“Are you happy?” Wedge asks him, mumbling, and Luke has to think about it.
The morning lights pour in like honey, molten and golden, warming up the wooden walls. Luke is lying on his stomach, spread out on the crisp, white sheet, the early sun a pleasant caress on his naked back. The cat is purring somewhere nearby, and Wedge is right next to him, face buried in the pillow. His dark hair is hopelessly tousled from a night of tossing and turning and fucking, and when he wakes, his first thought is whether Luke’s happy.
The answer should be obvious, and yet.
By the time Luke opens his mouth, it’s too late to be honest.
* * *
An exhale, and the sea sighs with him, low and heavy. The wind rattles the window panes, scatters the petals of his prided marigolds and chamomiles.
Luke is fleeing from the house. It’s a slow and steady breakout, he’s leaving behind their home step by step, the mossy rock clattering under his unlaced boots. He’s wearing one of Wedge’s sweaters, baggy and white, sleeves covering his prosthetic hand.
Spreading his arms, he walks to the edge of the cliff, and looks down at the infinity of the sea. Seagulls are circling around and around, and he just stands there, watching them.
Wedge flew away this morning. Maybe it’s been wise to fall in love with a pilot after all, if wisdom had anything to do with it. Wedge leaves him, again and again, the sky claims him, forever an adventurer. Luke wants him back, he waits for him to come home, counting down the hours ever so patiently, eyeing the clouds with something akin to jealousy, but once Wedge returns, once they’re together, it’s just simply overwhelming.
“Neither with nor without you.” It was so easy to put it into words, and at the same time, it was impossible. Wedge understood him anyway. He always did.
Wedge would come back and hug him to his chest. He’d whisper in his ears:
“Let me in, let me in…”
His phone starts ringing. He left it in the house. He’s not going to answer it. He’s standing on the cliff, hugging himself, remembering how Wedge would rock him back and forth.
The phone is still ringing, chiming a monophonic version of Final Countdown. Han set it for him somewhere around 2000, when he got fed up listening to the Nokia 3310’s standard ringtone. It’s Luke’s one and only phone, complete with a tiny monochrome screen and huge buttons. Han calls it an antique and keeps bidding on it. Luke doesn’t want to sell it; he hates changes.
Luke is not even forty, yet he feels ancient. He closes his eyes, and silences his mind, letting in nothing but the sound of the wind, and the ringtone fades away, and his memories all become mirages.
Wedge is still with him. He can no longer remember his name, but the man surrounds him, invisible and stable like gravity, and he keeps him in place, not letting his mind wander too far away.
He returns to the house, thoughts blank. He grabs the phone without glancing at it, and walks around aimlessly, lost as a ghost in his own home. One week; one week all alone, in blessed and much needed solitude, one week to meditate, to step out of his present and observe the all-including nothingness of existence.
He looks at the screen before he’d switch the phone off for good, and then his metal thumb hesitates above the red button. Leia knows him too well. She’s sent a text.
SOS could u babysit the guys just 4 1 week pls ps say yes xx
Luke is decrypting the message, reading the lines over and over again, and then he says, softly and desperately:
* * *
He was nineteen and living in a trailer after his father’s death. He woke up to the sound of pebbles and empty cans hitting the window. He slid it up and a Coke got him square in the forehead. He hissed in pain, squinting into the dry desert night. It was Han, sporting pre-faded jeans and a dirty tank top, and he was shouting:
“I’m gonna be a dad!”
It wasn’t really news to Luke, but he promised Leia he wouldn’t tell Han, not until she decided whether she’s gonna keep the baby. He felt relieved and thrilled, but mostly drowsy. Holding onto the windowpane, he leant out.
“You don’t understand,” Han bellowed. He was within Luke’s reach, the oddly agreeable smell of sweat and top shelf cologne surrounding him. “I’m gonna be the best fucking dad in the universe!”
“You won’t even give a chance to the aliens?”
“Damn right I won’t, kid!” Han stepped closer, grabbing his wrists, and started pulling him out of the trailer. “C’mhere, you’re coming with me, I’m abducting you, c’mhere.”
“No, no, no, wait, I’ve got a door, ouch, hey, hey I, I’m in my pajamas, Han?”
Han was laughing and not letting him go, and Luke’s cacti-themed pajamas lost a button in the battle. He dived head-first into the sand, and Han squatted beside him, hugging him close. His clothes smelled of gasoline, the sharp scent of the future.
“I’m gonna be a dad,” Han said, burying his face into Luke’s neck, and started sobbing.
* * *
The Millennium Falcon is approaching in a cloud of dust. Luke shields his eyes from the sun so he can watch it; it’s not a pleasant sight, to say the least. The Falcon is a modified paddy wagon from the thirties, its bulletproof, rusty walls constantly cracking as it’s moving forward with an admirable speed. Han put jeep wheels on it and insisted it can go with 220 mph. No one asked him to prove it. He did it anyway. Constantly.
A ship horn sounds. Luke whoops in answer, waving with his metal hand as the Falcon attempts to parallel park between two bushes. Luke will miss those bushes. The radio blares Led Zeppelin; it’s been so many summers since Luke last heard it, Wanna Whole Lotta Love. Yeah, Han had this tape on in Kentucky, when they stopped by a gas station. It was so late that it was early, and Han started dancing like crazy, shouting to Leia to join him, and they were both surprised when she did. Leia handed her heels to Luke and stepped on the warm asphalt, and her stockings were almost instantly ruined, but she didn’t care. Her skirt was swimming around and she danced Han to oblivion; she was graceful and ruthless and she was happy, back then.
Leia’s heels thump into the mud. She’s got a power suit on, complete with a frilly blouse, and she’s smiling at Luke, red lipstick glinting. Her hair is in two buns, like she used to wear it, and when she hugs Luke it’s like nothing’s changed; there’s nothing else in the world but the smell of her perfume, the same she always used, the same their mother used, Violetta di Parma.
“Hey,” Luke says, and all Leia says is:
Luke is holding onto her, and he doesn’t want to let go, but he knows he has to, he knows they can’t have this. Leia steps back, looking at him, squinting, and she starts talking:
“Ky’s got this funny idea that he’s got spring break, but don’t believe him for a second, homeschool is still school, and I want him to study at least three hours every day. Also, he needs to practice the piano and kendo, don’t let him get away with it. I’ve made a checklist for you. If there’s anything, just call me, but not between nine am and pm, Brussels time. That’s twelve hours plus, so if there’s something wrong, call Han, but he’s gonna be in Uruguay, so you’ll need to call the Damerons if there’s a full-fetched situation, or Ky’s psychiatrist, if it’s a weekday, but not a Thursday, she’s not available on Thursdays. Don’t contact Hux Sr, but I’ll give you his number anyway, let’s pray you won’t need it.”
With the same breath, she adds:
“I’m so sorry that I’m putting it on your shoulders; Han promised he’d be home, but when was the last time we could count on him? Don’t say the roadtrip.”
The music’s on. I’m gonna give you every inch of my love. Luke is nodding, softly, almost serenely.
“It’s fine, Wedge’s in Europe anyway. I’m free.”
“Aww, poor you,” Leia says, patting his shoulder. “How are you two lovey-dovies? Is everything okay?”
Before Luke could answer, Leia raises her voice:
“Han, what’s taking you so long? I’ve got a plane to catch, will you please hurry up? Listen, Luke, we should grab a coffee sometime, are you free next week? It’s been ages!”
“It’s fine,” Luke repeats, and Leia smirks at him. He can’t help but return it, flashing teeth until his face aches. They’re standing there, facing each other but not quite present, glances fleeting away and smiles fading away. Words, they need words to make it better, and Luke fumbles for them:
“You’re on the right track, I can feel it,” he begins, and that’s as far as he gets. Han ambushes him with a hug, and it’s quite impressive, considering that he’s balancing a cage full of chickens. He knocks the air out of Luke’s lungs and ruffles his hair.
“Our saviour! How you doin’, lil’Luke?”
“Put those darned chickens down,” Leia calls on him, but Han just huffs, pulling Luke closer by his waist, and rests his chin on the top of his head.
“Yeah, that’s just what I needed, a Luke Skywalker. Come, I missed you, God, you’re tiny, come run away with me, where’s Wedge? I’ll fight him.”
“He’s working,” Luke mutters, nose pressed to Han’s neck.
“Hey, can you house about say, twenty, twenty-five chickens?”
“Leave him out of it,” Leia begs.
“They’re better behaved than my children. Eat less.”
“Where’re you taking them?”
Han is positively beaming.
“I thought I had to take them to Uruguay, but nah, they want me to take their chickens to Brazil, trade it to tobacco and black turtles and bring those to Alberta, Canada, so I’ve had like, two-hundred chicken I didn’t need; these girls are the leftovers, I’ve managed to barter the rest to scrapmetal on our way here.”
Luke glances at the Falcon. It’s covered in more junk than usual. That explains it.
“And all these amazing deals just can’t wait,” Leia remarks, and Han points a finger at her.
“Then you make the Delassantos brothers wait!”
“Oh, I’d make them wait. I could make them babysit the kids if I wanted to.”
“Yeah. Possibly. Right. Okay, you could. Luke, help me out here: why can’t I take Ben with me? Leia says I can’t.”
“He doesn’t want to go, and when he doesn’t…” Leia begins, in-sync with Luke:
“I thought he was still in house arrest?”
There’s a slight pause.
“Leia uhm, figured something it out, so it’s okay. He can be here. Semi-legally.”
Leia adds, resignated:
“I called in some favors. It’ pretty complicated, I’ll tell you later; as of now, keep an eye on him and don’t let him take off that blasted ankle monitor.”
“And lock his door at night,” Han grumbles, and Luke says:
“I’m so sorry…”
“It wasn’t your fault,” Leia interrupts him, automatically, voice flat.
They look at the Millennium Falcon. Luke can see Kylo sitting in Ben’s place. He always called shotgun.
* * *
The school’s door was blocked. His students were punching the small window with their fists, their shouts fogging up the glass. As he was running towards them, he was instinctively searching for Ben amongst the terrified faces.
He was not with them.
He remembers hearing his steps.
They were slow. Calculated.
Whatever he’s told the judges, Ben knew exactly what he was doing.
He was approaching them, hands deep in his hoodie’s pockets, face concealed by a scarf and his long hair. Luke could hear him breathing. Breath in. Breath out. In. Out.
That’s what he taught him.
Calm down. It’s okay. Breathe.
* * *
Kylo is spread out on the comfy couch, dirty combat boots pressed to the armrest. He’s got sunglasses on, for whatever reason. His hair is tied in a messy manbun. His nails are painted black. His ear tunnel is also black. He’s got his nose and lips pierced. Luke is okay with it, he thinks. Looking like this, Kylo resembles Ben less and less. It makes it easier.
Kylo’s nineteen years old. He was born four years ago.
Han’s still calling him by the name of his long-gone son. He’s the only one.
Luke is watching his new nephew, leaning to the door. He’s expecting to feel rage or shame or disappointment or fear, or the remnants of his love for him, anything.
And there’ nothing.
He’s got no idea who Kylo Ren is. It’s not the first time he’s left alone with him, after the trial, after everything, but it’s the first time he has to let him in into his own life. Kylo is there with him in his sunbathed living room, surrounded by soft beige hues and a plentitude of plants, and he looks like ink in milk. It’s just them now, him, Kylo and Rey, all alone on the island.
Rey Solo is four years old.
Kylo wasn’t jealous of her, and neither was Leia. She and Han were already divorced when Rey happened. She ended up adopting her, and Han ended up living with them again, to keep his eyes on his daughter, he said. But as he was rocking her in his arms, he would only be watching Leia.
Kylo made her breakfast, brushed her hair, and took her to the nursery every single morning. Rey was sleeping on his chest now, small and fragile, and Kylo was hugging her close, humming something in a low tone.
Leia thought that being a big brother suited Kylo. That it was proof, somehow, that he could be responsible, that he could feel and care for others; that he was still human.
It all made Luke very anxious.
Kylo treated the little girl as if she was his property, something belonging solely to him, an inheritance. Luke dreaded the day Rey learnt the meaning of the word no, the day when she’d inevitably say to her obsessive and overprotective brother, no, sometimes you need to let me go.
“What do you expect to see when you’re looking at me like this?” Kylo asks, voice grave. Luke doesn’t falter.
“I don’t expect to see anything. I’m merely observing.”
“Heh,” Kylo says. It might be a laugh.
“I can find my way to the fridge, thank you.”
“Well, if you need anything…”
“Thank you,” Kylo repeats in a high-pitched voice.
* * *
He was supposed to be an angel but they took him
from that light and turned him into something hungry,
something that forgets what his hands are for when they
* * *
Kylo is sitting on the veranda, staring into the sunset. He’s balancing a plate on his knees with some cheese, bread and avocado he didn’t bother to arrange into a sandwich. Luke’s got Rey sitting on his shoulders, who’s shouting, eyes wide and smile wild:
“Come on Ky, Uncle Luke is taking us to the beach!”
“Have a blast with Uncle Luke on the beach, gonna be an adventure. Heard there’re rocks and everything.”
“I’m visiting the camp tomorrow,” Luke says. “Need anything?”
“Get me a gun so I can off myself,” Kylo mumbles, bored, stuffing the plain bread into his mouth. The crumbs stick to his chin.
“That’s not funny,” Rey scolds him, brows furrowed. Luke clutches her ankles, gently.
“Kylo’s gonna be okay, don’t you worry. Hey, if you can’t make up your mind now, you could come with me, see what’s in there. Tomorrow. Sounds good? We could all go.”
Kylo’s measuring him, squinting. He’s got Leia’s eyes, but they seem depthless and cold.
“It was my understanding that I am to stay here.”
“It’s not a prison. You’re free to leave the island, as long as you’re under my supervision.”
“For all that it’s worth,” Kylo mutters.
They’re surrounded by the ocean. Luke’s home is the only house on Ahch-To. The neighbouring island is barely visible on the horizon. There’s a ferry which can be bargained to bring visitors and help Luke off the lush rock. The marine camp orders food and the like, and they let Wedge and Luke chip in so they can all wait for the helicopter which brings in the goods. He’s as far away from civilisation as his conscience would let him go. Wedge made friends with the marines, who’d invite them for drinks; Luke made it his mission to forget their names.
“I wanna see the seals,” Rey announces, getting antsy.
“And the sharks?”
“And the birdies, you wanna see the birdies?”
“Then we better hurry up.”
After brief consideration, Rey holds on to Luke’s ears, who tries his best to suppress a grin. He hopes that Kylo will follow them. Ben would always lag behind.
Luke never put him on his shoulders. He was afraid he’d fall down.
Kylo stays on the veranda, legs pulled up.
* * *
“One of these days a man will come to you, saying he’s your old man. Whatever he says, you can’t go with him, understand?”
Uncle Owen used to tell him this, the same warning over and over again.
The last time the sunlight was heavy on the farm, the jojoba-branches drying and dying in the thick heat. Luke nodded, and silently swore that he’d go with that man, as far from Arizona as he can. He’d run away from the hell of the Sonora desert.
Then his father did come to take him away, and showed him hell, the kind you carry around with you. Whenever Anakin Skywalker went, he had Gehenna in his pockets.
* * *
Start by pulling him out of the fire and
hoping that he will forget the smell.
* * *
Kylo is curled up on the couch once again. Luke notices that the tattoo on his upper arm is of Anakin Skywalker, young and dashing in a uniform. Luke bites his lips, and crouches to gather up the book Kylo dropped on the floor, a creased copy of Nothing Left to Burn by S.L. Snoke. Luke grabs it to put it on the table before Rey would slip on it. Kylo grunts:
“No point in confiscating it, I’ve already read it.”
“I’m just putting it on the table. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable on the veranda? We’ve got a hammock there. Very cozy.”
“Alone? Isn’t that dangerous?”
Luke exhales slowly as he lays the book down.
“I’m sure you remember how frustrating it was to always have the eyes of your parents on your back except when you really wanted them to look.”
Kylo huffs, half-amused, and sits up swiftly.
“Rey!” he yells. “Rey, come on in! Rey!”
* * *
They were in Old Ben’s bungalow, sipping on cucumber water in the bohemian living room. Old Ben froze. Harsh lights creeped through the shutters.
“Stay here,” he said.
Old Ben wasn’t so old as to deserve the nickname, but his eyes were ancient and there were silver hairs in his ginger beard. He was sitting there in old-fashioned, knees long underwear, complete with a tank top, white socks, flip-flops and his usual brown bathrobe. Luke never saw him wearing anything else: the colors and the materials varied, but mostly Old Ben was smoking on his porch like this, wearing his moth-eaten bathrobe through all the seasons.
They’d call him Mad Ben, the people in the desert.
Luke had no one else to turn to after the farm had burnt down; after Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen were--
Luke knew that he was in a state of shock. He knew this the same way he knew he could name all the states or use the Pythagorean theorem. The knowledge had nothing to do with him. His trauma was merely an axiom.
He used to think that shock was more like dread, but his voice didn’t even waver when he asked:
“It’s my father, isn’t it?”
“Luke Skywalker,” the man was shouting, almost cheerfully.
Old Ben stood up. Luke’s hands were shaking so hard he almost spilled the cucumber water. It was nice and cold and Old Ben poured some vodka in it when Luke turned up on his doorstep that morning grief-stricken.
“I’ve got a friend who can get you out of here,” Old Ben mouthed, teeth gritted. “More like an acquaintance. He’ll be here for you very soon.”
Around the same time the farm had burnt down, Old Ben received a phone call: help me, Ben Kenobi. You’re my only hope.
The call was from a local number. Leia was supposed to be over the seas, safe in Europe with the Organas.
“You think he did it? Vader.”
“I think he started the fire.”
“But Uncle Owen was his brother.”
Old Ben looked him in the eyes. He said:
“And you’re his son.”
“That man out there used to be my best friend. You must understand that the thing which makes him dangerous, that the reason we didn’t let him reach you is not because he’s evil; he’s something far more deadly - he’s desperate.”
“What’s gonna happen to Leia?” Luke hissed. “He has her, doesn’t he?”
Old Ben grabbed his handgun. He didn’t click the safety off.
“I’ve got this,” he promised. “I’m going to fix it.”
“Luke! Come out!”
* * *
“ Rey! Come on in!”
* * *
He has come back to stop the world
from turning itself inside out
* * *
There was a sound like thunder, and Old Ben fell down. He must’ve seen Anakin aiming at him, but he didn’t do anything to stop him.
He didn’t do anything.
“No!” Luke screamed, running towards him.
He dropped the glass of cucumber water. It shattered.
Old Ben’s blood was soaking the Charlie & Snoopy doormat.
Luke had never seen a dead body before, and now he was kneeling beside one. Old Ben’s blood was blackish and it stick to his hair. He seemed sad, eyes glassy, but still open. Luke was looking at his murderer, chest heaving. (Breathing in. Breathing out. In. Out.
Calm down. It’s okay. Breathe.)
The murderer was tall, and dressed in black leather. He took off his helmet.
Anakin Skywalker had floppy, dark blonde hair, blueish eyes and a wide, white smile.
“Hello, Luke,” he said. “I am your father.”
* * *
Luke is making toast. He cuts off the crust, hoping that the chickens will like it. His cat is circling around his ankles, chirruping and trilling.
“I know, I know, you must be starving after all those snacks I gave you. Wait for your turn, huh?”
Kylo leans into the kitchen.
“What’s up with the wi-fi?” he asks.
“There’s no internet on the island.”
“Like, not even a funny landline one?”
“I’ve got no landline. No computer either.”
“How do you read your e-mails then?”
“I don’t get e-mails anymore.”
Kylo is visibly taken aback. It’s still better than the complete apathy he usually dwells in.
“Do you want ketchup on your toast, Kylo?”
“So you don’t read the news? Nothing?”
“Let’s be honest, I stopped caring about the news when I was featured in them for months.”
Luke Skywalker in his black Armani suit, sporting boots and dark silk shirts, hiding his red eyes behind a variety of sunglasses, and the headlines would read teacher still refrains from commenting and shocking details. The trial is a blur but he remembers Ben’s lawyer whispering something to the boy; Ben was standing with slumped shoulders but chin up, staring directly into the cameras. Luke could hear the lawyer mouthing:
“Never mind the outcome, if I were you, I’d change my name right fucking now.”
* * *
“Anakin Skywalker?” Han mused.
“I think you know him by the name of Vader?”
Han hit the brake, mouth open.
“Are you fucking with me? You don’t worth that kind of trouble, kid.”
“He kidnapped my sister, we gotta rescue her!”
“Since when are we we?”
“She’ll pay triple.”
“Three-hundred and twenty?”
“I like your sense of humor.”
“Three-hundred and twenty.”
Han restarted the engine.
* * *
Luke holds his breath and leans close to the door. No noise. He raps on it, gently.
“Kylo? I’ve fixed the boiler. Could you take a shower before Rey’s bath, please? I guess she’ll use up all the warm water so you need to go first. Okay?”
* * *
Leia was wearing a light summer dress, skirt swaying in the sweet breeze. Han was watching her with mouth slightly open as she walked over the Millennium Falcon’s roof, holding her pom pom heels.
“This is how you get hepatitis, kids,” she whispered.
“Well hello to you too, princess, if you don’t wanna step into something nasty consider wearing shoes you can actually wear, how about that?”
Luke was sitting at the wheel, fixing his gaze on the front door of the mansion, not daring to blink an eye. The basement’s window was open, the crowbar abandoned near it in the dewy grass. The sprinklers’ spritzing noise was all that could be heard.
Anakin had a plastic flamingo guarding his door. Luke was terrified of them for the rest of his life.
Leia climbed through the Falcon’s window. Her arms were bruised and the needle’s mark was still visible. Their father had drugged her.
“Luke!” she mouthed, pulling him into a warm embrace. “My god, you idiot.”
“I’ve come to rescue you.”
“He had a handsome smuggler with him,” Han muttered as he shooed Luke away from the wheel, “but the boy was an ungrateful bastard and didn’t mention it.”
“Is that a bear on the back seats?” Leia asked as she settled in Luke’s lap.
“He’s called Chewie, okay, and he begs to disagree, he’s a dog.” The bear, hearing his name, let out a low, pleased roar. “You hear that? Woof-woof. Okay, kids, we’re about to punch it, so hold on to your butts.” He looked at Leia, eyebrows arched. “Or mine, if you please.”
Leia slapped him.
“I deserved that,” Han admitted.
Leia flexed her fingers, and asked:
* * *
Luke wakes to the sound of running water. It’s around three am. He’s had a nightmare, so he reaches for Wedge as he always does. The queen sized bed is empty, glowing blue in the moonlight. His prosthetic arm trembles in the air. Wedge is a phantom pain in his chest. Luke lets his arm drop to the pillows, caressing the vacated place his boyfriend or partner or whatever had left behind.
Kylo starts humming in the shower.
* * *
He wakes again, late in the morning. He puts a dressing gown over his pajamas, and tiptoes through the corridors with the silent steps of his mother. She was ever so careful not to wake anyone up.
He discovers that there’s a jar of jam and peanut butter left on the kitchen counter alongside with forgotten, dirty dishes. He smirks to himself, gathers the cat and goes to the living room. He peeks through the soft curtains.
Kylo and Rey are dueling in the garden, the girl armed with a wooden sabre and Kylo with a similar sword.
“Mind your footwork,” he lectures her. “That’s it. Now remember, always riposte as your opponent is recovering from a lunge.”
Kylo keeps on retreating, which soon becomes boring to Rey who lunges a fatal attack to her brother's knee. Kylo slips in the salty dew, cursing, and falls with an audible thud.
“Participation is more important than winning,” Rey consoles him, offering her hand to help him up. Kylo takes it, but then he pulls Rey down with a wicked grin.
The curtain closes.
“Help!” Rey is screaming. “Heeelp!”
Luke rushes to the veranda, cat swinging in his hands. Rey is rolling around in the grass, Kylo kneeling above her.
“Help me! The tickle monster got me! Mercy! Mercy!”
She’s laughing her heart out.
* * *
Start by wiping the blood off of his chin and
pretending to understand.
Repeat to yourself
“I won’t leave you, I won’t leave you”
until you fall asleep
* * *
“She was very beautiful; kind, but... sad,” Leia told him. “She was the strongest person I know.”
Luke kept repeating her name: Padmé Amidala. He recalls how she looked on her wedding photo, with lace and pearls in her hair, and he remembered that she used to sing to him, but he couldn’t hear her voice anymore.
They were sitting on a balcony with Leia. Below them, Tuscany spread out; there was music in the spice-scented air and the noise of idle chatter. The Organas had seen to it that the twins could spend all their birthdays together. They brought them to the Gelateria del Dondoli ice cream shop each year. Their sweets would melt as they conversed and gossiped with all the seriousness of eight years olds.
The sea was silent.
The adults were standing in the shadows, under the pastel beach umbrellas, whispering among themselves. Old Ben may or may not have been there from time to time; Luke doesn’t trust these early memories, but he remembers Leia saying:
“My dad says he didn’t want us to be separated.”
“But it’s safer this way, so father won’t find us.”
“You think he’s a bad man? Like they say?”
“Well, mum got away from him, for one thing. Aunt Beru told me so.”
“Well, I remember that she loved him.”
Luke wiped his nose on his sleeve, lost in thoughts.
“I think you’re wrong.”
“She died of sorrow. Her heart broke because she couldn’t be with him, because she had to leave, because he had a bad friend and he got mean.”
“I remember that she was very-very ill.”
“That’s what I’m saying, there was something wrong with her heart. It had a hole on it.”
* * *
He has come back to stop the world
from turning itself inside out, and you love him, you do,
so you won’t let him.
Tell him that you will never know any better.
Pretend to understand why that isn’t good enough.
* * *
The court’s waiting room was cold and spacious. Luke was watching how the light broke on the floor, a song stuck in his head, Rebel Rebel. It didn’t fit the occasion at all. Leia would always sing it, sweetly, silently. The cheerful tones were under Luke’s tongue, so he didn’t dare to open his mouth, lest they escape. Ben was sitting next to him, fourteen years old with an uneven fringe, huddled in a yellow hoodie, wearing jeans and Converse shoes. Luke had a bespoke suit on.
Rebel, rebel, your face is a mess.
“Silence,” he thought at himself, “silence, silence, silence. Breathe.”
The lawyer’s door burst open, and Leia stormed out, folders under her arm and mouth a thin, pale line. Han was following her, holding a fountain pen like a peace token.
“I still love you,” he said, barely a whisper, but Leia heard him anyway. She stopped.
“I know,” she said. She took a deep breath to compose herself. “Luke, could you give a ride to Ben? I gotta be in DC asap. Dearie, there’s some pizza in the fridge, will that do?”
Ben didn’t say anything to that, and all three of them turned to look at him. He was sitting there with mouth agape, eyes wet.
His hand were shaking.
Han broke the brief silence.
“I’m sorry, champ.”
Ben laughed. It was his old laugh, warm and heartfelt, and it sounded so, so terribly wrong.
* * *
Kylo breaks a plate. The shards roll away like ice, and Luke’s immediately on his feet.
“It’s okay, I’ll just sweep it up.”
“No need,” Kylo barks, but Luke’s already on his way to get the broom. Rey comes rushing, hands messy from homemade plasticine.
“Are you breaking stuff again?” she chimes, and Kylo snarls:
“Go to your room, there’re shards everywhere.”
“I’ve got this,” Luke smiles, squatting. Kylo kneels beside him, and grabs the broom.
They look at each other.
“I’ve got this,” Luke repeats.
“There’re some pieces over there!” Rey reports, pointing under the fridge. Kylo snaps:
“Go to your room!”
“Don’t yell at your sister.”
“That’s right,” Rey scoffs, “don’t yell at your sister!”
Kylo snatches the broom with such force that it tilts Luke off balance. He puts out his hand, the real one, to block the impact, and tiny little shards slide under his skin.
Kylo jumps to his feet, and Rey starts inching away, grin wavering. Kylo grabs her arm.
“Go to your room!” he shouts, and shoves her away. Rey takes an extra step back, eyes huge.
“Kylo,” Luke warns him, gently. Kylo turns to him, his free hand curling into a fist.
“Don’t hurt him!” Rey screams. “Don’t hurt Uncle Luke, I won’t let you!”
“It’s okay, Rey.” Luke stands up, slowly, hands in the air in a calming gesture. “We can talk this through.”
Kylo swings the broom, knocking plates and glasses off the counter, Wedge’s favorite mug, eggs and spices and a jar of oil.
Rey starts to cry.
* * *
Here are your upturned hands.
* * *
Old Ben was smoking on the porch, bathrobe thrown over shoulders.
“What do you do anyway? For a living,” Luke asked him when the stretch of silence grew uncomfortable between them. Old Ben seemed content in listening to the small noises of the desert, but he answered anyway:
“I’m making the world a better place.”
“How does one go about that?”
Luke’s was sixteen years old. Old Ben looked him in the eyes.
“I’m talking to you, and you’re listening to me. See? The world’s already a better place.”
Luke smiled, squinting.
“I don’t think anyone’s paying you to to do that.”
“They don’t, but you’ve asked me what I do for a living; and it’s essential for living, what you and I are doing. Connecting. It’s more important than my veteran’s pension. The way I see it, here we are, two individuals, and if I let my emotions guide me I won’t ever know how you’re feeling. If I can put my self aside, my aspirations, my convictions, everything, only then can I connect to you, can I let you affect me. Same as gravity.”
He took a deep drag of his cigarette.
“So, it’s like the laws of physics. When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude. Newton’s third. It’s in our nature to respond to each other. I don’t like ignoring people. I don’t like being too concerned about myself, because that’s when it happens. When I’m alone, I need to open my mind to others. On a cosmic scale, you listening to my babbling is… it’s changing the world. Anyway. Yoda’s far better at explaining it.”
* * *
Give them to him
* * *
Luke’s back slams into the fridge's door. Kylo is grabbing his jaw, palm pressed to his throat, crushing it.
Luke doesn’t clutch Kylo’s wrist, he doesn’t try to push him away. He’s learnt long before that fighting against such a hold is in vain.
“You have every right” he wheezes, “to be upset.”
“One more word and I’ll strangle you.”
“Let him go!” Rey’s crying. “Let him go!”
“Leia never had the time, Han never had the patience, and I never…”
“Shut the fuck up,” Kylo spits, leaning in. “It’s not about you, and not about mommy and daddy. It’s my life, and it’s all about me, and what I did I did so you can see what I’m capable of.”
“Leave him alone!” Rey sobs, and Kylo obeys. He lets go of Luke’s throat, and turns to the little girl.
“I’ve told you,” he says, terribly calm and collected all of a sudden, “to go to your room.”
Rey runs towards him, yelling, and starts punching his thigh with her small fists, nose snotty and eyes wet. Kylo seizes her and lifts her up; she’s shouting and kicking and attempts to bite him. Kylo is taking her away, Luke following.
* * *
The silence is thick. Luke and Rey are sitting on the veranda. Rey’s still sobbing. Luke is petting her hair, looking at the sea. It’s only a few steps away, down below. He’s listening to the breathing of the waves, understanding that no distance can protect him from reality.
Kylo’s phone is within his reach. He’s left it lying around.
Luke hasn’t yet decided which number he should call.
The silence is unbearable.
“Does he have friends?”
“Kylo. Someone he could talk to. Someone who could make him feel okay.”
“I won’t talk to him ever again. Ever. I…”
* * *
“...don’t want to see him, I don’t care that he’s dying, after what he did to us, to you, my God, Luke, your hand.”
Oh my God.
Oh my God.
Oh my God.
(And still, silence.)
Anakin’s asthmatic breathing, as he was approaching him. Luke was sitting on the floor.
He was done running away.
He lift up his hands to protect his face.
* * *
Here are your upturned hands.
Give them to him and watch how he prays
like he is learning his first words.
* * *
“Can you forgive me, Luke?”
“I forgive you.”
“No, not now, I… I’m not asking for it, I was just wondering, would you be able to do it, after all I’ve done to you?”
* * *
The phone rings. No one picks it up. Luke tries again.
* * *
Kylo’s locked his door. Luke’s not sure what keeps him there, shame or rage or both.
He hasn’t run away. He heard him pacing; and then he heard him destroying; he heard him crying; and now it’s only the silence.
Rey is walking the corridors, up and down, arriving to Kylo’s doorstep again and again, as if she was hoping that it’d open to her.
Luke is sitting on his bed, hugging his knees. His throat feels raw. The door’s open so he can watch Rey.
* * *
It feels like sacrilege, but they’re laughing again. Rey is running with the evening wind, arms outstretched, and Luke lags behind. They’re playing hounds and hare.
“Catch me if you can!”
It felt like sacrilege, when they were hiding in the trash, and Han announced:
“It’s officially the worst roadtrip ever.”
“Hush,” Leia said, but later, she added: “You’ll summon the offended ghost of Kerouac.”
They were laughing, although it wasn’t even funny. They had to laugh, otherwise they’d go mad, they were certain.
Anakin Skywalker was on their trail with his soldiers.
Luke falls down to the black glass, and lies there, motionless. Rey follows suit, curling up by his side.
“Tired?” Luke pants. He pats her back; his tiny wounds sting. Rey hums in agreement.
They become illuminated by the headlights of an approaching car.
* * *
The boy’s tall and slender. His ginger hair is neatly combed back. He’s got a black Burberry trench coat on his shoulders, with matching shirt, shiny boots and pressed pants. He’s driving a rented Chevrolet Volt. When he introduces himself, he says his first name so quickly Luke can’t quite catch it. He’s got a solid grip and soft hands.
“I’m so glad you’ve made it, it’s a pleasure to have you here. I realise the island is not easy to approach.”
“I like a good challenge, Mr. Skywalker. I’ve been around the area once, dropping by the marine camps; you must know about their bombing experiments?”
“Yeah, sometimes I can hear stuff… blowing up.”
“How exciting.” Hux inclines his head, and asks: “Who’s the little girl?”
“Oh, Rey’s here? No, I meant the cat.”
“Well, he’s umm, my cat.”
Hux squats in a graceful motion, and extends his hand to the cat with a jovial frown. The cat meows and headbutts his palm.
“What’s his name?”
“R2D2,” Luke mumbles.
“I’ve had two Rumplestiltskins, one Dottie and a Darcy, so he’s… R2D2.”
“He’s a beautiful boy. Aren’t you, love?” Hux is scratching R2’s ears, who’s peeping and purring. They’re still in the garden, and at this point it’d seem kinda silly if Luke invited him in, so he just stands there awkwardly and lets Hux rub his cat in the middle of the night. “Can I pick him up?”
“Um, he’s shedding.”
“That’s quite alright, I always carry a lint roller with me.”
To which Luke merely replies:
Hux hugs the cat to his chest and stands up, towering over Luke. Unlike Kylo, he doesn’t slump his shoulders when they’re talking.
“How was your journey?” Luke asks as they make their way towards the veranda.
“Lovely. I’m still a bit knackered, and getting the car across the islands did require some strategical planning, but what matters is that now I’m here.”
“Not everyone would do such a favor for a friend.”
“He’s not my friend.”
“Nevertheless. I wanted to thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.” Hux pushes the door in with his elbows. “Where should I put my shoes?”
“You can just leave them on. Tea?”
“Yes, thank you. Do you happen to have green tea?”
“I think my partner might umm…”
Luke retreats to the kitchen. It’s all very silent upstairs. The shards had been cleaned away quite a while ago, but Luke can still feel them crunching under his feet.
Hux haven’t glanced at his prosthetic hand, and didn’t ask him about it. There’s something unnatural about it, about Hux.
Luke can’t reach the shelf with the tea, so he gets himself a stool.
“So how did you meet Kylo?” he asks to shake off his unease.
There’s a brief pause.
“Father is the probation officer assigned to him.”
Luke bites his tongue.
I called my dad father as well, he thinks, but he doesn’t say it out loud.
* * *
When is a monster not a monster?
* * *
They settle in the diner. Rey is keeping close, lurking in the doorway, but she doesn’t dare come in. Hux has greeted her, and he didn’t take offense when she failed to reply.
He’s sipping on his tea now. Luke is staring and the ceiling. He’s wondering whether Kylo can hear them.
“What do you do, Mr. Skywalker? You’re no longer a teacher, are you?”
“No, I’m not. How about you?”
“Military Logistics BSc, two years on the field.”
Luke makes eye contact, finally.
“How old are you?”
“Twenty-four. You don’t know my father, do you?”
“No, not personally, no.”
Hux nods to himself.
“You’d know all about my achievements, then. In detail. Is Kylo’s room upstairs?”
“And he hasn’t come down since forty plus hours, is that correct?”
“I wasn’t counting. I’m worried, though.”
Hux puts his mug aside.
“The tea was delicious. Your partner has exquisite taste.” He pushes his chair back, and puts the cat down. “Did Kylo have anything to eat?”
“He had access to the fridge, but he doesn’t accept food from me.”
Hux bites his lips, and nods again. He dusts himself the best he can. Coughs.
“Excuse me,” he says, and marching to the staircase, he starts yelling: “Ren, put an end to your sulking right this instant! I know you can hear me!”
“Fuck off!” Kylo shouts, and Luke shudders.
“I’m going upstairs and I’ll pull you out of your own arse by your fucking hair!”
“Come on then, bitch!”
With a long suffering sigh, Hux starts taking the steps, two at a time. Dunn-dunn-dunn-SLAMM.
Luke remains seated.
* * *
The shouting comes to an abrupt stop. There’s silence, for a little while. Something screeches. There’s a thud. A moan. And then there’s angry music, far too loud.
“Come on, Rey,” Luke says. “Let’s take a walk.”
Rey jumps up, impatient. They lace their fingers. Luke leads her outside, into the starry night. They’re going around in circles.
* * *
“Luke... help me take this mask off.”
“But you'll die.”
“Nothing... can stop that now. Turn off these machines, and go my son. Leave me.”
“No. I'll not leave you to die in a hospital. They can still save you.”
“You already... have, Luke. You were right. You were right about me. Tell your sister... you were right.”
“Father... I won't leave you. I won’t.”
Anakin looked at him. His glance was tired. His face was deformed and burned, the result of the electronic fire. Luke kept repeating:
“I won’t leave you.”
He was holding his hand, a melted stud in his prosthetic hand.
“I won’t leave.”
* * *
* * *
When is a monster not a monster?
Oh, when you love it.
* * *
Kylo and Hux are sitting on the roof. Hux rests his head in Kylo’s lap, cigarette between his lips. He’s sewing his shirt, wearing one of Kylo’s tank tops, too big for him. Kylo is watching the flashes of the pin, mezmerised. When he notices Luke approaching, he waves to him, a small, uncertain gesture. Rey is flinging her arms, making weird faces at them. Luke smirks, and leads her into the house.
* * *
Ben was approaching them with slow and calculated steps.
When is a monster not a monster?
Oh, when you love it.
Oh, when you used to sing it to sleep.
* * *
The next morning is like this: Rey is munching on cereal, swaying her legs, hair up in a messy bun. Kylo and Hux are going through Kylo’s physics homework; Hux is deep into explaining thermodynamics, punctuating his sentences with the tip of a pencil. His left hand rests on the small of Kylo’s back. Luke’s making cappuccino, and hums to himself.
He takes a sip from Wedge’s second favorite mug.
This morning is nice and peaceful.
There’s no guarantee the rest of the day will be like this.
There’s no guarantee they deserve it.
But this is how it is.