song. This man that meant safety for her was a fearsome warrior. She smiled and tried to get even closer to him, knowing it was impossible but relishing the attempt.
Luke’s arm was no longer on her waist. His hand gripped her hip and held her still. Her heart stopped. She felt a tinge of something harsh in the Force.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing. Just stop squirming and go to sleep.”
“I can’t go to sleep, can I? Those cacao nibs are tickling me right here,” she said and took his hand placing it on her lower belly where she felt the constant fluttering.
Luke was taken by surprise enough to allow her to move his hand. It was her turn to be surprised when his hand slid a little lower and his hips bucked against her ass. He pulled his hips away from her instantly, and put his hand on her hip again. Too late. The damage was done. Everything had changed. She identified that vague tickling sensation as desire. Only minutes ago she had been cold and now she was burning. She tried to push against him, but his hand was firm. She desperately wanted to confirm that her desire was reciprocated.
“Stop it,” he said and meant it.
“I’m not dead, Rey,” he interrupted her. “But I am your teacher. And your friend. I’m asking you to let this go.”
No. Not asking. He was begging her to help him stay true to himself. She could feel it would take very little for her to break through. One more touch. One kiss.
Her body cried out in desperate need. Her heart, which already belonged to this man, was urging her onwards. She wished she were the spoiled brat he had encouraged her to be. She wished she would dare to take what she wanted. With that simple, unconscious movement, he had opened her eyes. She could finally see that the trust and adoration had turned into love. With that gesture he had let her know she was his equal, and worthy of his desire.
“This does not end here,” she told him and felt his grip tighten on her hip.
“It ends for now,” he whispered.
She could live with “for now”.
They crash landed on Hoth.
Rey had planned the mission in detail and Luke’s participation was a last minute addition. She had General Organa to thank for that. If Rey had to choose one word to describe the love and annoyance relationship they had, the word was sisterly. Probably because Leia made sure never to act motherly towards her. At the moment, dragging herself from the wreckage of their spaceship, the balance was heavily tilted in favor of annoyance. She had very good reasons not to want her old master with her. Not least of which was that she was perfectly willing to take great personal risks to get the job done, but she would never let him be hurt.
Rey hit the panel that was blocking her exit with her feet, thinking that it was probably the very reason Leia had saddled her with him. She was being unfair, and knew it but if it hadn’t been for Luke bloody Skywalker she wouldn’t have run away before blowing up their communication tower.
She raised her boot to smash through another panel when she felt the tension in the Force and the panel blew away. She looked over her shoulder at Luke.
“I could do that!” she said sounding every bit as offended and frustrated as she felt.
“You should work on dissipating anger, not taking it out on the ship,” he said
His damn calm was so annoying sometimes! They hadn’t been on a mission together in a few years and without him around, Rey’s leadership went unchallenged.
“’m not your Padawan anymore,” she grumbled, not caring if he heard her or not.
They managed to get out and checked their handheld navigation device to find out where they were. Everything around them was white. They couldn’t even see the sky through the thick snow.
“There! What’s left of Echo Station is that way. I told you we were close,” he said and started walking in the direction indicated by the computer.
“You were lucky,” she said.
She used the force to summon her emergency bag. It flew out of the ship tearing another few panels along the way.
“The more you damage the ship, the longer it’s going to take us to fix it.”
He was right, of course. That didn’t make it any less his fault they had crashed it in the first place.
The base turned up to be a lot closer than she thought. If it hadn’t been for the snow, they would have probably seen it from where they landed. After checking the base for any signs of life and other dangers, Rey’s annoyance was mildly mollified to have a safe shelter against the extreme weather.
Luke went into the deserted hangar, and she watched him raise his left arm toward the doors which opened with a squeak of submission, and then, her breath stopped in her throat, mesmerized by the expression of pure calm and concentration on his face. His beautiful eyes were closed and the Force was obeying him. Tons of metal were floating through the air and in a matter of seconds the huge wrecked ship landed softly on the hangar floor.
With the proper motivation, she would be able to do it. But she could harness such energy only when she was animated by some primordial need to survive. She could and had split the ground open or thrown a whole spaceship onto another one. If she brought in the ship, the damage to the ship and to the hangar would have been extensive.
Yes, well, he was Luke freaking Skywalker! She tried to shake away the awe before he would see it. He was used to adulation, but did not enjoy it.
After the crash, the ship wasn’t a safe place to sleep in, so Rey went to the part of the base where the living quarters used to be to find some that were in decent shape. Everything still functional had been long removed by scavengers. She managed to find two rooms that were almost livable, put his backpack in the one that looked marginally better, and went into the other one, which was further down the hallway. She didn’t bother to tell him where she was, knowing all too well his ability to orient himself.
She was surprised to hear the knock. What now?! She tried to gather some of her usual impatience. It had taken her years to stop being enthralled with the awesomeness that was her master. She pulled the door open with a level of aggravation that wasn’t entirely real.
Luke was outside her door, backpack in hand.
“It’s too cold,” he said.
“I’m not killing a tauntaun for you,” she said, stepping away to grant him access.
The only bed in this room was placed against the wall, the same as in the room she had assigned him. Luke put the backpack on it and pulled out the sleeping bag. Hers was already laid out.
“I wouldn’t recommend sleeping in one. You can’t get the smell out of your hair for days,” he said trying for funny but he couldn’t contain the sadness.
She regretted bringing it up. Not only was that memory connected to a friend he had lost, but her master was not one to take lightly the slaughter of another being. She had never seen him be as much as unkind to an animal.
“Which side?” he asked.
Rey looked at the bed, trying to focus, unable to come to grips with the fact that she was going to be close to him again. She had taken a few lovers over the years, but had never again experienced the intimacy of sleeping in his arms. She didn’t say anything so he spoke again.
“If you don’t have a preference, I’ll take this side,” he said sitting on the edge of the bed.
Damn her mouth not working! She was going to spend the night between a wall and Luke Skywalker! Well, nothing else she could do now. And they had to get as much rest as possible if they wanted to repair the ship faster. She kicked off her boots and climbed into bed resolutely.
The cold was biting into her, but the years of experience had taught Rey to control her body. She wasn’t shivering. She wasn’t thinking about the body close to hers that would alleviate the cold. The most difficult to ignore were her aching nipples. They were rigid from the cold, but the reason was far less important than the effect. She was tingling and desperately wanted to touch her breasts, to erase the sensation. She willed herself to sleep, using the meditation techniques that usually worked for her.
“I’m cold,” he said when she was about to fall asleep.
“Don’t be stubborn! I know you’re cold too,” he said in her silence.
Her heart jolted at the sound of his sleeping bag being unzipped. She gritted her teeth, and slid next to him, pulling her own sleeping bag on top. He was warm and welcoming. Her arm snaked around his waist. She pressed her breasts against his chest, confident that he wouldn’t be able to feel her hard nipples through the layers of clothing they both wore. She pretended to search for a more comfortable position to get the chance to rub her chest against him, in a valiant attempt to ease the ache.
And just like that, all her meditation techniques were rendered useless. She was wide awake and unbearably aware of where she was and what she felt. She was losing her mind and he just lay there, unmoving like a stone, while she was burning. Why hadn’t she taken some pilot to her bed before that mission? It had taken her years to walk away from him. Years of patience and respect to become the Jedi Knight he wanted her to be. She had followed his example and had sex without attachment. She was his best and brightest student. She would not shame him by asking again for the only thing he had ever refused her.
She felt her self-control crumbling. She was losing the fight with her body. Had to focus to stop her leg from tangling with his. Had to struggle to stop her hand from caressing him. Had tear her heart out to stop her mouth from searching his.
She turned around abruptly and inched as far from him as possible in the confines of the sleeping bag. It wasn’t very far. And he made it impossibly close by turning to his side as well. His arm felt perfectly natural around her waist. He even pulled her a little, like she was a pillow he was snuggling. She felt like a dirty minded, sexually obsessed, sexually frustrated wreck because his innocent embrace was stirring such desire in her she was causing a disturbance in the Force.
“Please, stop,” she whispered.
His low voice was causing her physical pain. His soft tone was making her want to cry with need.
“I am not dead, Luke. But I am the Jedi Knight you trained and I tried very hard to let this go.”
“So,” he said, taking a careful breath. “It didn’t end there.”
She wished she could tell him it did. She wished it weren’t a lie if she said it. She wished she had taken the edge side of the bed so she could jump out and run away.
At first she thought she was imagining it. His arm was no longer on her waist. His hand was on her breast, cupping it firmly. His thumb flicked back and forth over her hard nipple which he could apparently feel through the heavy fabric.
That was not happening. She was still in the ship, had hit her head and she was lying unconscious. She had to wake up! Except… It felt too good. He pulled her closer, so he could rub his groin against her. They were too thickly dressed to feel his erection, but she remembered it. That spilt second from so many years ago. She remembered the sensation vividly. It had accompanied her on lonely nights, and sometimes even when she wasn’t alone.
She felt him pull at her clothes, searching for a way to reach her skin. She unzipped her flight suit, and suddenly his warm left hand was on her breast. Unreal! her brain whispered. It can’t be happening.
“Should I stop?” he asked and just the possibility of him stopping was painful.
“No,” she breathed. “I’m here.”
She turned to face him. The blueish light of the room colored him in strange shades. He was there. In the flesh. Luke’s lips touched hers and she closed her eyes, surrendering. The Universe became a warm and happy place.
Pain! Pain exploded in her mind, behind her eyes, splitting her head. Pain, worse than anything she could remember. She was being ripped out of herself. She wanted to cling to Luke but her hands were unable to find him. He was so close but she couldn’t touch him. She tried to call his name only to feel her throat filling with thick, acrid smoke. She recognized it. It was the smell of bodies burning on the sand of Jakku when she was little more than a child. Then she heard screams of the dying in burning houses when she was a full-fledged Jedi Knight. She tasted ash in her mouth. The pain got worse.
From somewhere, beyond the smoke and pain, she heard someone calling her name.
“Rey! Rey come back damn it! REY!”
Luke? It sounded like his voice, and yet so unlike him. He was so angry. Master Skywalker had no reason to be so mad at her. She was his best and brightest student. She wanted to stay a little longer in the small bed, with Luke. Hidden in the smoke and ashes of her failures.
This time it sounded like a roar. Like a wounded lion. Like thunder in a desert storm. She felt the dark ripples through the Force. She felt black, slimy tentacles wrapping themselves around her. Pulling her out of the small bed in the ruins of Echo Station. Away from Luke who was still there, his face covered in soot.
She fought back. She wanted to stay with Luke. She could still see him in bed, looking up at her as she was floating away. A dark cloud was surrounding her. The tentacles were squeezing her body without mercy, without pause. She felt her ribcage cracking. She couldn’t breathe.
She heard a small voice from nowhere.
“Luke, you have to let her go!”
Another roar. The lion was in pain.
She felt a blast of the Force and the slimy grip eased a fraction. She squirmed and tried to find her way back to bed. The bed was on fire beneath her. Luke was there. Calm. Eyes closed. Allowing the fire to consume him.
She engaged all her strength to break the hold of the darkness. She heard the tentacles snapping, one by one under her will. The pressure lessened. She could break free!
Then suddenly, her mind was split open, and pain poured through, drowning her. Pain so intense she no longer sensed guilt. So intense she forgot about being in Luke’s arms. So intense, she could no longer let herself die.
She opened her eyes and gasped. She chocked on the breathing tube stuck down her throat. She tried to make sense of where she was. She was floating in a transparent, gel-like substance. She reached out with her hands and felt smooth rounded confines. She was in a… tank? She was in the medical bay? She heard a heavy thump, as of a body falling. She forced her eyes open. The left one didn’t open but the right one obeyed her enough to be able to see Luke, fallen to his knees in front of her tank.
Leia Organa was knelt next to him, but her eyes met Rey’s. The young Jedi couldn’t stand the intensity of that gaze. She closed her eye. When she opened it again, Luke was walking out of the room. Without looking back. Rey saw that the door that closed behind him had a big dent. As if a body had been hurled into it.
A few minutes later, Rey was in bed, the medical droids were fixing bandages and attaching sensors. Her throat was sore from the respirator tube, but she tried to drink a little from the cup Leia handed her.
“What happened?” she mouthed the words more than utter the sounds.
“You crashed on Hoth. By the time Luke got you out, you were unconscious. He brought you back, but until we managed to get here, you passed out again. You’ve been in that tank for several hours. Almost no signs of life. About an hour ago, you died,” Leia said.
Leia nodded, and when Rey asked “How?” she took in a deep breath.
“I think you know that better than me. You should rest now,” Leia said and kissed her forehead before she left.
Rey thought about what happened. She remembered the crash. The memories of her dreams were fading away. Luke kissing her. Just a dream. She tried to remember the pain and darkness, but those memories were also fading away. All that was left was a terrible conclusion. Luke Skywalker had used the Dark Side to bring her back from death.
She took off the sensors and when the medical droid showed up, she just waved it away with a flick of her wrist. She used the Force to be able to get out of bed, and leaned on it every step she took. She let intuition guide her to him.
Luke was outside the medical center, his head tilted to the sky. Anyone would think he was looking at the stars. Rey knew he was not seeing anything. She could sense him tethered to sanity by the thinnest thread. Fear seeped into her soul. Was she too late? He couldn’t… He wouldn’t… after everything… he wouldn’t turn to the Dark Side like this.
“I never understood my father more,” he said.
She exhaled a breath she didn’t know she was holding. He could still discern her. He was still… sane.
“What did you do?” she asked.
“Brought you back.”
“What did you do?” she repeated, reaching for his hand.
He flinched, and pulled away from her touch.
“I could feel you slipping away. Could feel you… dissipating into the Force. You were happy. It was everything I should want for you.”
“I was happy,” she said.
He turned his head, surprised at her admission. He probably expected her to try to comfort him. His eyes begged her for that reassurance. Even if it was a lie. She thought about it. Maybe one of the reasons they were at this point was that they held back too much. So many times when they were close, she chose to honor his teachings and not her heart. The little voice from the darkness of her shriveled heart was stronger this time. There would never be another moment so perfect.
“You brought me back tainted,” she said dispassionately.
His lips formed the first words to deny the truth they both knew. He hung his head, defeated. His act had not only pulled him into the Dark, but had also stained her. She watched him struggle to accept this new reality. Watched him drown in new waves of guilt. Watched him finding nothing to help him stop the fall.
“I’m cold,” she said.
It was all it took to bring him back. He took that last damnable step and put his arms around her. It hurt. His embrace hurt. The muscles in her arms as she encircled his waist hurt. But it was the kind of pain that reminded her she was alive.
“We should go inside,” he said. “You are shaking.”
“Not from the cold.”
She paused, not really waiting for a reply. Listening for his heart beat. As she had hoped, it sounded louder. Faster.
“I’m not dead, Luke. And I waited long enough.”
She wondered if he would say no again. There wouldn’t be a not now. This time it was going to be a never.
The kiss came unexpectedly. It had nothing tentative about it. There was no trace of I’m doing this because you’re hurt and I feel sorry for you. It did not feel like a goodbye kiss. It was the first kiss she wanted for more years than she cared to remember.
“Ok. Let’s get you into bed.”
He said it so casually that Rey worried she might get her hopes up for nothing.
“Medical bay?” she asked, resigned to wait for a few more years for the next kiss.
“Oh, no. My room is much closer.”
She didn’t know what made her squeal, his words or the way he picked her up. His room was a lot further than the medical bay but they made it there a lot sooner than she thought they would. After all the years of pining, Rey found herself flustered to be with him. With the same thing on their minds.
“Rey, relax,” he said sensing her discomfort. “You’re badly injured. Nothing is going to happen.”
She probably looked relieved and disappointed at the same time because Luke added with a smile.
“We’re just going to huddle for warmth. Nothing else is going to happen for now.”
She could live with “for now”.