Ahch-To is a planet of ghosts.
Rey didn't realise it the first time she was there, but it is. They're everywhere.
After Crait, everything seemed different.
General Organa still had a few friends left in the galaxy and a few secrets she'd kept hidden, a few favours she had left to call in; when the few of them that were actually still standing left the planet and escaped the First Order, albeit by the skin of their teeth, it turned out they had a new base to go to where they could regroup. Everyone who'd lived to fight another day came in, in dribs and drabs so they wouldn't draw the wrong kind of attention from precisely the wrong people, but their numbers still weren't exactly flying high and Rey knew no one had much hope left in them. She could feel it in the Force if she concentrated on it, but she didn't really need to - it was in the way their shoulders slumped. It was in the downtrodden expression on very nearly every soldier's face, everywhere she turned.
The base hadn't been used in years, maybe decades if you judged by the thick dust that seemed to coat every flat surface and some that weren't, at least before they started to clean and make ready. The base wasn't even close to being fully operational when the small first wave she was part of arrived there, not even the bare essentials - but they made it work, slowly, another new system coming up online each and every day through their combined grit and determination - maybe they felt defeated, but they were for damn sure going to survive it. And, little by little, they'd piece their hope back together like they did their new-old base.
Rey might have been carrying a lightsaber at her belt by then, though she supposed it was technically in pieces in a pouch and about as operational as the base itself was, but she wasn't too proud to get herself involved in the work where she could. All things considered, she wasn't really feeling proud at all; she'd made some poor decisions and she knew it, even if some of the people there said she'd saved the day and saved their lives. Still, she knew that whenever the general saw her, all she could see was her dead brother. Rey hated that, but she couldn't say she found it entirely unfair. After all, maybe it had been his own decision to sacrifice himself so that the rebellion wouldn't die with them, that day on Crait, but they all knew she was the one who'd led him there. She knew it. She wasn't likely to forget.
She worked long days because they all did, because it was necessary to get done what needed to be done. It wasn't even the ships that had their attention at first - it was all hands on deck to get the waterworks flushed and operational and the sewerage system recommissioned, waste recycling up and on. They worked on comms and clean air and the broken-down, degrading shield system, and Rey went wherever the mechanics' roster said she should, from scouring rusted contacts in the shield generator housing to oiling motors in the trash compactors to fixing crew quarters door mechanisms so people could stop just living on top of one another quite so much. Within five weeks of their arrival, sleeping in shifts on rickety camp beds and scavenged mattresses strewn over hangar floors, fights had started to break out, nothing serious, just petty scuffles, but they were grating on each other's nerves. They all needed a little privacy, it turned out; once they weren't sleeping twenty people to a shuttle bay, things started to calm back down again.
It was a shock to her, living shoulder to shoulder with so many other people after her life before that, back on Jakku. There were voices everywhere, even when she was working alone, even at night, first from the next bunk or the top bunk or a bedroll on the dusty floor and then through the walls and down the corridors, bouncing off the durasteel walls, once she was assigned her own quarters. She ended up next door to Finn on one side, which was fine because he was always down in the medical bay with his friend Rose, but Commander Dameron and BB-8 were at the other side and they were always talking, day and night. After the first couple of months, she vaguely considered gagging the commander and sabotaging Beebee's vocaliser. Another couple of months after that, it just seemed sort of normal somehow; by then, it would have been stranger if the two of them hadn't talked till Rey fell asleep and stopped considering a night in the Falcon. She never made it there, though. She always fell asleep before she could actually leave her bed, so she guessed it couldn't have been that bad. She must have got used to it. She was getting used to a lot of things she'd never thought she would, or thought she'd have to.
A little over five months passed after the escape from Crait. Finn was still keeping vigil at Rose's bedside though sometimes Rey dragged him out to find food, and Beebee and Poe started trying to keep Rey from feeling like she was all alone in the universe, like she'd left her home for the Greater Good that they'd likely never see. Not unless something changed, and soon, but no one wanted to be the one that admitted that was true. No one really said it, but the thought was always there because they weren't prepared. They weren't even close, and every day that passed, the First Order would be gaining strength.
A little over five months passed, and then the dreams began. She'd had a few of them since Crait, but not like that. Before, they'd been dreams about the deserts on Jakku or the forests on Takodana, sometimes the salt flats on Crait, and she'd be standing there alone with no one else around at all, not a whisper, not a trace. Honestly, she'd almost found it peaceful considering the din all around in the daytime and straight through the night, but then, one night, there were footprints in the sand that she wasn't even completely sure she'd really seen as the wind scrubbed them away. One night, there were footprints in the mud by the lake outside Maz Kanata's castle but the lapping water washed them out before she could even really make out their shape. And then, one night, there were footprints in the salt on Crait, tinged red around the edges so she thought maybe that meant they were fresh, or at least not ancient. There was nothing to erase them as she followed, but the trail ended miles from any kind of structure, out in the open, one final step then nothing. There was no one else there, but she thought maybe there had been. She just needed to find them.
There was no one else there until suddenly there was. One night, she went to sleep and she couldn't see anyone, she couldn't find anyone, running around the empty rebel base on D'Qar like there might be a person just around the next corner, but she knew someone was there even if she couldn't find them. She felt it. She trusted that. She knew she wasn't wrong.
She found no one that first night, or the second night, or the third. She found no one on the tenth night or the fifteenth or the thirtieth, but that didn't stop her trying. She'd wake up in the morning feeling ragged at the edges from the constant search and she'd be frustrated, and tired, so tired, but somehow it felt more emotional than physical. The techs she worked with most often started to ask if she was sick and in the end she let them take her down to medical and have the med droid give her a check-up, even though she knew there was nothing to find, just so they'd stop asking. It was sort of nice that they were worried about her, but physical health just wasn't the problem and she knew it. She wasn't sure, but she thought maybe it was something in the Force. That was the only thing that made any sense to her, even if it was kind of tenuous.
Then she had a new dream, and finally she understood.
"He's not there," the general told her, when she met her in the command centre the next morning. "You feel it in the Force, don't you? It's just a dream, Rey. He's gone."
But the problem was, she didn't feel it; she felt no such thing at all. Her dream felt real.
She dreamed it again the next night and the night after that. She dreamed it for the next thirty nights and she ran toward him but she always woke before she reached him. She called his name, she shouted it till her throat was raw, but the howl of the wind was so loud she couldn't even hear herself, she could only feel the straining of it. He never turned to her as she ran to him, not even once. She wasn't even sure he knew she was there, but she knew he was. She knew he was there, waiting. All that time, all those dreams, it had always been him, just out of sight, just out of reach.
She only saw Luke in silhouette, against the moon at the top of the hill. She only saw him through the rain, but she knew it was him.
And so, she said goodbye to Finn and Poe and BB-8. She went back to Ahch-To.
It was raining and dark when she arrived, the drops of water whipped up hard by the wind and making her face sting as they pelted her. It almost reminded her of the sand in the air back on Jakku, only colder, and she almost wished she still had her goggles, but by then she had almost nothing at all to her name. All she had was her clothes and her staff and two pieces of a broken lightsaber she couldn't bring herself to leave behind, even if she couldn't fix it.
She landed her ancient, dilapidated X-Wing right there where she'd landed the Falcon the first time and she hopped out into the rain to hike into the village, with Artoo chirping along beside her. He'd been around on and off since Crait, passing her tools as she worked, keeping mostly quiet like he missed his old master as much as she knew General Organa did. She'd sort of de facto inherited him, it turned out, since the general had C-3PO on hand and Rey arguably had more use for an efficient - if somewhat quirky - astromech droid than the leader of the resistance did. She'd kind of got used to him, too, and after a while it had felt sort of right. He'd beeped to say he wanted to come along. She hadn't protested. She'd thought she might need the company as much as he did.
She was dripping wet by the time she got there just a few minutes later and shivering right down to the bone, and when the caretakers came out and fussed around her, and bustled her into that same familiar, fixed-up hut and lit a fire in the hearth, and brought a fresh blanket, she was grateful. The only problem was, she didn't need to check to see if Luke was there on Ahch-To. She could feel that he wasn't; the only living things there were the caretakers and the porgs and the thala-sirens, fish in the sea, birds in the air, the plentiful plantlife...there was a lot living there for such a quiet planet, but Luke Skywalker was not there. Not any longer. It didn't make any sense. She'd been so sure.
She was disappointed as she lay down to sleep, and frustrated, and confused. She tucked the fresh blanket up under her chin over the clean, dry, too-big tunic that the caretakers had brought for her to change into when they'd seen how wet she was, and she knew it had to have belonged to Luke before he'd died. She listened to the rain on the roof and bouncing in the puddles outside the wooden-shuttered windows and she wondered if she'd wasted her time going back there after all, like the general had told her - but after thirty days, forty days, Rey had finally insisted and so General Organa had let her go. She'd let her take an old X-Wing on the provision that she fixed it herself on her own time, but Commander Dameron and BB-8 and Artoo had all come by to help her, too. She could see why Finn and Poe were friends; he'd been generous with his time and his good humour when he really hadn't had to be and who knew how long the repairs would have taken without his help.
She'd thought the fact that she hadn't dreamed at all on her way there since leaving the base had meant something. She closed her eyes. She pulled the blanket in tighter around herself, tucking it under her shoulders and her feet and her thighs the way she'd done back home when the temperatures dropped. She'd thought it had mean something but apparently, she'd been wrong. Luke was dead. The evidence told her that, even if she wasn't sure she wanted to believe it. And, that night, she had the dream again; she ran against the rain and she screamed into the wind, but she couldn't reach him. She thought perhaps what it meant was he was gone, though the thought of that just gutted her. She thought maybe where he was, he just couldn't hear her.
The caretakers brought her grilled fish to eat in the morning, with a large mug of green milk that actually wasn't anywhere close to being as disgusting as it had looked before, dripping from Luke's beard - of course, she guessed that had probably been the point of it, trying to drive her away. The rain had stopped by then and her clothes were dry so she changed and went outside and said thank you for the food and the clothes and the hut, as best she could when she didn't speak the language, and then she wandered. She went to the cliff edge and she looked down to the sunken old wreck of Luke's X-Wing below. She took a walk up to the top of the hill and she looked out over the sea. Then she went to that big, flat stone where Luke had tried to teach her and she sat herself down and she crossed her legs and she closed her eyes. She reached out with her heart and not her hands, the way he'd taught her to, just to see if she could.
There was something there. She could feel it but she couldn't see it; all she could do was fumble at it, describing the nearest limits of it clumsily, with the tips of her metaphorical fingers, with her heart, with her feelings. There was something there, but she couldn't quite grasp it. And, before she knew it, she opened her eyes and dark had fallen on the island. She'd spent hours like that, reaching out to something she could barely even touch. As she made her way back, she thought that seemed sort of apt.
She ate with the caretakers by the fire in the village, fish again and a few vegetables and a kind of strong herbal tea that made her eyes water at first though she found she got used to it quickly. None of it was any worse than the food had been on Jakku, after all, and she'd had it given to her, she hadn't done a single thing to earn it except arrive there unannounced, no scavenging, no repair work, nothing. So she helped to clean the dishes afterwards, scrubbing them with warmed sea water and some kind of natural soap till the drying racks were full almost to overflowing. She supposed that explained why all the cups and plates were stained slightly white in places and almost everything she ate and drank tasted slightly salty. She didn't mind. It made a change from the sand in her food.
She changed into the pseudo-borrowed tunic again before she went to bed that night and she stretched out, thinking she'd set off back to the base the next morning, as a light rain started to fall outside. And when she slept, she dreamed again. A sudden flash of lightning lit him from behind - it was Luke, standing there, there was no mistaking that.
But still he didn't hear her. Still, he didn't turn.
When she woke in the morning, she wasn't alone.
She was dimly aware of a figure by the window when she opened her eyes, human, not a caretaker, not Lanai, and much too tall to be Luke even if Luke had still been alive. The intruder's back was turned to her and quietly, slowly, she reached for her staff that was leaning there against the wall next to the bed, wishing her lightsaber hadn't been split in two. She hadn't known there were any other people there. She wondered if she'd been followed. She wondered if the First Order had sent him.
"You won't need that," the man said, not that that stopped her taking it in her hands anyway. He turned to her then, his hands tucked in neatly behind his back, his long hair skimming his shoulders, his long cloak swaying around his calves, and she frowned - there was a lightsaber hanging at his belt and the longer and closer she looked, she realised she could see straight through him to the wall behind. And he was glowing. It was faint, but he was glowing nonetheless.
"Who are you?" she asked, gripping her staff so tightly her knuckles whitened, but the steady way he looked at her didn't raise as many alarms as the situation probably should have done. She didn't understand, except the Force told her he wasn't a threat.
"My name is Qui-Gon Jinn," he replied.
"Are you a Jedi?" she asked, motioning to the lightsaber with one end of her staff.
He smiled faintly. "I used to be, a long time ago," he said.
"You used to be?"
He nodded. "Before I died."
"So you're saying you're a ghost?"
"You could call me that."
"Would you call you that?"
His smile brightened just a fraction, almost fondly. "Yes, I would," he said.
"But you're real."
"I'm not just imagining you? Maybe there was something in the tea last night."
He shook his head patiently. "No, I'm very real," he said.
She narrowed her eyes. "Then why are you here?" she asked.
"Ah," he replied, inclining his head toward her, not quite a nod, not quite a concession. "That's the question, isn't it. Why are any of us here? Why don't you get dressed and I'll meet you outside. We can discuss it there, when you're more prepared."
She thought she might have been on the edge of mustering a protest, but then he turned and left. To his credit, he didn't just walk through the wall like she'd heard ghosts did; he waved one hand in the general direction of the door, which opened wide without a touch, and he left through it, then he nudged it closed again behind him. She didn't think he'd used his hands that time, either.
She thought she might stay exactly where she was after he'd left the hut, maybe go back to sleep since the sun was still just at the point of rising, and maybe she'd pretend that the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn was just another dream she'd had. But, she left the bed and she put on her clothes and she went outside, so quickly she was still in the middle of pulling her hair back from her face when she got there. He was waiting, all neat, neutral robes and quick blue eyes. She hadn't imagined him. Not unless she was coming down with the virus she'd had once back when she'd been about eleven, the one that made her hallucinate green banthas for three days. Still, he didn't look much like a bantha.
"Why are you here?" she asked again, and he looked at her, levelly. The sunlight somehow made him seem more solid, maybe since she couldn't see the glow he had so clearly, but he was no less ghostly overall.
"We thought you might like to finish your training, now you're here," he said. "I'm here to help you do that."
"And if I say I don't want to?"
He raised his brows. "Then I'll still be here when you're ready," he told her. "You will be one day, even if that's not today."
She looked at him. She could feel him in the Force when she reached out, his presence strong and sure and clear but absent any sign or spark of life. He felt powerful, but somehow he felt oddly steady, and oddly safe. The general had told her once to trust her instincts, and that was all that she could think to do; after all, it couldn't hurt to give the idea a trial, even if she changed her mind within minutes. She didn't have to leave so soon. The rebels weren't even expecting her to call for another few days, at least, and General Organa knew where she was if she needed her.
"I'm ready now," she said, and when he came closer to her, when he rested his almost insubstantial hands on both her shoulders, she didn't flinch away. She didn't feel she had to.
"After breakfast then, padawan," he said, with a hint of a smile. "You should eat something. You'll need your strength."
Once she'd eaten her fish, the day seemed to pass her by in an instant. They went out to the flat stone and she sat herself down and she crossed her legs and as Master Jinn spoke, Rey closed her eyes and allowed at least a part of herself to drift. All she heard were the words he said and the sound of the sea on the rocks. He spoke to her about the living Force, about the here and now, about the moment, life and death, birth and rebirth, light and dark and how they all mixed into one. He spoke to her about the energy that lives in everyone, in everything, binding and uniting them. His voice was soothing, like the sea. She felt almost like she understood. When she reached out, she could feel it stronger than she ever had before. Perhaps it wasn't the teaching she'd expected, but she did feel like she'd learned. And maybe she didn't trust him, not completely, but she did feel like perhaps she could.
And then, at sunset, she stood and she stretched and they walked back toward the village side by side, the smell of cooking fish reaching them on the air long before they arrived.
"How did you know Luke?" she asked, as they walked through the long grass, the damp blades tickling her bare calves. She felt grounded in a way she never had before, almost like she belonged there, almost like she didn't need to ask, but that feeling was starting to fade; she supposed that was the point of meditation, to bring her closer to that state.
"I didn't, when I was still alive," he replied. "I died fifteen years before he was born."
She glanced at him sideways in the failing sunlight, which passed almost straight through him and made her squint.
"But you knew him."
"Yes. Quite well."
"Before he died?"
"Before he went into the Force."
"Isn't that the same thing?"
He raised his brows. "Broadly speaking, yes," he said.
She paused, considering what that might mean and exactly how confused she felt by it, and they walked in silence for a few more minutes. The sky darkened above them with surprising speed and the stars came out, in their unfamiliar pattern that was so different to night back home on Jakku, or wherever home was meant to be now that she'd left. She supposed she could still go back to Jakku if she wanted to and scavenge scrap to sell for food, or maybe she could work for Maz on Takodana or maybe persuade Chewie to add her to the Falcon's crew, but all of that was if she even lived through the fight that she was sure was coming. The First Order wouldn't stop and she knew it. Kylo Ren wouldn't stop. Luke's last stand had only delayed the inevitable, and the awful waste that that seemed stung at her darkly.
"Is he here?" she asked, as they neared the village. "On Ahch-To, I mean. In spirit. Like you are."
They stopped on the steps. They turned to each other. He glowed faintly in the fading light.
"Yes," he replied, steadily, and she felt his admission of it, her realisation of it, twist hard in her gut. She frowned. She clenched her jaw.
"Then why can't I see him?" she asked.
"He still has a way to go. He isn't ready." Master Jinn tucked his hands into his cloak. "I'll see you soon, Rey. I'm pleased we've met."
Then he faded out of sight as he turned and walked away, and Rey arrived in time for dinner, feeling oddly victorious, or at least somewhat vindicated.
Maybe Luke was dead, but it turned out he wasn't gone. There was still something of him left, and maybe that meant she could find him.
In the morning, her visitor wasn't Qui-Gon Jinn.
It was a female Togruta who was sitting on the floor under the window, shimmering around her edges as she meditated. Rey didn't think she'd ever met a Togruta before, but she recognised the white and blue montrals and the lekku hanging down over her shoulders from an old Imperial datapad full of planets and their species and their flora and fauna that she'd scavenged once, though in the end she'd had to give it up for food. She still regretted that, even if there hadn't been another way at the time.
"Who are you?" Rey asked. She pushed back the blanket and pushed up to sit by the edge of the bed. She had her staff in her hand, though she suspected she didn't need it; after all, who knew how long she'd had company while she'd slept.
The Togruta smiled widely and warmly. "I'm Ahsoka," she said, then she opened her eyes. "Ahsoka Tano."
Rey rested her staff across her lap and gestured at the lightsabers dangling at Ahsoka Tano's belt. "Let me guess: you were a Jedi before you died?"
Ahsoka shrugged. "Well, I was a Jedi once," she replied. "But I left the Order a really long time before I died." She stretched her arms out wide. "Do I look like a Jedi to you?"
"I haven't exactly met many," Rey pointed out. "But you don't look much older than me. What's a really long time?"
Ahsoka picked herself up from the ground and for a moment, as she did so, as she stood there and Rey watched, she changed. For a moment, she was forty years older, fifty years, maybe more than that, before she shimmered back into how she'd been before again. Rey was surprised but she supposed she ought not to have been; after all, the fact she was seeing ghosts at all was probably the stranger concept.
"Looks can be deceiving," Ahsoka said, with an amused kind of significant brow raise, and Rey supposed she understood; if she lived in the Force like Master Jinn had said the ghosts did, maybe Ahsoka could be any age she wanted to be. Or maybe the person she was talking to wasn't really a Togruta, wasn't really called Ahsoka Tano, but Rey didn't feel like she was being deceived. At least, she really hoped she wasn't. There was a lot she'd been told that she wanted to believe.
"Anyway, I'm here to give you a lightsaber lesson," Ahsoka continued, crossing her arms over her chest with a mischievous glint in her eye. "Do you want to eat before or after I show you how exactly how much you don't know yet?"
She smiled so brightly that Rey could feel a smile of her own threaten to tug at the corners of her mouth as she swung her legs out of bed.
"I'd say before, but I don't actually have a lightsaber," Rey said.
Ahsoka shrugged. "We can deal with that," she told her. "Go eat, then meet me back here after. I have an idea."
Ahsoka left - she pushed the door open with one ghostly hand as she did so, not like Qui-Gon's Force-powered gesture, so Rey could only assume that different Jedi - different ghosts of Jedi - had different kinds of styles, or maybe different powers. Then Rey washed and dressed. And, after breakfast with the Lanai, Ahsoka took her to Luke's hut.
"I don't think I'm meant to be in here," Rey said, awkwardly, once Ahsoka had pushed the door open - with her hand again and not the Force, though Rey supposed if she understood what Master Jinn had told her, Ahsoka sort of was the Force.
Ahsoka rested her hands on her hips, holding the door, that looked oddly like part of the hull of an X-Wing, open with her back.
"On the other hand, I think you should move in," Ahsoka said, taking it right up to the other extreme. "It's not as if Luke needs it anymore." Rey frowned at that. Ahsoka smiled and gestured to the desk. "I don't think he'd mind if you took that," she said, and Rey spotted something lying on the desktop, on top of Luke's neatly folded cloak. She went inside, thinking she might know what it was, and she was right; when she reached the far side of the room, when she picked it up and thumbed the switch to activate it, the lightsaber glowed green instead of blue.
"Mine used to be green, too, when I was still a Jedi," Ahsoka said, as Rey studied the blade, turning it in her hand as much as she dared and the limited space in the small room allowed. It felt different to the blue sword that was currently lying in two useless pieces in a pouch back in her own hut. The weight of it was different, and the distribution of that weight was different as she moved it side to side, one-handed. It wasn't better and it wasn't worse, but she was coming to understand that she hadn't handled a lightsaber that had felt like it was hers yet, at least not the way that Master Jinn had explained it should, if and when she made her own. None of them had felt that way - not Luke's then, not his father's before, and not his nephew's ragged red blade, either.
They went back outside together and Ahsoka led her away from the village, over the hill to a flat space composed of mossy old flagstones and stamped-down earth. They started off with footwork before Ahsoka even lit her blades or asked Rey to draw hers - she had two of them, hanging from the belt around her waist over what looked like very non-Jedi clothes, at least from what little Rey knew about Jedi. They practiced for hours, dancing around each other, breathless, Ahsoka smiling, telling her well done! or just like that! or keep your elbows high! and Rey felt alive, she felt really alive, exhilarated, almost overwhelmed, as she learned more and more. Before, it had all been instinct, but Ahsoka started to show her technique.
They took breaks when Rey could barely stand and sat cross-legged on the rocks together, talking. Rey listened as Ahsoka told her how many times her lightsabers had saved her life, or saved her friends', from all kinds of dangers.
"Always keep it with you," Ahsoka said, leaning over to tap her fingertips against the hilt of Rey's borrowed sword. "Don't lose it."
"Did you ever lose yours?" Rey asked her.
Ahsoka laughed. "Maybe once or twice," she admitted, sort of sheepishly. "And I lost count of how many times my master lost his." She turned to really face Rey, her ghostly hands settling on her own knees. "It's like a lot of things with the Jedi," she told her, meeting her gaze more seriously for a moment. "They had really noble, high ideals, but no one's perfect. I know I wasn't. My master wasn't. Luke wasn't. I think that means you won't be, either."
"Then what's the point of all this?" Rey asked.
"The point is to let the Force guide you, and to know we all mess up sometimes." Ahsoka gave her a shrug and a lopsided smile. "At least I think so, but probably we'll all tell you something different."
After lunch back down in the village and half an hour helping to clean up, they went back up to the place they'd been training and Ahsoka plucked the larger of her lightsabers from her belt. When she lit it, it was white.
"There's a story behind the colour," she said, turning it in a slow circle. "Remind me to tell you about that sometime." And Rey had to admit she was curious about the story, but then they fought.
The first thing Rey realised, when she had a moment to realise anything at all, was that Ahsoka was better than she was. The second thing she realised was that she was better than Kylo Ren was, too. She was probably better than Luke, when it came down to it. Rey could barely keep up, and Ahsoka said it was only meant to be a test to see what her skills and her strengths and her weaknesses were like, but it tested her stamina and her reflexes and everything else that she had in her, too, with each clash of their buzzing blades. Then, as Rey caught her breath, Ahsoka ignited her second blade, the shorter of the two. Her style adjusted to match. Rey didn't stand a chance against her; she was overwhelmed in minutes.
"Were you this good when you were still alive?" Rey asked, once she'd collapsed flat on her back with her borrowed lightsaber sitting deactivated in her palm.
Ahsoka clipped her lightsabers back onto her belt and she held out one hand to her, to help her back up. Rey took it and Ahsoka pulled; her hand felt surprisingly real, just surprisingly, eerily, devoid of any kind of heat or cold. Rey stood.
"I was actually better," Ahsoka told her. "I didn't have to concentrate so hard on not disappearing into thin air back then, though I guess at least being dead means I don't get tired." She narrowed her eyes mock-appraisingly, looking her up and down with a small smile. "But you're good, Rey. You could be really good."
Rey wiped the sweat from her brow with one wristband, grimacing slightly. "I don't exactly feel good," she said.
Ahsoka clapped her on the shoulder with one of her heat-void hands. "Trust me," she told her. "All you need is a little training, and we can absolutely help with that."
Ahsoka flashed her a grin, then she turned and she started back toward the village, training apparently over. She glanced back over her shoulder as Rey started to follow.
"You didn't think it was just me and Master Qui-Gon here, did you?" she asked. "Seriously, just wait until you meet Master Yoda."
As they made their way back, curious as she was, Rey didn't ask how many others there were and she didn't ask who Master Yoda was.
She had a feeling she was going to find out.
When she woke from her dream in the morning, Ahsoka was back in her hut again.
"You'll train with me in the mornings then see Qui-Gon in the afternoons," she said, upside down in a handstand across the room, her lekku dangling. "Does that sound good to you?"
"That sounds great," Rey replied, though even to her it didn't sound much like her heart was in it. Ahsoka gave her a look - at least Rey thought she did, but it was hard to tell with her head the wrong way up and her lekku almost grazing the ground - but she didn't say a word about it. She just kicked back up to standing, said, "From now on, breakfast is at dawn and we'll start half an hour after," then ducked out of the hut and left her alone. Rey hadn't gone for her staff in the whole time Ahsoka had been there. She told herself it was because she wanted to trust her, but it was more likely because she felt so distracted.
She'd had the dream again, though she upposed she hadn't expected anything different to happen because it so rarely did. She'd dreamed night on Ahch-To, a storm, a full moon, and she'd run up the hill through the rain and the wind, slipping, stumbling, grazing her hands and her knees against the ground as she fell. She was screaming his name and he was there, his silhouette against the moon, and she came closer, so much closer, but she still couldn't get there, still couldn't reach him. She'd woken with her heart hammering hard in her chest, just as the lightning struck. She wished the dreams would stop, now that she knew they meant nothing.
"Is it hard?" she asked Ahsoka, as they ran after breakfast.
Ahsoka said half the battle sometimes was physical fitness and not the Force at all, so Rey would run and train and work on improving flexibility. Rey didn't mind, at least not yet - the sun and the cool, salty breeze on her warm skin felt good. "Coming back, I mean. Is it hard to do?"
"Some of us struggle for years and don't make it," Ahsoka replied, jogging beside her. "I was lucky. I had people to guide me who'd already come back."
"You mean your master?" Rey asked.
Ahsoka smiled wryly. "My master," she confirmed. "And his master, too. And his master's master was the first, so I kinda had a head start."
"You mean Master Jinn?"
Ahsoka nodded, which wasn't totally obvious as they ran along the beach. "I mean Master Jinn," she said. But Rey couldn't help but feel like there was something she wasn't telling her. Still, she guessed there was a lot that she still didn't know. There was probably a lot that she'd never know, and not just because all the other Jedi who'd gone before her were dead, if not quite gone.
They ran, then they stretched, then they spent an hour with their lightsabers drawn before lunch. It wasn't a fight like the previous day, though - Ahsoka showed her how to move, where to put her feet, where her arms and her head and her hips should be with each movement, how to flow from one position to the next. She took her through a couple of beginners' sequences, turning this way and that like the steps of a dance Rey almost felt like she already knew, until the sun was high in the sky behind the grey clouds and it was time for the lesson to end.
"I'll see you tomorrow, bright and early," Ahsoka said, flashing her a smile before she faded out of sight. Rey had to admit she was looking forward to it. She could have stuck with the lightsabers all day, she thought, but maybe that was the reason why she had to change to something else. She knew the Jedi had been generals, commanded armies, fought in wars, but they weren't only warriors. They'd strived for balance and for harmony, so Rey knew she had to, too.
After lunch, Master Jinn made a reappearance, fading into sight as he made his way up the village steps. Rey wasn't sure if it was odd or comforting that the caretakers could obviously see him, too, nodding to him as he went by. She guessed at least it meant she wasn't imagining it, so she supposed comforting was the feeling that won.
"Is this how you looked when you died?" she asked him, as they made their way together, away from the village.
He glanced at her, his lips quirked faintly in amused surprise. "I had a Sith lightstaff pushed through my stomach at the time," he said, rubbing at the spot with one hand, "but otherwise, yes."
She could feel herself blush. "I just mean, it seems like Ahsoka is a lot younger than she was when she died," she said. "Can you look however you like?"
"Some of us can more than others," he replied. "This is the only form I can take, but I've seen my old apprentice take several. Ahsoka also has that gift."
"What about Luke?"
She tried to sound conversational about it but she knew she failed miserably. Master Jinn smiled, resting one hand on her shoulder.
"That's something we'll know once he can manifest," he told her. "When I said he had a way to go, Rey, I meant it. He's reaching, but he's still anchored in the other side. I won't lie to you; he could be here tomorrow or it could take years."
She nodded as they walked, feeling herself deflate. "Thank you," she said. "I appreciate you telling me the truth." But she thought maybe she'd have rather heard a happy lie instead.
Master Jinn spent the afternoon teaching her to raise rocks up into the air, with precision and control. They started with pebbles and she hated it - her instincts told her to grab the largest rock she could find nearby and tear it up and throw it as hard and as far as she could, but he had her raise a stone no bigger than her fingertip, turn it this way and that, make it travel a slow path through the air. They kept on until she was sweating and wincing, but by sunset he seemed happy with her progress. He told her so, straightforwardly. She felt strangely proud of herself, for the first time in a long time.
And, as they made their way back, he said, "Ahsoka is right, you know."
"About what?" she asked, though she suspected she knew.
He glanced at her, meaningfully. "You should move into Luke's hut," he said. Then he took two more steps and began to fade. She was starting to see that Jedi liked to make dramatic exits, but after dinner she did exactly what Ahsoka and Master Jinn had told her.
That night, she took the very few possessions she had left in the world and she moved into the hut that had belonged to Luke Skywalker.
The hut was the same size and shape as the one she'd been living in up until that point. The bed was in the same place relative to the door and the small windows. It was the same, except it was filled with Luke's things. What few things he had, at least - it was almost as sparse as her AT-AT on Jakku had been.
She looked over the things there in the low, steady light of an oil-burning lamp, running her fingertips over folded clothes and wondering what he'd worn the day he died, over the spines of books, an odd pendant hanging at the wall. This was all that was left in the world of Luke Skywalker, the great Jedi Master that she'd come to find there - twice now, she supposed. It was all that was left except the lightsaber hanging at her belt and whatever legacy he might have had - she hoped the stories wouldn't all be the tale of the rise of Kylo Ren and the end of the Jedi, but she had to admit that seemed extremely likely.
She leaned her staff against the wall and set her pack down on the desk. She'd left Artoo in low power mode back in the other hut since they had no way to recharge him on a planet like Ahch-To, at least not without dangerously depleting the X-Wing's systems, and if felt strangely lonely in Luke's hut because of that - she hadn't quite realised how used she'd been to chatting with Artoo at night before she went to sleep, like Poe did with BB-8 sometimes. She hadn't realised how she'd come to rely on the sounds of the other rebels around her, irritating as it could be, to reassure her they were all still living. Ahch-To was peaceful, but the planet of ghosts didn't exactly bring her peace. Not that night, at least.
She took off her boots and changed out of her clothes into the tunic she supposed was hers now, since - Ahsoka was right - Luke didn't have a use for his things, even if most of them still felt like they were his and not remotely hers. Her feet were cold and she rummaged, found a pair of tatty but clean woolly socks and pulled them on, figuring that Luke wouldn't mind that, either. Then she lay down in bed and she pulled up the blanket and she closed her eyes as she shivered before her body heat warmed the sheets around her. The bed didn't feel the same as the one back in the other hut, she thought. It wasn't uncomfortable, but it felt like it still remembered Luke's shape.
And, when she went to sleep, she dreamed.
It was the hill and the storm again, just like so many times before, and she ran, and she shouted his name, and she struggled; she could see him, the outline of him against the moon, and she thought he might as well have been as far away from her as that moon was for all the good her trying did.
But then, there she was. She reached the top of the hill, the rain in her eyes and her heart in her throat, and as she reached out toward him in the half-dark, in the moonlight through the pouring rain, the lightning struck. He turned. She saw his face and it was Luke but not her Luke. He was younger, he was so young - he wasn't much older than she was.
She slipped. She fell, sprawling backwards as she looked at him, bewildered. And, as she fell, she woke.
"What were you dreaming about?" Ahsoka asked, from her spot cross-legged on the floor across the room. "It didn't look good, but I didn't want to wake you."
Rey only managed a half-hearted sort of smile as she rubbed her eyes and then looked at her.
"It wasn't really bad," she replied. "I was running. Then I fell." She could tell Ahsoka wasn't totally convinced by that, but thankfully she didn't press. She just picked herself up and headed toward the door.
"There's someone I'd like you to meet," she said, with an assured kind of nod, and then she headed out. Rey's curiosity was piqued by that; she didn't take long to wash and dress and eat her breakfast, and then she joined Ahsoka at the village edge, and they walked out to their usual training ground together.
She saw him from a distance, at first, faint against the sky. The shape of his cloak that billowed like a sail was clear to her, and the upright way he stood, how the wind tousled his reddish hair. He had his hands tucked into his robe but he smiled as they approached and pulled one hand out for Rey to press in hers.
"My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi," he said, as he squeezed her hand in both of his, in greeting.
"I'm Rey," she replied. "No last name. I don't think, at least."
He nodded. He placed one hand on each of her shoulders - he seemed closer to transparent than Master Jinn or Ahsoka did but somehow just as real, but maybe that was because there was an almost human, almost living warmth to his hands. They really were all different.
"We all know who you are, Rey," he said. "You're the reason we're here." She grimace-smiled awkwardly, feeling a blush creep into her cheeks. He raised his brows. "Shall we begin?"
She nodded yes. So they began.
At first, Ahsoka helped to demonstrate - Obi-Wan was there to show her other things the Force could help her do, like seemingly impossible flips up in the air, high jumps, long falls, extra speed when she ran. Ahsoka jumped and twirled and somersaulted and then she took a bow and said she'd leave her in Master Kenobi's capable hands.
"Don't be afraid," he said, as he held out his hand to her, and something in his voice made her understand she really shouldn't be afraid. She let him help her up. "Start small," he said. "Jump just to that boulder." So she tried it and she overshot and landed in the grass just past it, but he was there to help her up again, ridiculous as she felt - he told her stories about how many times he'd fallen, as a youngling and a padawan. She took another try, and then another, and she learned how to gauge the distance and the power she required until she made each jump reliably, solidly, every time.
"You learn quickly," he told her, watching from a flat-topped rock nearby. "Luke did, too." He gestured to the empty space on the rock beside him and she put a little Force into her near-breathless sprint back to him, except that particular skill she still needed to master - she tripped and he caught her by the forearm to keep her from falling. She smiled sheepishly. He nodded like he'd maybe done the same himself, once, and probably more than that. She sat.
"Luke trained with you," she said, though she already knew the answer to her not-quite-question. She hadn't spoken with Luke's sister often, but she'd told her a few new things about him every time they had. She knew he'd trained with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
"He did," Obi-Wan replied, smoothing his ruffled hair back into its parting. "He started with me and he finished with Master Yoda."
"So you knew him well?"
"As well as anyone, I suppose."
She rubbed her hands against the fabric over her thighs, looking out to sea, then she glanced at him sideways.
"How did he die, exactly?" she asked. "Can you tell me what happened to his body?"
Obi-Wan raised his brows. "Hasn't anyone told you?" he said. She shook her head. He sighed. "I would have thought that was quite important." She hoped the look on her face said she agreed with that assessment. He clapped his hands against his thighs and he nodded, and Rey couldn't help but think that for all he looked like a Jedi, maybe even the Jedi General she knew he'd been from General Organa's stories, he was still just as much the strange old man who'd lived alone in the Tatooine desert. Rey didn't mind. She'd found she sort of liked that, probably because she was from a desert world herself.
"He went into the Force," he said, and when she frowned like he was speaking Shyriiwook to a Hutt, he followed that up with, "You know, I did the same thing. Your body dissolves into the Force. You become one with it, and with everything else. You disappear. And all you leave behind is a pile of clothes." He smiled contentedly, tucking his hands into his robes. "It's quite beautiful, when you think about it."
Rey did think about it. She thought about it as they sat there and as they made their way back into the village afterwards. She thought about it over a bowl of fish stew at lunch and when she went with Master Jinn for afternoon training, and he didn't seem to mind how distracted she was. He seemed to understand, so maybe Obi-Wan had told him about their conversation; from what he'd told her, Qui-Gon Jinn had been his master until his untimely death, so that seemed to follow.
She thought about it when she went to bed that night, lying there in the dark, tucked up under the blanket. She wasn't completely convinced it was beautiful, exactly, but she could understand the temptation to let go, having expended so much of himself. And she couldn't help but feel faintly hopeful as she closed her eyes to sleep.
There was a chance that she'd see him again, after all. There were things she still wanted to say.
She dreamed the dream again that night.
She ran; she reached; he turned; she fell. This time, though, she woke when the fresh-faced, blonde-haired young Luke reached out and caught her by both wrists. As she woke, he was looking right at her, almost as surprised as she was. But, when she opened her eyes, it was Ahsoka that was in the room instead.
She trained flexibility with Ahsoka after breakfast and speed and stamina with Obi-Wan, and then they all met together for lightsaber practice. Ahsoka took a seat on a nearby rock and Obi-Wan took off his cloak that faded out of sight as it hit the ground, and then he reached for his lightsaber. It glowed blue when he lit it, like the broken one in the pouch she'd left on Luke's desk, but the pitch of the sound it made was higher and the hilt wasn't even close to the same in design - it was more like Luke's green one that she had in her hands.
"Are all lightsabers different?" Rey asked, as they began to circle one another.
"They're variations on a theme," he replied. "The same but different, according to the Jedi who makes them."
"Like your ghosts are, you mean?"
Obi-Wan glanced at Ahsoka for a second; Rey seized the opportunity to attack, and their blades crackled as they clashed; Obi-Wan seemed pleased with her initiative. Then they parted and stepped back.
"It's a lot like that, I suppose," Obi-Wan replied. "We have different skills, different strengths and weaknesses..."
"Like how Ahsoka can change her appearance. Can you do that, too?"
"Yes," he said, "but I find it quite draining. And I find this form is best in a fight."
He quirked a brow and then he came at her, the attack different from Ahsoka's but she could see familiar figures in the way he moved. She could tell she was improving. Her movements were easier, her reflexes heightened, her stamina increased, and though there were times that she struggled, there were more times that she didn't. Her basics were solid, thanks to years with a staff and a few days with the ghosts of two dead Jedi.
Afterwards, they sat on the ground and Ahsoka and Obi-Wan whispered into the air till others ghosts came, fading into view, to show their lightsabers to her, too. The swords weren't real, not strictly speaking, but they were fascinating - some hilts were curved and some straight, some blades thick and some thin, some long and some much shorter. Some of the shimmering Jedi ghosts had blue blades, some green, and one was a bright, glowing purple that almost made her flinch when its owner ignited it and, for a fraction of a second, Rey thought it was red. Its owner seemed to know Obi-Wan and Ahsoka quite well, and clapped Master Jinn on both arms as he left.
Master Jinn's was a long, green blade, and she asked him if the colours meant something about the Jedi that owned them. He didn't say yes but he didn't say no and before Rey could push for an answer, Ahsoka jumped in to explain the colour of her own blades. She'd purified two corrupted red crystals, she said; Sith crystals turned red as their resistance to the Dark Side broke and when she'd healed those two, they turned bright white. Rey wondered if she'd ever have the skill or the strength to do anything like that, but the way that Ahsoka and Obi-Wan and even Master Jinn looked at her sometimes, she thought maybe one day she would.
She went to the X-Wing after dinner, took it up into the atmosphere and sent out a quick encoded message; she was too far away, both in strict distance and in terms of relay points, for any kind of real-time communication, but she let them know she was safe, and well, and she thought she'd be spending some more time there. She didn't mention names or places or anything that could give the game away, and she scrambled the point of origin as best she could with Artoo's help, then she sat there for an hour just peering out at the stars just above the planet's atmosphere while she received an encoded message from Finn and Poe and BB-8. They said they missed her. She hoped they knew she missed them, too, as she guided the ship back down to the surface.
As she lay in bed that night, she thought back over the day. She'd met the ghosts of more than twenty different Jedi - their names swam in her head, and their voices, and their faces, human and Rodian, Twi'lek and Nautolan, a Mon Calamari and a Wookiee even taller than Chewbacca. Were they the only ones, she wondered? She couldn't say for sure, but she didn't think they were.
Days passed like that. She trained with Ahsoka and Obi-Wan with and Master Jinn by day and at night she dreamed Luke in the storm on the hill, and the look on his face as he saw her, his hands around her wrists. She ran every morning, rain or shine. She lifted stones with the Force. She jumped great fissures in the island rock, one cliff to the next. She felt the Force inside her, but it wasn't enough. It wasn't what she'd come there for.
"Why do you want to find him so badly?" Ahsoka asked her, one morning, when she'd come back in from the X-Wing for another round of coded messages. "Is it just the guilt?"
Rey frowned. "I want him to know what what he did meant to me," she said. "What it meant to all of us."
"And what if I told you he already knows?"
Honestly, right at that moment, Rey wondered why she hadn't just turned around and gone back to the base where she knew she was needed, and missed, once she'd been sure Luke was dead. The question she'd asked had been answered, after all - he hadn't survived. General Organa had been right. Except, in a way, she also hadn't, and Rey had.
"I need to tell him myself," she said.
"Then it's more for you than it is for him?"
Rey jutted her chin very nearly petulantly. "It's both," she said.
Ahsoka nodded, seeming very unconvinced and Rey couldn't say she blamed her. "If you say so," she said, and then she left the hut - maybe a little petulant about that herself, because she walked out straight through the nearest wall. Rey still hadn't managed to get used to that. Usually, the ghosts just seemed like people.
Rey sat up on the bed. She was surrounded by Luke's things, wearing his clothes, sleeping in his bed, even using his lightsaber. She was clinging to the hope that she'd see him again because...what, exactly? Because she wanted to thank him? Because she felt responsible for his death, at least in part? She didn't know. She couldn't say. She wasn't even sure she'd told Ahsoka the truth - maybe it really was for her own sake and not for his at all. Maybe she was hoping he'd come back, maybe she was somehow pulling at him, calling to him, and all he wanted was what he'd wanted back when they'd first met - to be left alone.
She took the day off. The Jedi, her teachers, and they were good teachers even if they weren't the one she knew she wanted, infuriatingly seemed to understand that. She almost wanted them to disapprove and scold her for her lack of commitment to her training, or to tell her they were disappointed, but they didn't - they just left her alone like the choice she'd made was completely normal, like maybe they'd expected it to happen at some point.
They let her run till her legs shook, let her shout out her frustrations and tear down rocks into the sea. She lay on her back in the long grass at the top of a tall cliff, listening to the water down below. She climbed down to the beach and she took off her boots and she walked barefoot on the sand, the freezing water lapping at her ankles till she shivered from it and her feet were almost numb. When she was cold and tired and spent and ashamed, once she'd watched the sun set over the water and felt her insides grumble with hunger that had somehow seemed so much easier to ignore back on Jakku, she went back to the village. She gave the caretakers a sheepish smile as she took a larger than usual serving of fish. Somehow, in the three weeks or maybe longer that she'd been there with them, eating seafood at almost every meal, she hadn't got sick of the taste.
When she'd helped with the dishes, she went back to the hut, Luke's hut, her hut, whatever anyone wanted to call it. She tried to read a little from one of the books she'd borrowed before she'd left Luke there alone and sped off to Crait, sitting at the desk in the lamplight - she didn't recognise the dialect and she hadn't any other time she'd looked at them before that, either. What she could piece together from every fifth or sixth word made very little sense to her, and she gave up, somehow less frustrated than she was generally disappointed, and told herself she'd ask Master Jinn. If any of the Jedi she'd met could read it, she thought it would be him.
Her feet were still cold so she pulled on her borrowed socks then climbed into bed and pulled up the blanket. She didn't question the fact that she'd dream.
She ran up the hill in the rain and the dark because she could see him there at the top, even with the rain in her eyes and the wind whipping her hair.
She reached him. She reached out. She called his name and the lightning struck just like it always did, and she turned and she fell and he caught her, but the dream didn't stop there.
She went down to her knees on the wet grass, and he went down with her, his hands still tight around her wrists. She looked down and one was real flesh and blood and the other was synthetic skin over a robotic prosthetic. It really was him, just so much younger he was almost unrecognisable.
"Luke," she said, almost smiling, almost relieved, but Luke frowned as he looked at her, his blue eyes narrowing.
"Who are you?" he asked, and in that instant she saw he genuinely didn't know. Her insides lurched. This wasn't right. It wasn't right at all.
He let go. She woke. She felt sick. It turned out not every new development was a good one.
She trained with Ahsoka and Obi-Wan, after a brief apology for the previous day that they graciously accepted. Then she went to Master Jinn in the afternoon, as usual, and she asked him about the books as they sat together, in a lull between exercises.
"I know someone who can help," he told her. "I'll ask him to speak with you." And, that evening, he did.
She was sitting in the hut after dinner, in another of Luke's old tunics and a fresh pair of socks as apparently the caretakers had decided to wash her clothes for her, too, as well as providing room and board - she could only hope she was causing less trouble for them than she had on her previous visit. She was sitting cross-legged on the bed, looking over a few quick sketches she'd made of some of the lightsabers she'd seen, wondering what hers might be like whenever that time finally came, when a small figure shimmered into the room at the edge of her vision. She looked up.
"Reach for your weapon, you do not," the visitor said. "Trust me, do you?" He raised his tufty little brows. "Underestimate me?"
"I..." Rey frowned. "Well, none of the other Jedi here have tried to kill me so far," she said. "I meant no disrespect."
He nodded, looking strangely amused. He moved closer, leaning on his cane with every step, then he hopped up to sit on the edge of the bed. He was surprisingly agile for his size and his age, though Rey supposed his age mattered very little in the Force. He could have been eighteen or eighty, or eight hundred.
"Know when the time comes you will," he said, and he tapped the drawings she'd made with his cane. "Important the decision is. But the reason Qui-Gon sent me this is not."
He reached out and he drew the book Rey had been attempting to read straight across the room, into his lap. He set one small hand on the cover of it. He looked up at her.
"You're Master Yoda," she said.
"Your language tutor I am," he replied, with an amused kind of air to him. She took that as a yes because he definitely didn't say no. And, after an hour discussing ancient grammar, Master Yoda yawned as if it was possible for a ghost to be tired and he left her there, feeling in no way any more enlightened than she'd been before. It was going to take time, she guessed - she hadn't even managed to get a straight answer on what the books were, let alone what they contained. From what little Ahsoka had told her about him, that seemed to be exactly the way that Master Yoda was.
"Who are you?" Luke asked that night. His voice was half lost on the wind, and Rey woke up grimacing.
"Who are you?" Luke asked, the night after that. He frowned at her like they were strangers, and she woke up with a scowl.
"Who are you?" Luke asked her on the next night, too. He gripped tight at her wrists then he let go and she woke up, confused, and maybe almost hurt. He didn't know her, that much was completely obvious.
"What should I do if he doesn't remember me?" she asked Obi-Wan as they moved through form two, side by side. He liked to tell her about the Jedi he'd known who had excelled in each form as they practiced it, and she knew his example of form two, Makashi, was Count Dooku, a Sith and not a Jedi though she understood he'd been both over the years. She supposed it made sense that Ben Solo - Kylo Ren - wasn't the only Jedi who'd ever turned to the Dark Side.
"I don't think you have to worry about that, Rey," Obi-Wan replied. "By all accounts, you made quite an impression." Except the problem was she did worry, but she knew not to press further. She quieted her mind as best she could and concentrated on her movement.
"What should I do if he doesn't remember me?" she asked Master Jinn, after lunch. They were hiking around the island, using Rey's newly-acquired, improving skills to surmount all obstacles they found in their way, and she enjoyed it at least ten times more than the rigors of Makashi practice. She understood that knowledge of all the forms of lightsaber combat might be useful to her one day, but form two made it clear she still lacked a certain level of self-discipline - Makashi required a precision and control she didn't have, but she knew she was slowly training herself to acquire.
"Even if he can't remember you, he'll remember you," Master Jinn replied, enigmatically. "Jedi don't forget their padawans." Except she wasn't sure she'd ever actually been Luke's padawan. She hadn't been his apprentice like Luke had been Obi-Wan's and Obi-Wan had been Master Jinn's. She'd barely even been his student at all, but she wasn't sure how to say that out loud and so they moved on in silence.
"You have a question to ask me," Ahsoka said, inside Rey's hut that night, after she'd listened to Poe and Finn and General Organa up in the sky in the X-Wing, and once Master Yoda's lesson had ended.
Rey nodded tightly. Ahsoka sat down on the bed. She looked at her.
"What should I do if he doesn't remember me?" Rey asked, and Ahsoka hummed as she considered the question. She worried a seam in her trouser leg as she looked away with a frown on her face, like she knew exactly what Rey meant and what she felt, and Rey realised she didn't really know very much about Ahsoka Tano at all - maybe Ahsoka did know, but she didn't have much time to consider that idea before Ahsoka's gaze returned to her. It was serious, and her face was steely, determined.
"If he doesn't remember, you should make him remember," Ahsoka said, and she stood. "Any way you can."
Maybe it wasn't the answer she'd expected, but it felt true. It wasn't just another platitude. It felt like more.
When Ahsoka turned and left, Rey understood what she had to do. At least, she thought she did.
"Who are you?" Luke asked, like he had no idea but really wanted to know. And when he let go of her wrists, Rey grabbed hold of his instead.
"I'm Rey," she said, shouting over the wind, and she stepped closer so she wouldn't need to when she spoke again. "I've been looking for you. Will you come with me?"
She moved back just far enough to look at him as he looked at her almost like he was looking through her. He studied her. He flexed his fingers and made his wrists move in her hands. She could feel the pulse in one arm and the metal shifting under synthskin in the other, and he nodded, his eyes focused on hers again.
"I'll go with you," he said, but when she turned to lead the way back to the village, she woke. It felt like a first step, at least.
She dreamed again the next night, after another confusing language class with Master Yoda. She closed her eyes and she was on the hill in the rain and she led him down, glancing back every few feet to check he was there and he hadn't gone again. The first night, he did vanish - but only because she woke as she turned. The second night, they reached the door but she woke as she stretched her hand out to it. The third, they went inside; she led him into the hut that was his but also hers but also not his, past the X-Wing door where he lingered a moment with a quizzical look. And then they stood there inside, dripping rainwater onto the floor, shivering with their arms wrapped around themselves as they looked at each other.
The first time, she woke before either of them said a single word. The second time, she woke while they were still just looking at each other, like they were trying to decide what exactly came next and honestly, she didn't know, and it didn't look like he did, either.
The third night, it was clear that they were both still wary, but then Rey had absolutely had enough. She wasn't going to be intimidated by someone who might or might not have been real, who might or might not have been who she was looking for, but who was definitely soaked to his skin.
"I have some clothes you can change into," she told him. He raised his brows, looking her up and down rather doubtfully as he attempted to wipe rainwater out of his eyes on his sodden sleeve, which was singularly ineffective.
"They're not mine," she said. "They're...well, they'll probably be too big, but at least they won't be wet." She hurriedly collected one of Luke's tunics and a pair of trousers and passed them to him in a stack with a towel sitting on top, and then she started towelling her hair dry, caution and all of that be damned because she'd been waking with shivers every morning and she was not getting a cold from her dreams. He pulled off his boots with a squelch and started unbuttoning his shirt, and her eyes went wide as he paused and looked at her. She turned her back quickly, feeling herself blush. She really hadn't meant to watch.
In the end, they both changed. He told her when he was finished and then he turned to face the wall and she stripped off her soaking wet clothes and dried herself, and she dressed as quickly as she could while she eyed his back as if he might turn to look at any second, though she had no real impression that he would. Then they sat down together at opposite ends of the bed, barefoot and cross-legged and facing each other in robes that belonged to him but also didn't. He seemed so different from the Luke Skywalker she'd briefly known, and not just in the way he looked, though that was different - he was so much younger and his hair was so much shorter and fairer and his clothes hung looser, there was no beard on his face at all, grey or otherwise, and he still had the original synthskin cover to his metal hand, though it was scorched across the back. But he seemed different in other ways, too, like the fact the clothes he'd been wearing and that were currently in a heap on the floor were black and nothing like a Jedi's, and he wasn't fleeing as if speaking to another living person - to her - might literally make the sky fall in.
"Do I know you?" Luke asked her.
"I thought so," she replied. "But you were older. It's complicated."
"But you know me."
Rey frowned. "Well, I don't not know you," she replied, deciding that was technically the truth of it. "Your sister sent me to find you."
"My sister?" he asked, very close to suspiciously.
"Leia," Rey clarified. It wasn't until later when she realised that probably at that age, no one had really known they were related.
"So you know Leia?" he asked.
"Well, we've met." She rubbed her palms against her thighs, trying not to grimace. "You know, it wasn't meant to be this difficult. I only wanted to thank you."
"Thank me for what?"
"You did something for me." Her frown deepened. "Well, not for me, but I think you maybe did it because I asked you to. But apparently you don't remember that."
"You could tell me," he said, and that actually sounded reasonable to her. She opened her mouth to say it, like maybe you're dead would explain things, but then she paused.
"I don't know if I should," she said. "I don't know if you're real or if I'm just dreaming you."
"Then that makes two of us," he said, and he reached out and he took one of her hands in his, in his real hand and not the mechanical one.
"Do I feel real?" he asked, and he did, he really did, but that only made the explanation he wanted harder for her to give because how could she tell him he was dead? And then, she woke.
She dreamed him the next night, too, the same way as usual, except it turned out he remembered what had happened all those nights before and it wasn't just her. They steered clear of the thorny question of identity and talked about the dreams instead, about all of the other places they'd both been - Maz's castle, the bases on Crait and on D'Qar, the sand dunes on Jakku. Luke said he'd been to Crait not long ago, looking for a new rebel base with Leia and Han; they'd decided not to use it but he said when he'd dreamed Crait afterwards, everything had looked different, maybe older. Rey didn't tell him how much time had passed. She didn't tell him Han had died, or how. She honestly wasn't sure what she should tell him at all, but she didn't have to think about it - she woke up instead, on the bed where they'd just been talking, though he was gone. Then, the next night, she just moved on to the topic of Jakku instead. She felt terrible, side-stepping the obvious questions he wanted answered, but she had no clue how she should address them. So much for making him remember.
"I've only been there in dreams so maybe that doesn't count," Luke said. "People told me it was a lot like Tatooine, but I don't think that's true. The air feels different. The sand, too."
"You're from Tatooine?" Rey asked, not that she didn't know from conversations with the general and all the old stories she'd heard, remembering her old datapad and what it had said about that planet: canyons and deserts and caves, Hutts and krayt dragons. Luke nodded, and the next thing Rey knew they'd been talking for over an hour about moisture farms and twin suns, life on a Hutt-ruled planet and how sand always managed to get into your boots, no matter what you did to try to stop it. She yawned and he laughed and she apologised, then he retrieved a spare blanket and said he'd take the chair. When she lay down and pulled the blanket up under her chin, she slept, and she woke.
"I asked my sister if she knows anyone called Rey from Jakku," he told her, two nights later, after two more nights of conversations, planets, comparing notes on their shared dreams, once they were sitting on the bed once they were both relatively dry. "Or anyone who looked like you. The only name she had was Jyn Erso, but I don't think that's you."
"It's not," Rey said. "And Leia doesn't know me yet."
He frowned, but he didn't take it further; the conversation moved on instead.
"I'm on Jakku," he told her, four nights after that. "I mean, I'm asleep on Jakku. In an X-Wing near Niima Outpost."
Rey frowned. "Did you go there to look for me?" she asked, feeling her stomach drop.
"Yes, but nobody's heard of you."
"That's because I'm not there."
Luke paused, a faint frown forming. "Are you dead?" he asked.
"What makes you think that?"
"Well, a lot of people died in the battle, and I couldn't find you."
She smiled wryly. "That's because I'm not there," she said again. "It's not because I'm dead. I'm not dead. I'm very much alive."
"Then where are you?" he asked.
"I'm here." She gestured to the room around them, trying to make it clear without being too clear. "I mean, I'm on this planet."
"Then how do I get there?"
"To Ahch-To?" She frowned. "I can't tell you. But someone will one day."
"I'm sorry, I don't know his name," she said, actually sorry she didn't but maybe also faintly glad. "But I think he's your friend. And there's a map."
Luke shook his head and he smiled and he laughed, running both hands over his hair, exasperated. Honestly, Rey could sympathise.
"I think this might be the most irritating dream I've ever had in my life," Luke said.
"You know, it's not much fun for me, either," Rey replied.
He tilted his head. "You mean you don't enjoy these conversations" he said. "You don't enjoy my company?"
She opened her mouth to answer, or maybe just to protest that that wasn't what she'd meant. She was awake again by the time she realised he'd probably been teasing her. He really was different from the Luke Skywalker she'd known and the worst part was, she thought maybe she liked that difference.
The next night, once they'd dried and changed and sat down on the bed, she said, "I want to tell you everything."
"Good," he said, "because I still have no clue what's happening here."
"I want to tell you everything, but I don't know if I should."
She sighed. She raked her damp hair back with her fingers.
"Do you ever just know things?" she asked. "I mean, you don't know why or how, but you just feel it?"
"In the Force, you mean?"
She shrugged. "I suppose that might be it."
"Are you a Jedi?" he asked, like maybe he'd wondered before but not found the time or the words to ask.
"I don't know," she replied. "I think I'm trying to be."
His mouth curved faintly at the corners like an almost-smile, and he reached his hands out toward her, palms upturned, across the bed.
"Give me your hands," he said, so she did because she really couldn't see a reason not to.
"Close your eyes," he said, so she did that, too, mostly because he'd asked her to.
"Now reach out," he said.
"With my mind?"
"With your mind."
She did. She could feel him there immediately: she could almost see him, somehow, without using her eyes. He slid his hands a few inches higher and he gripped lightly at her forearms and so she did the same to him; she could feel the warmth of his skin and the blood in his veins and the air in his lungs and the edges of his mind, her consciousness brushing close against his. She could feel his confusion and frustration, and his curiosity, and other things beneath the surface, complicated things that she tried to stay away from, and that was fine because he let go. He pulled back. His hands left her wrists. All in all, it had barely lasted fifteen seconds, and Rey was more confused than ever.
"Maybe you shouldn't tell me after all," he said. She didn't ask what he'd felt in her, but apparently it had worked. "And Rey, don't ever do that with anyone you don't trust completely." His tone had changed. She believed him.
"I trust you," she said.
He nodded stiffly. "I know," he replied. The way he sounded, she believed he did know.
When she woke, she thought maybe that trust was what he'd felt in her. And it unnerved him, but at least now he knew she was telling the truth.
The next day, after a brief send-and-receive in the X-Wing, smiling to herself at the double-act of BB-8 speaking over Poe, she asked Master Jinn about the thing that Luke had done.
She did it in a round-about way, full of I've heards and someone told mes that weren't technically anything but true, and he looked at her as if he was trying to figure out why she was bringing it up and which of her vague explanations for the conversation made the most logical sense. She said she'd heard Jedi could look into people and see how they felt, not exactly like reading their minds but definitely like reading their feelings: was that true?
"That's true," he told her. "And it has its uses, if both parties are Force-sensitive. But you leave yourself exposed, too. You should only attempt it with someone that you know and trust implicitly." He paused and settled his hands lightly on her shoulders. "Be careful, Rey. People will try to use the gift you have."
She had a feeling he was referring to Kylo Ren, and even though she wasn't and the idea that Master Jinn thought she was was far from ideal, she didn't correct him. She really wasn't sure how to explain that she dreamed Luke Skywalker every night when she went to bed, and she'd just never thought to mention it to anyone. Besides, she did trust Luke, but did that mean Luke trusted her or did it mean there was a gap in his training, that he didn't know not to use that method to get answers from people that he didn't trust? Or maybe he'd gambled that she'd show him more than he showed her, or that if she'd been lying then she wouldn't agree to it at all. She didn't know. There were so many questions.
She dreamed him again that night, just like every night. He told her he was still on Jakku but he'd be leaving to meet his sister on Chandrila in the morning, when the sun rose, like it was a test to see if she'd send agents to intercept him. The next night, when he knew she hadn't used what he'd told her, when he admitted what he'd done and that he hadn't really expected her to use it, Rey brushed that off because she'd probably have done the same had she been in his shoes. Then she told him she'd only ever really been to six planets and she'd really only lived on one, that she only knew where Chandrila was thanks to an old Imperial datapad; Luke had lost count of how many places he'd been, on the other hand, and he told her about the tall trees on Kashyyyk and the floating cities around Bespin, the seas on Mon Cala and the snow on Hoth. She closed her eyes and lay down and let him talk as she imagined those places, and he stretched out next to her, his shoulder nudging hers, and that was strange but somehow she didn't mind it. Then he paused.
"Do you trust me?" he asked.
She nodded, her head still resting against the pillows.
"Yes," she replied, no doubt at all.
"Take my hand."
"Like last time?"
"Like last time."
She fumbled for his hand and he laced his fingers in with hers and then, when he talked, she could almost see the snow. She could almost feel the cold on her skin except then she could feel it, the flakes in the air around her and the wind biting at her cheeks, calf-deep in snow, and he was right there with her, holding her hand. Then she blinked and suddenly it wasn't snow, it was sand, like back home on Jakku except the twin suns were setting and she could see the little domed farm where he'd grown up.
"I used to think about joining the Imperial army," Luke said. "Or maybe the Rebel Alliance. We didn't have a lot of allegiances on Tatooine and I just wanted to be somewhere else."
He glanced at her sideways with a sort of self-deprecating smile, then he looked away toward the suns again.
"I just wanted to stay on Jakku," Rey blurted then, before she even realised she'd thought it, let alone thought about saying it. "I was waiting for my parents to come back for me."
She shook her head, smiling tightly.
"No," she said. "I don't think they ever will."
He squeezed her hand a bit more tightly, just for a moment, and they stood there, quiet, with the suns in their eyes. In the end, he let go, and with a lurch they were back on Ahch-To, back on the bed, side by side. Luke turned onto one side and propped his head up on one hand, looking down at her, and for a second she thought maybe the expression on his face was pity and a burst of anger flared up in her chest and cheeks at that, but then she knew that wasn't it. He was looking at her and she felt a knot of something twisting tight inside her, a flutter of something because he was looking at her and it was Luke Skywalker, he was a hero, he was her hero, there'd been stories about him even on Jakku. He'd saved orphans after the battle, they said - the other kids had hoped he'd come and save them, too. Maybe Rey had just wanted her parents, but the things they'd said he'd done had still amazed her. She'd almost hoped maybe one day she could do that, too. Maybe her parents would have been proud.
He ran his synthskin fingers through his hair and she watched it fall back down haphazardly against his forehead. She looked at the smooth spaces where she'd know there should be lines, looked at the stubble just starting to stand out on his jaw and the curves of his mouth as he caught his bottom lip between his teeth. It made her feel strange. It made her breath short. She swallowed, feeling herself start to blush, and her lips felt dry so she licked them. He watched.
"Rey," he said, and his voice sounded thick, and he reached out, but she woke just before she could find out if he meant to touch.
She was off her usual pace when she practiced with Ahsoka and Obi-Wan that morning. She was distracted when she walked with Master Jinn. She told herself she was shaken.
"Looking forward to sleep, you are?" Master Yoda said that night, almost like he knew the answer before he asked, and Rey realised what he'd said was true: she was looking forward to it, she'd almost been counting down the hours, waiting and anticipating and anxious and somehow dreading it at the exact same time.
Once she was alone, once her lesson was finished, she lay awake in bed thinking about it. She mostly enjoyed her training, found it satisfying and challenging and absolutely worthwhile, even the obtuse daily language lessons with Master Yoda that just seemed to lead in circles, but she'd been looking forward to sleep at the end of the day, every day, for weeks. She knew that wasn't just because her training wore her out, although it definitely did. The fact was, she'd been looking forward to seeing Luke. This new Luke, at least, this dream Luke who could actually stand to be around her without a scowl at the ready.
When she dreamed that night, when she pulled off her wet clothes to dry herself and change, she found herself wondering what she'd do if he turned around and looked at her. She wondered if he wanted to. She wondered if she'd like it. She felt a lot like she would, but she couldn't, she couldn't.
She pulled her wet boots back on and she went back out into the rain. Before he could follow, she woke up.
When she dreamed next, she was on the hill, but she stopped running. She turned and she walked away, back down to the village, and she sat in her hut with the lamp blown out and her back pressed to the cold metal door. When he knocked, when he called her name, she didn't let him in. She couldn't, even if she wanted to; maybe he was Luke Skywalker, but he couldn't possibly know what he was doing. There was just so much that he didn't know.
When she dreamed the next night, she didn't go back to the village. She ran away instead, into the dark as far and fast as she could with the rain in her eyes, her path erratic so he wouldn't be able to find her if he tried. She hid in a cave by the water, half-convinced the tide would rise and she'd drown there in her sleep, and every now and then she thought she heard his voice. She covered her ears so that she couldn't.
She went to a different place every night for a week - she hid in the wreck of an old rowing boat on the beach, listening to the rain on the wood, in caves, in her X-Wing in a low planetal orbit. She didn't want to see him, though she knew it wasn't really his fault - he couldn't remember her from the first time they'd met and that was even assuming he was real and not just a figment of her imagination. He felt real. He felt very real, but how could she ever know for sure? And, if he was, what exactly would that mean?
It really wasn't his fault. She hadn't explained because she hadn't felt like she could so there was no way for him to know who she was and the things he'd done, how he'd blamed himself for Kylo Ren and then given his life when she'd asked for his help. He'd been a different man by then, bitter and cut off and tired and maybe scared, not this other man who was so completely full of hope and life. He couldn't know how he'd felt about her finding him years later. He couldn't know she couldn't let herself like him because of that, at least not in that way.
Except she did and that was the fact of it. Sometimes, in her dreams, while she was hiding, she closed her eyes and tried not to think about what might have happened that night in the hut if she hadn't woken up - she tried not to think about his hands on her, over her borrowed tunic, or his mouth on her skin, or the way he looked at her. She tried not to think about them pulling off each other's clothes - clothes that would be his in another thirty years. She tried not to think about his mouth between her thighs or the weight of him on top of her, but mostly she tried and failed - she tried to pretend sometimes her fingers didn't slip down between her thighs or she didn't cross her knees and squeeze, one hand pressed over her mouth to keep herself quiet. She wanted to stop, but she knew that she couldn't. She wasn't meant to feel like this. She was meant to be a Jedi.
The eighth night, he almost caught her; she could hear him shouting her name and when she turned, she could see him coming closer, right up until she woke.
The ninth night, he almost caught her, too. She was running and she could hear him, she could almost feel him, except then he wasn't there and she stopped, she turned, and suddenly she knew exactly what had happened. She ran to the cliff edge and there he was, clinging by his metal fingertips, and he slipped and he fell and there were rocks so far below but she caught him, with the Force. It was a strain as she pulled, slowly, keeping him up in the windy air till she could reach out and grab his hands. She pulled him up and they sprawled in the mud, her heart racing and her breath hard and when they stood, when they looked at each other, muddy and wet, she knew she couldn't have let him fall, not even in a dream. She just wished she'd been able to save him on Crait.
He was looking at her like she amazed him and like maybe something else, and she knew exactly what that was. It made her cheeks feel flushed even in the rain and when he stepped in, she took two handfuls of the front of his shirt. She was scared, she was so scared, and there was rain in her eyes and soaked into her clothes but when he kissed her, she didn't care. He had his fingers in her hair and his mouth against hers and they pressed against each other, pulling at each other, hearts racing and stupid and breathless and she knew she shouldn't do it, but then she woke. She knew she shouldn't do it, but when she woke she regretted it had ended where it had.
That night, she led him down to the village and in past the X-Wing door into the hut. The rain was drumming down hard on the roof as she pulled off her boots and watched him balance on one foot then the other to get rid of his, too. He took off his jacket. She pulled the wraps from her arms. He took off his shirt. She dropped her belt to the ground and pushed her trousers over her hips and her thighs and her knees to add to the growing discarded pile. He unbuckled his belt and he stripped himself naked and she watched him do it, her eyes wide, as she caught the hem of her shirt in her hands. She took off her top, and her underwear, and she knew she shouldn't be doing it but the the way he looked at her made it seem better somehow. And who knew, maybe it wasn't even him, maybe she was making things up, maybe it was all just wishful thinking, and where was the harm in that?
He moved toward her across the room, looking almost self-conscious in a way she'd never have thought he could. He did it slowly enough that she could have made her escape had she changed her mind but she didn't - she watched him move, how the muscles shifted underneath his skin, the join between his forearm and mechanical hand as he flexed his fingers, the way his stiffening cock jostled between his legs as he walked. She'd almost felt like she should cover up before but right then she felt excited and sick and wrong and eager and she moved, meeting him not quite halfway across the room. Her hands went up to his bare shoulders. His went to her bare waist.
"We shouldn't do this," he said.
She nodded. "I know," she replied. She frowned. "But are we doing this?"
His hands squeezed at her waist. His thumbs brushed her hip bones. She shivered.
He nodded tightly. "Yes," he said.
They went to the bed, still damp, not really caring, though Rey wasn't sure if the way she shivered as she lay down was the cold or something else. He followed her down, moving over her, skin on skin, so close; she shifted her thighs apart and he went up to kneel between them and she watched him as he wrapped one hand around himself and stroked. They were going to do it. They were actually going to do it, and he moved to run the pad of one thumb against the lips between her thighs, to rub slowly against her clit as he shuffled in to run the tip of his cock against her. She bit her lip. She spread her legs a little wider and then he was pushing into her, slowly, slowly, the length of him opening her up as he gripped at her hips till he was all the way inside. He was big, thick, and she was tight around him, squeezing around him, her breath shaky, and then he finally leaned down. She wrapped her legs around his waist. She pulled him deeper. They both gasped.
He was still in her, hard and flushed and pushing deep, his eyes still trained on hers, when she woke up and shouted her frustration into her pillow. She could almost still feel him in her. She hated that he was gone.
When she came a few minutes later, one hand tucked up underneath her tunic that kind of smelled like him, she was thinking about Luke.
That night, she looked forward to sleeping like she always did, or maybe just a bit more than usual if she told the absolute truth. But, when she slept, he wasn't there.
When she dreamed that night, he wasn't there and she wasn't even on Ahch-To. She was somewhere else, only dimly aware that she wasn't really meant to be there because she was meant to dream another place, only dimly aware she was dreaming at all and that chasing BB-8 down a corridor (was it on board the Finalizer? was it Starkiller Base?) with Finn and Rose and Obi-Wan Kenobi wasn't totally normal. And when she woke up, she felt sick. She'd expected the hill and the rain and Luke Skywalker, like she had for months, and got none of that at all.
Ahsoka asked her what was wrong so she told her maybe last night's fish stew hadn't quite agreed with her; Ahsoka didn't look like she believed a single word of it, but thankfully she didn't pry because honestly, Rey wasn't sure what she would've said next. She might have tried to lie again and felt terrible about it but probably been no more convincing, or maybe she would have said I had sex with Luke in my dreams the night before last and now he's disappeared. Neither thing seemed like a particularly sensible plan, though Ahsoka's reaction to the latter might have been interesting to see.
She didn't dream him that night or the next night, either. She had normal dreams, ones that didn't involve long conversations with a dead Jedi Master from the past and instead left her feeling washed out and faintly belligerent, almost too much so to touch herself and think about him while she did. Ahsoka and Obi-Wan seemed concerned about her though Master Jinn carried on as normal, but Rey could tell that was a deliberate choice and he hadn't overlooked her change in mood. They all seemed to know, from her teachers to the ones she only saw now and then and the ones whose names she was sorry to admit she couldn't remember, and everyone knowing there was something wrong just made it feel ten times worse, even if none of them knew what the problem really was. Even Finn and Poe seemed to notice when they traded messages. She hated that she was so utterly transparent. She hated that she'd taken the dreams she'd had for granted.
She tried to ignore the concerned looks and she threw herself into the training instead. She practiced hard with her lightsaber in the morning and there was no time for dry jokes with Obi-Wan and Ahsoka. She talked with Master Jinn and former members of the Jedi Council in the afternoons, discussing strategy and battle tactics and the diplomatic protocols of different worlds, or else learning other skills - catching fish, making fires, rappelling, how to make rope. She learned whatever they'd teach her. They even called Master Windu to show her the lightsaber form he'd co-developed in a kind of exhibition match with Obi-Wan, Master Windu's form seven against Obi-Wan's somewhat less favoured acrobatic form four, and while she was watching, she almost forgot. For a while, at least.
"Can I learn how to do that?" she asked the two of them, when the demonstration had concluded.
Obi-Wan looked at Master Windu. "It's your choice," he said, and Master Windu nodded, resting one hand on Obi-Wan's shoulder.
"What better place to learn," he replied, and then he looked at Rey as Obi-Wan wandered away to join Ahsoka, muttering something about controlled environments and patterns of the Force.
"We'll start tomorrow," Master Windu told her, then he frowned at her seriously. "This won't be like learning the other forms, Rey. It will test you. It will demand a lot from you. You need to be prepared for that."
She nodded. At the time, she really thought she understood. She really thought she was prepared.
The next morning, after another night of normal dreams that she could barely even recall except to say Luke wasn't in them, she thought she was ready for training form seven with Master Windu. She went out to the training ground after breakfast and he was waiting there for her, alone, sitting on a boulder with his lightsaber horizontal in his hands, deactivated, on his lap. He looked at her as she approached, as if he wondered if he'd made the right choice in agreeing to train her in form seven, Vaapad, which she'd been told neither Obi-Wan nor Ahsoka had ever practiced - from what she understood, it could lead perilously close to the Dark Side. She probably shouldn't have been as intrigued by that as she was, but she was.
"How do you feel?" Master Windu asked her, when she came closer, before she could even unclip her lightsaber from her belt.
Rey frowned. "I don't know," she replied. "I don't know what you mean."
"Are you sad? Are you happy? Nervous? Angry?"
"I don't know. I don't understand."
"There is no emotion, there is peace," he said. "That's what the Jedi used to teach when I was still alive. Do you believe that? Do you want that? Do you have peace, Rey?"
Rey swallowed. She clenched and unclenched her jaw, wondering if this was meant as some kind of test. Most things were, she knew that.
"I don't know," she said, hesitantly, suspecting she was about to fail just by telling the truth. "I'm trying. But I suppose sometimes I don't feel very peaceful."
Master Windu nodded curtly. "Good," he said. "You'll need that when we begin." It wasn't the reaction she'd expected, and maybe it confused her, but it seemed to her that being a Jedi was confusing most of the time - it was mostly about managing that confusion.
That day, they didn't even activate their lightsabers. They sat together on a large, flat rock that had been worn almost smooth by the harsh Ahch-To weather, facing each other, cross-legged like in meditation. He had her close her eyes and told her all those things she couldn't let go were things she could put into her Vaapad practice, if she wanted to; she could draw strength from them, acknowledge them, come to understand them, make them work for her and not against her. And eventually, he said, she just wouldn't need them anymore.
"That's how it takes you closer to the Dark Side?" Rey asked.
"It will if you let it," Master Windu admitted. "You have to enjoy the fight and want to win it, and that can obviously be dangerous. But if you acknowledge the darkness in you and can put it aside once the fight is over...you'll have mastered Vaapad and come closer to mastering yourself." Rey had to admit she liked the sound of that.
The following day, they really began. Master Windu seemed to know all of her strengths and weaknesses in form already and they worked on those first - he corrected her opening stance in form three, caught an issue with a leap in form four that seemed to open up her flow of movement so much more once she knew how to lean into the twist, and he showed her how to add a little extra from the Force to enhance her natural strength when she used form five. She felt stronger and surer and steadier by the end of the session. Then, in the afternoon, when she expected a long walk or a long talk with Master Jinn, or a discussion of another battle from the Clone Wars, Master Windu returned instead. It turned out Vaapad would be her training every day until he was satisfied. It would have her complete attention.
She went back to her hut at the end of the day, aching from head to toe and peppered with bruises, and that was just from the morning session. The afternoon had drained her in ways she hadn't realised were possible - the constant stream of Force-use required had sharpened everything at first, made her movements hard and her thoughts clear, and then it had become increasingly more difficult. She found it harder to concentrate. Her arms and her legs felt sluggish, but Master Windu seemed pleased even if she wasn't particularly pleased with herself.
When she went back to her hut, she was aching and bruised, and when she looked down the hill from her window, she almost froze in place. Obi-Wan and Master Jinn were standing at the cliff edge, talking with someone who looked very familiar. Someone who turned and looked at her, his hair and his cloak swept back by the wind, but she realised she'd felt him in the Force before she'd seen his face. She knew who it was.
It was Luke, looking exactly the same as he had when she'd first met him there on Ahch-To, older and harder and greyer and twenty times more serious. Then he turned and walked away and disappeared into thin air. Her stomach sank.
The real Luke was back. There was no wonder she'd stopped dreaming a false one.
When she asked Ahsoka in the morning, she grimaced and said he'd been back in the universe for almost a week.
"I'm sorry," Ahsoka said. "He made us promise not to tell you."
Rey swore under her breath in colourful Huttese, but it wasn't like she could blame Ahsoka - it just sounded very much like Luke been back since the day she'd stopped dreaming about him. She wasn't sure if she believed in coincidences at all, let alone that that was one, but she wasn't sure if she wanted to find out. She just let herself assume that on some level she'd known he'd returned and so her ridiculous dreams had come to an appropriately abrupt end.
She tried to ignore him, but the thought of him was almost always there. In a way, it seemed to help with her lightsaber practice - she could let it all go into that, all her frustration and disappointment and embarrassment, because the first time she got close enough to him to speak, he looked at her the same way he had when she'd been on Ahch-To that first time, like he didn't want her there, like he resented her presence. She hated it. She wished she'd left.
"I just want to say thank you," she told him, awkwardly. "For what you did on Crait."
He looked at her, frowning, almost scowling, like he wanted to be anywhere but there, or at least like he wanted her to be. Honestly, she thought that was probably true.
"I didn't do it for you," he said, bluntly.
"That doesn't mean I'm not grateful," she replied.
"I'm not looking for your gratitude."
"You have it anyway."
"I don't want it."
She opened her mouth to reply again but he turned and he walked away. She didn't try again. It didn't seem worth it somehow.
Sometimes, she'd see him sitting down on the beach or on the rocks overlooking the sea or in her old hut, talking with Artoo, just briefly before he powered down again. Sometimes, she saw him talking with some of the others and she told herself she wasn't interested in whatever it was that they were talking about. Sometimes he glanced in her direction and it threw her every time she saw it because she could still see the younger man she'd known there in the older one, when she really looked. He'd changed, yes - his age was maybe more than double and he was cantankerous and cynical, but he was still there in the details. She supposed that was how it worked, if she'd made the whole thing up: she'd used the older Luke as a template to create the younger one, the one who'd actually wanted her there. The one who'd seen any real value in her at all. It had been a convincing fantasy.
The season changed slowly. The weather had been starting to warm for a while but then it was sunny, light on the water and in her eyes and there seemed to be more Jedi there, walking on the beach or sometimes swimming in the sea. She took her boots off and walked with them dangling from one hand, ankle-deep in the water, just past dawn or around sunset, before or after training. And sometimes Luke was there, sometimes with Obi-Wan or Master Yoda, sometimes alone, and she thought about going to him. She wondered if he'd even let her reach him before he vanished again. She never tried, so she never found out. She just missed him instead, though the two Lukes were so mixed up in her head that when she went to bed at night, when she imagined his hands on her, sometimes the one in her head had grey in his hair.
Some nights were mild enough that she could sit outside the village and look up at the stars. She didn't know which systems they were so she named them in her head, sketching out constellations that looked like three-legged AT-ATs or a sneezing Hutt or the Millennium Falcon's comms array after a run-in with a rathtar. Sometimes, lying stretched out in the grass, she saw the faintly glowing shapes of Jedi ghosts at the edge of her vision, and sometimes it was Ahsoka who'd stretch out next to her and they'd talk about stargazing; sometimes she knew the right names, but they made others up together.
Sometimes it was Obi-Wan and they'd talk about all the places he'd been or about Luke on Tatooine or about the day he'd met Luke's father. She knew who that was, of course, even if no one had really mentioned him to her before, probably on purpose - Obi-Wan called him Anakin but she knew that was Darth Vader. The way he talked, it sounded like he'd been a friend, once upon a time. The way he talked, it sounded like he was again. She liked the thought that redemption was possible, even if she supposed that wasn't true for everyone. She'd hoped for it for Kylo Ren, and she'd found herself bitterly disappointed.
Sometimes it was Master Yoda, telling her names of planets that he'd visited or that he'd completely made up and she never knew which it was until she turned her head to check if he was smiling. Sometimes it was Master Jinn, or it was any of fifty, a hundred other Jedi in varying shades of transparency, some not even there enough to make her hear the words they said, some not even there enough that she could try to read their lips. She asked Master Jinn if he knew which star was closest to the new rebel base; he said she knew, or that she could do if she'd just use the Force and not believe she needed to rely on her X-Wing's nav computer. So she did: she stood and she looked up and she turned around and around until she almost felt dizzy and she let the Force guide her as she lifted her hand and pointed. That was where her friends were - Finn and Rose, the general, Chewie, Poe and BB-8. They were out there, rebuilding, getting ready for what was next. She knew she'd have to join them soon, or else they might leave to fight without her. Even if her training wasn't really finished, at some point it would just have to be enough. And, if she outlived the First Order, maybe she could come back afterwards.
Then, one night, someone she'd never met before came out into the grass to see her. That wasn't unusual in itself but when she looked up at him as she lay there, wondering faintly when she'd started to feel so safe, when she'd started to trust and not just because she'd made a choice to, he was so bright and clear that it made her take notice. She sat up as he sat down. They faced each other.
"I'm Anakin," he said, and for a moment she wondered why she'd ever felt safe there at all. That moment passed. She made it pass.
"I'm Rey," she replied.
He smiled faintly. "I know who you are, Rey," he told her. "We all know who you are." He paused, looking at her closely. "Do you know who I am?"
She nodded. "Yes," she said. "You're Anakin Skywalker. You're Luke's father."
"I am." His smile widened, maybe faintly proudly, and he set his hands down on both his knees. "You know, Luke and I have a lot in common. We both grew up on Tatooine, both Jedi, both..." He held up his one gloved hand and when he pulled off the glove, she understood - his arm from around the elbow down was entirely mechanical. "And we both lost the same lightsaber. I know it's in two pieces but you still have it, right?" She nodded. "Has anyone shown you how to make your own?"
"No, not yet," she admitted.
"I could show you," he said, and he smiled wryly. "I've had to make a few. I didn't exactly take great care of mine."
She considered the offer for one long moment as she sat there looking at him. She'd learned so much from so many people and he was there with the others, the others hadn't stopped him coming there...she wanted to believe that meant something about him, about trust and responsibility.
"You could really do that?" she asked.
"Can we do that now?"
He grinned. He pulled himself up to his feet and he held one hand out to her, his mechanical one; she paused a second then she took it and she let him help her up. He seemed pleased by that.
"Tomorrow, maybe," he told her, her hand still in his. He was taller than he'd looked but not as tall as she'd imagined. She couldn't even imagine the helmet she knew he'd worn. "It's late. I'll find you earlier, okay?"
"Thank you," she said. "I'll see you tomorrow."
He gave her hand a final small squeeze, and then he turned and walked away, and faded straight into the air. She went back to her hut, and she tried to sleep. Excited as she wa by the idea of her own lightsaber, her thoughts kept drifting back to Luke instead; she fell asleep the way she always did, one hand between her thighs and a memory of him inside her head.
Anakin found her earlier the next night, just as he'd promised. They went down to Rey's hut and she invited him in - he stood by the door, looking around at all the things that were obviously Luke's and not hers, while she dug the pouch from her pack and put the pieces on Luke's desk. She looked at him. He came inside and came closer.
"He kept a box of spares," Anakin told her, and he dropped into a crouch to rummage through boxes underneath the desk where Rey hadn't felt she'd had any real business looking, and he dragged out a big old metal foot locker that rattled and scraped as it moved. When he opened it, there were pieces of all kinds of lightsabers packed away in there, some older than others, some scorched and some broken, some almost complete except for missing crystals. He pulled the box up, heavy as it must have been and set it on the desk. It creaked ominously. She didn't think the caretakers would be too pleased if it broke, whether or not it was her fault.
"First, you need to figure out what you want," he said. "Something simple? Classic? Lightweight?" She looked at him, completely and utterly clueless. "I'll leave you to it. We can come back to this again another time."
He left the hut and closed the door behind him and she peered into the box, no idea what she wanted because she really hadn't let herself think about it, not after those first sketches. Her own lightsaber had always seemed such a long way off.
In the morning, no one asked her about her meeting with Anakin, and she didn't volunteer that information either. She ran with Ahsoka and then trained with Master Windu, had her lesson with Master Yoda, and then, at the end of the day, Anakin knocked on her door and she let him in.
They discussed her options. He sat in the chair and she sat on the bed and he conjured different styles from thin air, turning them around for her to see. They did that for two nights, three nights, different lightsabers glowing in the air in front of her. He was remarkably patient, though maybe he teased her about it.
"Maybe go with what you know," he told her. "With what feels right to you." And that made sense, she thought. It had to feel right. It had to be hers.
"I want a saberstaff," she said, the next night, and he nodded with a smile. They found the pieces together, in the box and in his old broken weapon and in the one that had once been Luke's that she'd been using, and they spread them out along the desktop for her to look at, for her to consider. Then they slipped the green crystal back into Luke's saber and they left if just one more night, so she could be sure.
"Hold out your hand," he said, the next night, standing there behind her, when she hadn't changed her mind. "Concentrate. You know how the pieces fit, Rey. Let the Force guide you."
She did. The pieces slid together in the air and she felt them clicking into place. It felt right.
When she took it in her hands and turned it on, one blade glowed blue and the other green. And maybe the crystals hadn't chosen her the way they'd chosen Luke or Anakin, but she'd chosen them. The weapon felt like it was hers.
In the morning, when she went out to practice, Master Windu raised his brows and said, "That's new." What he didn't say was that she couldn't use it, though, so she used it. It felt right. Using it, she felt more like herself than she ever had just using Luke's or Anakin's old swords, and maybe she wasn't better immediately but that happened soon and after dinner, she met Anakin on top of the hill. He was already sprawling in the long grass, enjoying the stars.
"How did you like it?" he asked, as she dropped down beside him, and honestly, she couldn't say enough good things about it. They worked on the blades a little after that, shortening them down to the exact length of her own staff, making it fit her exactly the right way. He knew what he was doing - he told her he liked to think the Force had helped him with mechanics, like when he'd built Threepio or his own mechno-arm. He said maybe the Force was why she was good with technology, too. She supposed maybe that was true.
They made minor adjustments each night for the next three days, until the saberstaff felt exactly right when she held it in her hands. She could use it as a single-bladed sword and the lengthened grip made that strangely easier somehow, or she could extend both blades and fight with it almost like the quarterstaff that she'd been used to all those years. Master Windu showed her how to make the best use of it, how to handle it, how to catch her opponents off guard, and every time they fought, she knew that she enjoyed the fight. She was good at it. She was really good, the way Ahsoka had promised she would be, right back on the day they'd met.
After that, sometimes Ahsoka joined them at night and they all sat together. There was still a kind of tension lingering between Ahsoka and Anakin, and Ahsoka explained why; she'd been his padawan before she'd left the Jedi and forgiving him or moving past the things he'd done had been a lengthy road. Anakin didn't talk about the years after his fall, not really, just the occasional oblique reference that only clicked into place in Rey's head hours after the fact, as she lay in bed. Mostly, he talked about Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan, and Luke, and once or twice he mentioned his mother, his wife, the life he'd lived as a Jedi. She didn't need him to say the words to know if either of them had asked, he'd have left the Jedi in a heartbeat.
Sometimes, Obi-Wan joined them. Rey didn't need to ask to know there was a kind of affection there between Anakin and Obi-Wan, something more than a master and a padawan, but Anakin told her about that anyway - he only spoke about Mustafar once, but what he told her was how ashamed he was that he'd ever put Obi-Wan in that position. He told her how he should've known what he was doing was wrong by the look on his master's face. The way he spoke, Rey almost felt like that was the thing that he regretted most of all - not any of the lives he'd taken, not the Empire, not even Alderaan. What he regretted was Padmé, and Obi-Wan. She wondered if his grandson would ever feel regrets that way.
Sometimes, they talked about Luke. It almost seemed like Anakin was able to read between the lines of the things she said to see the things she couldn't say; he didn't seem to judge, not like she thought some of the others might, but she supposed that made sense, considering the fact that he'd married against the Jedi code. She took a breath and told him she'd dreamed him, for months, and then nothing. He told her he understood. She honestly believed he did.
She picked up messages from the base every few days. Rose had finally woken up and Poe had been flying missions, or so the codewords said; things were happening, and she knew it wouldn't be long until she had to leave but she felt like maybe, just maybe, she'd actually find she was prepared. She finished a lesson with Master Windu, finished a lesson with Master Yoda, and went out into the field; Anakin was already there, waiting, when she arrived with her saberstaff hanging at her belt.
He took out his own lightsaber and he activated activated it in a pale blue glow. It was a perfect replica of the lightsaber she'd broken and of one of the crystals in her saberstaff and when he beckoned, she turned on both blades of her own. He smiled toothily as he settled into his opening stance. She couldn't help but smile back, even as it started to rain. That was just how Ahch-To was and honestly, after years living in a desert, she'd found she liked the rain.
"So, Master Windu's been teaching you Vaapad," he said, as they traded a few initial blows. They'd never fought before and honestly, Rey found it strangely exciting.
"He's been trying to, at least," she replied. "I don't know if he's completely succeeding, but I've got better."
"You know, I wasn't allowed to learn it," Anakin told her. "They thought I was too close to the Dark Side of the Force." He smiled wryly. He shrugged. "I mean, they weren't wrong."
He brought his saber down against hers from above his head, the sudden blow harder than any other that she'd felt, and it strained her arms to block the strength of it. Then he whirled away as she frowned, a sick feeling in her stomach. "I learned later. Do you want to try your Vaapad against my Juyo?"
She didn't. In that moment, she really didn't. But he came at her, strongly, quickly, the shift in forms obvious now she knew where to look. She dodged left and his blade narrowly missed her cheek. She rolled; the rain came down harder, on her skin, darkening her clothes in spots and then patches. He looked darker. He looked like something awful was clawing its way out.
"Are you angry, Rey?" he asked, whirling away. "Do you feel that?"
"No," she replied, as lightning crackled in the sky up above, but she knew she was lying.
"Your parents left you on Jakku. Aren't you angry about that?"
"What about Devi and Strunk? Weren't you angry when they took the ship you'd spent so long repairing?"
"What about Han? What about Luke? They left you. Now you're here all alone and he won't even talk to you. You think he wants you to leave. Aren't you angry, Rey?"
He smirked, raining blows she could barely deflect. "I know you are. I can feel it. You can use that."
"I don't want to."
"Are you afraid? You can use that, too."
"I don't want to!"
She pushed at him with the Force and as he skidded back, his heels digging into the wet ground, he laughed. He stepped forward and she watched his blue blade bloom through purple into red. She watched his face change, his eyes.
"The Dark Side feeds on your emotions, Rey," he said, and he swung his red blade, and she caught it against her blue one that had been his, once. "I can feel it in you, like it's in me. There's so much power there. You're weak. Just take it. Take if and you can defeat Ren and you'll tear down the First Order. It's right there, Rey, if you just let go."
He was right and she knew it. She could feel that dark spot in her just like Master Windu said there was in everyone and it pulled at her, it was right there, and she could see all the things she'd be able to do if she just drew on it. It would have been so easy, she thought, just use a little bit, enough to kill Kylo Ren, enough to win...Anakin could show her how because he'd come back from it, hadn't he? Except there he was in the rain that hissed against their blades, his eyes strange and his saber bright red.
"No," she said. "No." And she stumbled back. "I won't." And she turned and she ran and he let her go. She fled into her hut and she fell down on her knees, sick, soaked, tears stinging in her eyes. She'd been tempted. She really had. But then she wasn't alone anymore, but it wasn't Anakin.
"They want you to know you passed your trial," Ahsoka said, as she sat down on the edge of the bed. "I want you to know you don't have to be a Jedi or a Sith to know the Force." She paused. "And Anakin...he wants you to know he's sorry for what he did. That isn't him. Not anymore. He was your final test."
Rey didn't reply, and in the end Ahsoka faded.
The only person she wanted there was Luke. But Luke wanted her gone, because he didn't remember.
They left her alone for three days.
She had a lot to think about - she'd done enough for the others to call her a Jedi Knight, but she thought about Anakin and she thought about Luke and maybe she was ready but she also knew the things she'd felt were almost overwhelming. There was no peace, there was emotion. That was far from being the Jedi way.
On the fourth day, she left the hut. She found Anakin sitting there on the ground outside, leaning against the wall next to Ahsoka, but all Rey could do was look at them blankly as she walked by, on her way up to the training ground with her lightsaber hanging at her belt. She'd thought about dismantling it and starting again from scratch, and she'd tripped the box of parts out all over the floor - she'd turned the pieces in the air in front of her with the Force, studying them, examining them, but nothing had called to her like the rugged grip of her saberstaff that she'd wrapped with a coarse leather strap to make it even easier for her to handle. And, in the end, she knew she might have been disappointed by Anakin because she'd thought - she'd really believed - he was her friend, but that didn't mean she hated him. She didn't need to forget him so badly that destroying what he'd helped her make was necessary.
"We wondered if we'd see you again," Master Windu said, when she arrived.
She activated both of her blades, so he did the same with his single one.
"I need to finish my training," she replied. He didn't try to argue that she'd passed her trial so her training was officially over, because they both knew that wasn't what she'd meant. He still had things to teach her about Vaapad. She still had a desire to learn and she was going to beat Kylo Ren fair and square. And, when the lesson began, she told herself she didn't care that Luke was watching, at least no more than she cared that Anakin was. She told herself she hadn't been imagining Luke at night for weeks.
She spoke to Ahsoka that evening but she didn't have a clue what to say to Ahsoka's old master, if anything. She spoke to Obi-Wan the next morning, but she carefully avoided the topic of his old padawan. She spoke to Masters Jinn and Yoda the next day but still didn't speak to Anakin; she saw him, though, sitting on the village steps with Luke. It was strange, seeing them together, father and son, when Anakin looked so much younger than Luke did - but, then again, she knew Luke had lived to be older than his father ever had. When they both turned to look at her, first Anakin and then Luke, she walked away. The sad truth of it was one of them she didn't want to speak to, at least not yet, and the other didn't want to speak to her.
One thing she learned after that was something no one had actually planned to teach her because, it seemed, they'd all taken it for granted that she knew. She was speaking to Ahsoka one afternoon when she saw a Nautolan Jedi walk up onto the beach out of the sea and really, it was just a throwaway statement, something about wondering how swimming must feel. Ahsoka looked at her as if she'd just asked what breathing felt like and Rey had to explain that really, swimming hadn't been something they did much on Jakku, given sand as far as the eye could see. So Ahsoka yelled to the Nautolan and went to find Obi-Wan and the next thing Rey knew, everyone had stripped half naked and ushered her into the water in the warm afternoon sun.
The Nautolan said his name was Kit and he tried to teach her for a start, except Nautolan anatomy didn't quite translate to human, at least not in terms of movement in the water. Ahsoka tried but it just didn't seem to take, at least not past floating, though Rey found she rather liked that. So Obi-Wan tried, patiently, showing her every movement, and Rey tried to ignore how many others there were around them as she painstakingly replicated everything he did. Masters Yoda and Jinn and Windu were sitting cross-legged on the beach in meditation and some others were swimming or stretched out on the sand under the summer sun that Rey really didn't mind because it wasn't even close to the heat or the brightness back on Jakku. Others were walking, deep in conversation, and she pretended she didn't notice Luke sitting with Anakin on the rocks nearby, not really speaking, just looking out to sea.
In a couple of hours, she'd got the hang of the basics and was swimming around the little sheltered bay with Ahsoka while Obi-Wan floated on his back. It turned out she liked it - she'd never seen so much water in one place as on Ahch-To and she remembered how she'd thought that about the lake on Takodana, too. She liked the way the sun shone on the ripples because it wasn't like the ripples of heat on the dunes back on Jakku. She liked the water all around her because it didn't remind her of getting half-buried in warm sand when a bank gave way. She liked how it felt against her skin and the smell of salt in the air and just when she felt calmer than she had in months, definitely than she had in days, that was when it happened. The current pulled her under.
She kicked for the surface but nothing seemed to happen. She reached out with the Force but she only found herself pulled deeper down. She wasn't sure what was worse when she breathed in, suffocating in the sand or drowning in the water, and she thrashed against it till she wasn't sure she could keep going any more. Her vision dimmed. Her limbs felt heavy. There was nothing she could do.
Except the next thing she knew, she was coughing up water on the beach and her lungs ached and her eyes stung and everything was spinning all around her, like she still wasn't sure which way was up. And when she touched her fingertips to her forehead, they came away bloody.
"You hit your head," Ahsoka said, then she was off the ground, she was being carried, and her head hurt and she coughed and it was agony. But it wasn't Kit who was carrying her because he hadn't been the one who'd saved her. It wasn't Obi-Wan, either. When she could focus, she could see it was Luke; he was soaked from head to toe, his hair and his beard and his clothes all dripping wet for a moment before his ghost form shimmered at the edges and he was dry again, except for the places her body touched. He carried her. Luke had saved her life, and she couldn't speak to thank him. She lost consciousness again soon after.
When she woke next, Ahsoka was helping her out of the wet clothes she'd been swimming in and Luke was there, standing with his back turned in such a familiar way that it made Rey's chest feel tight. When she woke after that, she was lying in bed in her hut, dry but sick and throbbing, and Luke was there brushing back her wet hair to get to the cut. When she woke again, Luke was stitching her gashed forehead with hands seeming ten times steadier than the expression on his face was. When she woke again, he was sitting there next to her on the edge of the bed. She was shivering; he wrapped the blanket tighter in around her. For a second, as her eyes closed, as she drifted off, she almost thought she felt his lips press to her forehead, but that really couldn't have been.
When she woke next, there he was, except it wasn't him. It was him but it was the other him, her him, the younger him. He was there for the first time in weeks. He was looking at her. Her eyes went wide.
She knew she was dreaming but her head still hurt and everything was fuzzy at the edges and nothing quite looked right. It made pushing the sheets back difficult, never mind standing, but she pulled herself up and then he was there, striding across the room to meet her as she stumbled, groggy, his hands on her arms to steady her. He looked worried; he brushed back her hair with one hand and he peered at the small row of stitches at her forehead but she didn't care about that, not at all. She wrapped her arms around him, tight.
"Rey," he said, like there was something he wanted to say to her and it was a lot more than just her name, but she didn't want to talk. She was just so relieved, and so giddy, and so dizzy and so sick, reeling, and she didn't know what else to do but kiss him. She pressed her mouth to his, hotly, and he pulled back but it was just for an instant before he was back again and he was kissing her, his mouth was on hers and his hands were on her, too, the nape of her neck and the small of her back. She'd been thinking about him like that since that last time, that last dream, trying to tell herself it didn't matter, but it did matter.
"I've missed you," she told him, feeling the room spinning, feeling her cheeks flushed as his mouth dipped down to the side of her neck. "I wish you didn't hate me when you're older. I wish you were real."
"I don't hate you," he mumbled, against her skin, and her breath caught as she pushed him back, as she pushed him up against the back of the door. She leaned against him, one hand against the metal door and one hand against his chest, moving down, between his thighs as she kissed his jaw, as she kissed the corner of his mouth, his neck, the V of skin left bare by the collar of his shirt. Her heart was racing as she unbuckled his belt one-handed with his fingers in her hair and the next thing she knew she had him in her hand, her fingers curled around him, feeling him thicken and stiffen against her palm as she stroked him slowly. He took a sharp breath. He stifled a groan with the back of his synthskin hand. She shoved his trousers down over his hips. She'd missed him, and every night she'd wanted this.
He moved then. He took her by both arms and he turned her, quickly, so quickly that the room seemed to tilt and she found herself pushed back against the chilly metal door. He hitched up her tunic with both of his hands, dragging the coarse fabric up over her thighs along with his nails, and she shivered, her breath unsteady, her head wheeling. His fingers dipped down, and he huffed a breath out against her collarbone as she hitched one calf up over the back of his, and he rubbed against her, the length of him between her thighs, against her lips. He was so close and she wanted it, just a quick change of angle and a shift of his hips and he'd be pushing up inside her, filling her, making her gasp, but he didn't. He just took a deep, shuddering breath against the crook of her neck instead.
"I can't do this," he said.
She frowned, her fingers going tight in the back of his shirt. "I don't understand."
He stepped back. He shook his head. He pulled up his trousers and he buckled his belt. He ran his hands over his hair, and she just leaned there against the door, slumping, feeling the room spin around her.
"Why?" she asked, confused, so confused, and so bitterly disappointed. "Because you're a Jedi?"
"Because you still think you're dreaming," he said, and he could barely even look at her as he shimmered, as he blurred in front of her. For one stomach-lurching second she could almost see two of him standing there, till the images she was seeing blended and sharpened and resolved into one. He was older then, long-haired and his face was lined, and all at once she understood.
"I'm not dreaming," she said, and he looked at her sharply. "You remember."
"I always did," he told her, he admitted, and the idea of it twisted in her, soared up in her, but when she reached for him he was already gone. All she could do was drag herself back to bed and try to pretend she didn't know what she now knew. All she could do was pretend she didn't feel sick and turned around and tipped over, because everything she'd convinced herself wasn't real really was.
When she woke the next day, he was still there, his hand pressed to the mattress just to the side of hers but she couldn't quite make herself touch him, even though she thought she maybe wanted to. He wasn't looking at her. His back was turned.
"You know, I came here looking for you," she said, her tongue feeling thick and her throat still raw.
He nodded. "I know," he said.
"I talked to Ahsoka. She told me." He sighed. His hand shifted just a fraction, so, so close to hers. "You shouldn't have come back here."
"You wanted me to stay away?"
"For your own good, yes."
"Not for yours?"
Luke glanced at her over his shoulder and he smiled, wryly, just a twist of his lips before he looked away again. "I'm dead," he said. "I don't have an own good these days." But she knew that wasn't an answer, even if it hinted at one. She drifted off again.
Her head throbbed when she woke up next and Luke was there to help her sit up and take a sip of water, even if she wasn't totally sure that she wanted him to, except she did, but she didn't. He was there, hovering at the door when Ahsoka and Obi-Wan and Master Jinn all came in separately to see how she was doing, though Anakin quite sensibly remained outside. He was there all the time without another word, everything about it gnawing at her, until she started feeling better, till she was out of the woods, and then he was just gone again. That seemed like Luke. She tried not to be disappointed.
The problem was, she was disappointed. She was disappointed and mixed up and maybe feeling faintly betrayed because she understood: Luke had known all along. He'd remembered all along. He'd first met her thirty years before she'd first met him. The Luke she'd known was real, just older and a lot more bitter than she remembered, except he'd barely speak to her. She couldn't decide if that was because his Jedi morality had clicked back into place or just because he was dead.
Luke was dead, and he made just as little sense as he had when he was living. Except, as she lay in bed recovering, a thought started to nag at her.
"Isn't that the same thing?" she'd asked Master Jinn, when they'd spoken about Luke's death, and he'd said, "Broadly speaking, yes."
Broadly speaking, it was the same thing to die as it was to go into the Force. Broadly speaking, Luke was dead.
Rey thought it might be time to get into specifics.
Nine days after her accident, Rey left Ahch-To. Forty days after that, Luke finally woke up.
She'd put the call in from her X-Wing orbiting Ahch-To and then gone back down to surface to wait; two days later, the rebel ship had arrived, if you could call the Millennium Falcon a rebel ship. Beebee gave an excited be-bloop-whir and sped across the cargo bay as she stepped on board - she went down on her knees with a smile and threw her arms around him.
"Oh," I see how it is," Poe said, grinning as he walked toward her, looking oddly like a young Han Solo in his decidedly non-military clothing. She wondered if he'd been ransacking Han's old leftover belongings, though she wasn't sure how Chewie might have felt about that - she imagined there would've been threats to Poe's arms at the very least. "It's been months and still the droid gets all the love."
She'd pulled herself back up after that and Beebee had given a pleased sort of beep as she and Poe met each other in a brief, tight hug. Chewie was already on board, waiting in the cockpit, eyeing the porgs through the viewports, and twenty minutes after that, they'd left Ahch-To behind with an interesting kind of cargo in the hold. The following day, when she'd disembarked and walked into the rebel hangar for the first time in months that felt more like years, twelve ghosts had walked in with her. Maybe they weren't an army, but she hoped they'd be enough; the general didn't care, though - she just threw her arms around Rey and said, "You brought him back." Rey didn't explain the price that had had. She was still working it out herself.
The first thing she'd done after that was take the pod to the medical bay, and Finn helped her. Rose had woken up a few weeks earlier - Rey remembered how excited Finn had sounded in his message when he'd told her - and when the droids removed the unconscious body of Luke Skywalker from the medical transport pod, they put him in the bed that Rose had slept in. It felt like a twist of the knife, knowing how long Rose had been lying there in it, but she guessed at least she knew Rose had lived to tell the tale - she wanted to think that Luke would, too, or maybe she'd done this for nothing at all. She'd have liked to have believed her reasons were altruistic, but she knew they really weren't even if everyone believed they were.
She stayed there in the med bay, in her off hours when she wasn't back on the maintenance roster or attending meetings with the general. The med droids tried to tell her that her presence there wasn't required but she didn't really care because the only other place she could have gone to was her own empty, dusty quarters, and she knew she couldn't leave him there alone, even if he was out completely cold. She paced around the room once they'd taken the stitches from her forehead, getting in everyone's way, but they eventually got used to that, like she got used to the smell of antiseptic and the aggressively white decor. Sometimes she slept in a chair by his bed and sometimes in the next bed along if it was empty that particular day, and she crawled into bed with him sometimes, when she was so worn out she couldn't keep her eyes open, because the contact seemed to help. She fell asleep listening to his heartbeat, feeling the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. She could barely believe he was alive, and that she was responsible for that. In part, at least.
"It's never been done," Master Jinn had told her, standing there at the cliff edge in the afternoon breeze.
"Does that mean it's not possible?" she'd asked.
"It means it's never been done," he'd said. "I honestly can't tell you if it's possible or not."
And then, three days later, she'd proved it was possible.
"You're going to leave soon. We both know I can't leave with you," Luke had said, harshly, when she'd cornered him and tried to talk to him about it, before he'd really understood. She'd been so excited by the idea, but she really should've known better, knowing him, knowing the situation. He made her want to scream sometimes, she was so frustrated.
"Why not?" she'd asked.
He raised his brows pointedly. He crossed his arms over his chest. "Well, the obvious issue is I'm dead."
"But you're not."
"I think I'd know," he said. "I was there."
"Then you weren't paying attention."
He'd frowned at her. She'd glared at him. She'd called him a coward and maybe she'd even meant it. He'd found her lying in the long grass later that night, and he'd told her he was willing to try.
Luke's body had gone into the Force but he hadn't really died. They'd stood there together, all the Jedi, hundreds of Jedi, crowded around the lightning-struck tree that she hadn't quite dared to return to before that. They'd stood there, in that place, as the rain started, as the rain poured, so many of them that whatever power might have listened to them couldn't help but pay attention. They'd asked the Force to bring him back. She'd begged for it. She'd promised so much of herself when she spoke that she wasn't even sure she'd survive it, let alone succeed, but he'd coalesced, bit by bit, layer by layer, till his ghost was real and live and naked on the ground but barely breathing. She'd fainted then, but once they'd got him into the bed back in the hut that was his but sort of also hers, once she'd come to even if he hadn't, that was when she'd taken the X-Wing up and called Poe for a ride - after all, she couldn't have ferried him back to the base in her old single-seat fighter.
Forty days later, he woke up. It was early in the morning and she wasn't there at the time - she was working a late shift crawling around in a filthy air vent on her hands and knees, wearing a jumpsuit that was a couple of sizes too big for her and cursing the name of whoever had assigned her to repair the faulty fans. But she knew the second he woke up because she felt it, strongly, in the Force. She knew she had to go there but she didn't rush; she finished the job and she showered off the dirt and she changed her clothes, and then she went down to the med bay, following the maze of metal corridors around the base. The general was with him when she arrived, and an admiral, three fussy med droids and the ghosts of two Jedi, and the crowd of people peering at the door was just ridiculous so Rey turned and left the way she'd come. She didn't go back. She had breakfast with Poe and Finn and Rose instead and then picked up an extra shift so she didn't have to lie awake in bed and think about the things she'd done.
The problem was, there was nowhere for Luke to go, so she volunteered to share her quarters before she could completely stop herself doing so. She told herself it was for the best because she wouldn't have wished his surly demeanour on anyone unsuspecting, or maybe the Jedi should stick together, but she knew that wasn't it at all. By the time he arrived that evening after a long day's observation, walking stiffly, leaning against a cane, she'd already stencilled his name on the door just under hers: Rey, and then Luke Skywalker, one on top of the other. He nodded to her as he entered and sat down on the second bed she and Poe and Finn had dragged into the room, but he didn't say a word with it. Somehow, it was like he was saying thank you while also saying he'd have rather slept nights in the trash compactor than be close to her.
There was a medical screen in the centre of the room that she'd thought might be useful and had persuaded the med droids to part with. It maintained the illusion of separation between them, as Luke changed his clothes to go to bed, as she changed hers, but there was none. Rey knew it, even if maybe Luke didn't.
And then, she stretched out on her bed and she turned out the light. She closed her eyes and she went to sleep. She had forty bad nights to make up for, now she knew he'd lived.
In her dream, she was back on Ahch-To. She was running up the hill in the wind and the rain, and he was there. She'd never expected to go back, but she supposed she understood why she had.
She didn't reach him the first night, but she couldn't honestly say she tried very hard - she was more irritated by the whole thing than she was much of anything else, were she honest about it, because it was very clear that Luke wanted as little involvement with her as was practically possible. Turning up to meet his past self again seemed like just another way to make things worse, all things considered.
She didn't reach him the second night, either, but her effort was likewise minimal. She wasn't running up the hill, not anymore. She wasn't screaming his name or tripping or falling or desperate to get to him because she remembered how the dream went after that. Maybe a few weeks earlier it would have pleased her to be back there, with him, but by then the dreams were just an awkward inconvenience. It was a sad reminder of what she'd thought they'd had but that he clearly didn't want, not anymore.
The third night, standing there in the rain on the hill like an idiot, she started to wonder about it. The fourth night, sitting on top of a rock instead, windswept and rainwashed, she really thought about it. She hadn't had a lot of time to consider it before, or at least she hadn't given it her time between watching over Luke lying unconscious in the med bay and fixing heat ducts and coolant conduits and assorted other broken things, but maybe that was because she hadn't really wanted to consider it. The fact was, Luke no longer felt the same way about her as he had when they were dreaming, but Rey couldn't help but wonder why that was.
They attended meetings together in the daytime though Rey hated them, sitting side by side to present a united Jedi front with a couple of the ghosts there with them, and then Rey slipped away to help work on the ships in what little free time she had. They were almost ready - they'd done a lot of work while she'd been away but some of the smaller ships, the X-Wings and the bombers and their scavenged TIEs, still needed work, so she helped when she could, with Poe and his team. It wasn't just because it was useful to have the extra pair of hands but because it also got her away from Luke, and the way he'd look at her sometimes, completely impenetrably, even if the thing she'd done seemed to mean she always knew exactly where he was so she was never really free. It got her away from the way she could hear his breath as he meditated at the other side of the room, behind the screen, and everything she thought about him even when she didn't want to. She liked to think that even if she'd made a mistake, she'd at least done it for the right reasons, but maybe she'd just been selfish..
And sometimes, she trained with the Jedi. They had a space to themselves where their appearance didn't cause an understandable level of anxiety amongst the rebel troops, and they gathered to talk and to train there - Ahsoka and Anakin, Obi-Wan and Mace Windu, and the small number of others who'd had the strength to leave. She'd asked them to go with her and they had, though Masters Jinn and Yoda had understandably elected to stay behind on Ahch-To with the others. Yoda made sure she took the books when she left, though, with a cryptic note that she didn't need him to teach her any longer. Oddly, though the lessons had felt like beating her head against the nearest brick wall, she felt like she might miss him.
She liked to spend time there with the Jedi, lightsabers with Ahsoka, meditation with Obi-Wan or Master Windu. She went there when Luke wasn't around and sometimes when he was, though she usually found that distracting. She watched him building a new lightsaber, and she offered him his crystal back, but it turned out he had another ready - he just held it up on his palm without a word and so she kept the one she'd got inside her saberstaff. He was always like that and as the days passed and as the dreams continued, she just wanted to shove him in the chest and demand that he explain himself. The opportunity never quite came up. They barely even spoke unless they had to, and Rey missed their conversations.
Still, days passed, weeks passed, and the day of the inevitable launch against the First Order crept ever closer. Missions came and went, intelligence was gathered, and she watched Poe and his merry band of pilots leave at least twice weekly to keep the First Order on their toes. She knew it was coming. And still Luke was acting like nothing had changed since Ahch-To when everything had; the only real comfort she had was he was almost as caustic with everyone as he was with her, except maybe the general. They didn't look like twins but sometimes they acted like it, at the conference table and eating in the mess hall, walking together in the corridors. She liked that about them. She really wished that she could be indifferent.
"I'm dreaming about him again," she said, as she sat down next to Anakin, maybe a month after Luke had woken. She pressed her back to the training room wall and slid down, slowly, rucking up her shirt till they were shoulder to shoulder there against it. "Is he always this infuriating?"
"It's a Skywalker trait," Anakin replied, looking at her cautiously, mostly out of the corner of his eye. She supposed she understood why - they'd barely spoken since that night back on Ahch-To - but she just honestly didn't know who else to talk to. She wasn't sure who else would understand and maybe she missed her conversations with Luke the most, but she knew she'd also missed Anakin.
"Is that an apology?" she asked.
"Would you accept it if it was?"
She shrugged. "I might. You'll just have to apologise if you want to find out."
He sighed melodramatically, making her smile, just a little, and he turned, just a little, just far enough to face her.
"I'm sorry, Rey," he told her, seriously. "I'd take it back if I could."
She smiled wryly. "I think we needed to know," she said. "I needed to know."
"Then you'll accept my apology?"
She nudged him with her boot. "Let's just say I understand why you had to do it," she said. "Maybe we can work on the rest."
She and Anakin started working together after that, the shifts that no one else wanted to work, salvaging damaged parts of ships, rebuilding things together, and Rey had to admit she found it satisfying. And then, at night, she'd go back to the room she shared with Luke and lie awake in her bed as he lay awake in his. She'd try not to listen to him as she slipped her hands under the blankets and down between her thighs. She'd try not to make a sound as she touched herself, wondering if he knew or cared that she still wanted him, and then she'd sleep.
She had the dream every night for weeks, and every night for weeks she wondered about the way he'd changed. He'd seemed to feel something for her, before, so why was there nothing there between them now? He wasn't dead anymore so that wasn't the reason. Maybe the Jedi code against attachments hadn't seemed to bother him before but perhaps his opinion on that had changed over the years, or he'd loved someone else and lost her and it stung, or he'd just seen so much in those thirty years that he'd had to shut everyone out. Except it really wasn't everyone - she still saw him talking to Obi-Wan sometimes, and sometimes Anakin, and sometimes Leia. And then there was that day on Ahch-To, when she'd hit her head; he'd wanted her then and she knew it, but he'd made himself stop.
"It's not you," Anakin told her one morning, as they were working, sitting cross-legged on a hangar floor in the midst of a sea of astromech parts. She glanced at him with a frown, then turned back to the photoreceptor in her hands. She sighed.
"How do you know?" she asked. She didn't try to pretend she didn't know what he was talking about because she knew and she knew he knew that.
He shrugged. "I asked him," he said.
"And he actually told you?"
"He said it's for your own good."
"He told me that when he still thought he was dead."
"He still thinks it's true."
"So he doesn't know?"
"Well, no. Nobody's told him." He held out his hand. "Maybe it's time."
She tossed him the photoreceptor. He caught it, and that was where the conversation ended. Maybe it was time, she thought, as she made her way back to the room they shared. It would likely change nothing, but he did deserve to know.
And besides, she couldn't help but remember something Ahsoka had told her back on Ahch-To: If he doesn't remember, you should make him remember.
Maybe it had just been so long that he'd forgotten.
When she dreamed that night, she ran. It seemed like the thing to do.
She ran up the hill in the rain like she'd been used to months before that, and like she hadn't done since then. She felt the strain of it, her feet slipping on the wet ground, scraping her hands as she fell, shouting his name but she could barely even hear herself above the wind. And she could see him, on the top of the hill. She could see him in the light of the full moon through the rain and as the lightning lit up the sky, she reached him, and he turned. She fell. He caught her, his hands around her wrists, one flesh and blood and the other bare metal over the wraps around her arms. No synthskin. Bare metal.
She looked up at him. He wasn't young. She hadn't quite expected that, somehow.
"Why are we back here?" he shouted, over the wind. "What did you do?"
"I brought you back," she said.
He narrowed his eyes. "How?"
He dropped her wrists. She held out her hands.
"Do you trust me?" she said.
For a moment, she thought maybe the answer was no because all he did was look at her, vainly attempting to wipe the rain out of his eyes, swiping back his soaked hair. Then he pushed back the long sleeves of his cloak and he took her hands.
She didn't really know what she was doing but somehow she did; one moment they were standing on the hill at night and the next they were in the clearing by the tree in the daylight, watching what she remembered happening. She could see herself kneeling, and him lying lifeless on the ground, and all the Jedi standing all around them. She knew what was happening as a kind of wispy white mist started to gather in the air, as it forced its way out of her, as she willed it to. She'd known she had to try everything she could and that was everything, that was all she'd had left - as that haze pushed out of her and into him, he breathed in and she collapsed beside him. Part of her was in him and she'd always feel its loss; she knew if she'd needed to, she'd have given more. Now he knew, too.
He dropped her hands. In an instant, they were back on the hill.
"Rey..." he said, looking at her through the rain like he understood but almost couldn't fathom it. "You didn't have to do that."
"Yes, I did," she said, and she held out her hands again. "Let me show you why."
This time, he didn't hesitate; he took her hands, and in a second they were back down the hill in the village, by the desk in the hut that they'd both lived in at one time or another. She showed him the two of them, sitting there talking on the bed. She showed him the two of them lying side by side as they talked about their time growing up, in the deserts on Tatooine and Jakku. She showed him the two of them shivering together as they took off their wet clothes, his mouth at her neck, the moment that he pushed inside her.
"That's not me," he said, his eyes on the two of them. "Not now." Then he took control and she let him, and suddenly they weren't on Ahch-To. They were watching him ignite his green lightsaber over Kylo Ren. She watched him standing there, thinking about killing his nephew. She watched Ren wake and bring the walls down all around them. Then Luke let go and they were back on the hill in the pouring rain, and Rey finally understood.
"I wanted to thank you for what you did on Crait," she said, breaking the silence.
He raised his brows. "I still didn't do it for you," he replied, just as bluntly as ever.
"I know," she said. "You did it because of him. To try to make amends."
"So what about me?" She balled her hands into fists at her sides, glaring, soaked through and shivering. "Are you punishing yourself? Because if you are, you're punishing me, too."
He winced, but that was it; she woke, and so did he, but their beds were in the same room. She could hear him breathing. She just lay there and listened, angry with herself, angry with him, angry with whatever it was that made them dream together, but she knew this time it was all her fault - she knew what she'd done back on Ahch-To had made that connection. She didn't turn on the light and neither did he and, for a moment, for a long series of moments, she thought that was it, conversation over yet again. It was disappointing but really nothing new at all.
"I looked for you for years," he said then, from the other side of the room, behind the screen they'd never moved away that divided the room in two but did very little to hide them from each other.The fact he'd even spoken took her by surprise.
She frowned. "What are you talking about?" she asked.
He sighed. "You weren't the only one dreaming," he said. "I told you that. I remembered you when you came to Ahch-To."
Her stomach clenched. "Why are you telling me this now?"
"I was young. I was naive. Every planet I landed on, I wondered if that was where I'd find you."
"What are you saying?"
"You were never there and nobody had ever heard of you. And they'd never heard of a planet called Ahch-To. So I made myself stop asking." She heard him take a breath and then sigh it out again, slowly. "In the end, I started forgetting to ask."
Rey squeezed her eyes shut. "Why are you telling me this?" she asked.
"I thought it would help."
"I didn't think I'd be this when I saw you again. It's been thirty years for me. And then Ben..."
She groaned. She covered her face with her hands and then she groaned again, louder. She already knew the worst thing he'd ever done was think about killing someone who, as it had turned out, wanted to subjugate the entire galaxy; maybe that should have mattered to her, but somehow it just didn't. Maybe he thought all he was was the worst thing he'd ever nearly done, but she didn't. And apparently thirty years going by hadn't made him any wiser, Jedi or not.
"I don't care," she said, hotly, testily. "I don't care what you've done, and I really don't care how old you are." Then she paused. She sat up, frowning. "Luke, why do you think I wanted to bring you back?"
"Guilt?" he suggested, rather pragmatically.
She scrunched up her face for a second. "Well, yes," she agreed after that, albeit grudgingly. "But that's not what I was going to say."
She huffed exasperatedly, deciding enough was enough because apparently one of them had to. She stood. She pushed back the screen. He looked up at her as she pushed him down flat to the mattress, swept back his blanket and straddled his hips, her hands pressed hard to his shoulders.
"Are you going to say we shouldn't do this?"
"Yes, I am."
"Then you're wrong."
He looked up at her, lying there beneath her, and she thought he was going to argue, tell her she was wrong and not him, it was wrong and they couldn't possibly do this. She had absolutely no intention of listening to that, however, so she sat up and she pulled off her nightshirt over her head, abruptly, and she dropped it onto the floor. He stared. She utterly refused to cover up as he looked at her, stunned, even if she did blush hotly.
"Do you trust me?" she asked, and she held out her hands to him.
A long moment later, he took them. She made him understand.
A long moment later, he actually smiled.
Three days ago, they put the final plan in motion. Today, it's time for them to leave. By the end of the week, they'll win or lose; by the end of the week, they'll live or die.
It's been three weeks now since that morning in their room. There was an early meeting scheduled with the general and a Wookiee admiral with a name Rey decided it was probably best she didn't try to pronounce, so there really wasn't enough time for them to explore things further; Luke had finally, finally decided it was forgivable if he settled his hands over her bare thighs, his thumbs rubbing lightly, when their alarm went off and made them both jump then reluctantly part. They headed to the fresher with its rows of military-standard shower stalls and once Rey had washed, knowing they were both standing there naked, so close to each other that if it weren't for the tall metal dividers between them they'd be within arm's length, she checked the coast was clear before she slipped into Luke's stall instead.
"Rey..." he said, as she closed the door behind her, but it didn't come out sounding like very much of a warning. She stepped in underneath the spray and he stepped back, shivering as his back pressed to the wall. He looked different now that he was older, yes - he was softer in places, longer hair, lines on his face, grey in his beard - but she found that really didn't bother her at all. She slid her hands over his chest, up to his shoulders. She stepped closer, pressed against him; she pressed her mouth to his collarbone and she moved one hand down, slowly, to wrap around his cock. He let her stroke him till he came, his eyes squeezed shut and his breath harsh, leaning against the wall. Then they dried themselves and dressed and walked down to their meeting.
That night, they pushed the screen away from between their beds and Rey sat down on the edge of hers, her hands on her clothed thighs, to watch as Luke undressed in front of her. He sat down when he was done and watched as she took off her clothes, too, feeling herself blush as she looked at him looking at her. Then she pushed him back onto his bed and settled herself over his thighs. She pulled his hands up to her hips and felt them squeeze, tracing her hip bones before they skimmed higher; he ran them from her collarbones down to her waist, slowly, metal fingertips brushing at one nipple and making her shiver and smile down at him. He smiled back, almost wryly, but she had a feeling he'd get there in the end. She just had to show him it was okay for him to want this.
She pressed her palm to his cock, traced the length of it with her fingertips and felt him stiffen up against them. She stroked him and he took a sharp breath and she shifted, moving higher on the bed till she could run the tip of his cock between her legs, teasing herself just as much as she was teasing him. She pressed down. He squeezed her hips. All at once, he was inside her. He looked as overwhelmed as she felt.
It wasn't like in their dreams back on Ahch-To, at least not really. It wasn't just because he was older - it was the way he looked at her as he braced his heels against the bed and pushed up when she pushed down, as she rolled her hips against him. It was the fact that the part of her that she'd put into him felt so close, right there, almost back inside her. It was the din in the corridors and how they tried to keep quiet, just the sound of their breath and the faint creak of the bed as they moved together. She could feel her muscles pulling tight, and his hands squeezing at her hips, his metal fingers digging in but she really didn't care if he left bruises.
His other hand came down between her thighs, to the base of his cock and then to her clit, rubbing as she rode him and she bit her bottom lip to keep from moaning. He kept going. She moved faster, her own hand going down to push his fingers harder up against her, rubbing against them, and his breath shortened and hitched - she felt his hips buck up sharply as he clenched his jaw and pulsed and came. She was right there with him, seconds after, her pulse racing, her skin flushed, the release of every tight muscle so complete that she almost trembled with it.
She stretched out shakily on the bed right next to him and he turned, he went up on his side to lean over and kiss her - his beard tickled her skin but the feel of it just made her smile. And when they dreamed that night, side by side in the same bed, he walked down the hill as she came up it; when he wrapped his arms around her, she really didn't care that it was raining.
She's been smiling to herself for the past three weeks, which has been confusing everyone around her. Luke keeps looking at her and they've been passing it off as some kind of mysterious Jedi thing between the two of them, but she knows someone's going to find out. One of these days, someone will come around the corner when she's pressed him up against a wall or they'll knock on the door when they're together in bed and not just reading the books or meditating - at least she knows Yoda was right that she didn't need him to teach her anymore, because Luke's told her more about the things the books say in the past three weeks than he ever did. Luke says that was probably his point all along.
Someone's going to find out but Poe says half the base thinks they've been sleeping together since the day Luke woke up and moved into her room, and that makes a strange kind of sense when she thinks about it. Finn doesn't know what to make of the two of them, even if Poe really doesn't judge, but Rey tries to appreciate his concern because the few friends she has still mean a lot to her - they must do, she thinks, or she'd just have marched straight back to Jakku. Luke says Leia understands it, too - after all, she's known for years who Rey from Jakku was to her brother. Rey thinks that's why she was the one she sent to Ahch-To to find him. Sometimes she wonders how many times he asked about her, and maybe one day she'll actually ask.
Anakin knows, of course - he didn't even need to ask her. She's told Ahsoka, who couldn't keep from grinning at her and almost giving the game away. The other Jedi...she'll see what they think if they both live through what's coming, but she tells herself they really don't need their approval. If being a Jedi means that she can't have this, then maybe she's not one after all.
Maybe Luke was the last one. Maybe she's something else. She thinks she could live with that.
Ahch-To is a planet of ghosts. Rey thinks maybe when she dies, that's where she'll go to, and she'll spend forever with the Jedi who taught her. It's a strangely comforting thought.
But, for now, she takes Luke's hand and they board the ship that will take them where they need to go to face Kylo Ren. For now, they have lives to live and a galaxy to save.
Whatever happens, they'll do it together.