"Are there midges on these islands?" Luke asked the Lanai the day he landed on Ahch-To.
"Yes, Master Skywalker," one said, bowing to him.
"It's Luke. Just Luke. Thank you." It was more true than he would explain to them since he had refused the touch of the Force. He held up his arm. "Is this what the midge bites look like?"
The Lanai peered at the welts, her brow furrowed. "No, Mas-- Luke. They are more radial, not long streaks, on our species." She held up her hand and indicated a particular area. "Like this, you see?"
He examined the dark, meandering lump. "Ah. It might be different for my species, but probably not this different."
"In the Jedi Tomes, Master," another Lanai began, but the Lanai with the midge-bite waved at her.
"We have met many species, Luke," she said, and met his eyes, the first person who had both known his name and done so since--since. "They have all reacted the same to our midges."
"Thank you," he said again, and bowed to her.
The Lanais bowed back and turned back to their interminable task.
Something else bit his arm, just above his prosthetic, and he clapped a hand to it, hissing in pain. When he moved his flesh hand away, there was a line of blood on his hand.
Every morning he woke up to the sound of children playing and laughing that dissolved into the sound of children fighting that dissolved into the sound of porgs having sex immediately outside his door and occasionally on his floor if he left his shutters open, no matter what steps he took to make them stay away.
Despite their previously strict mating schedule, documented in the Jedi Tomes and the Lanais' knowledge, they also treated his immediate vicinity as the ground for a never-ending orgy. In another time he could have pushed them away with the Force and given their simple animal minds a suggestion that his space was not a place they wanted to be, but no more.
His being a blank space in the Force should not have affected them at all, let alone by causing him to step carefully around tiny, ecstatic, squeaking bodies every time he wanted to leave or enter his chosen home.
The Lanais tried to help, giving him all the advice they knew when it came to discouraging enthusiastic porgs, but nothing worked.
He tried switching dwellings, in case he'd chosen the wrong one.
It wasn't the dwelling.
He tried letting himself be as close to the Force as he dared without touching it normally.
The happy squeaking outside redoubled.
Luke stuck his head under his pillow and swore in every language he could remember, including the growls he'd picked up from Chewbacca and never perfected. No one on the planet tried to correct him.
"Careful," a Lanai said, just outside Luke's window.
Another said, "There will be more porgs," in a sniffy voice. "If I stepped on one, there would still be enough and more than enough. They're not meant to mate until the unsils wilt."
One of them rapped on the door. "Master Luke?" one said.
He still couldn't distinguish their voices after over one hundred days on the island, which made him feel a bit guilty. It did not help that they used no names. Or that the porgs had taken to following him around, lolling about if he tried anything like meditation, and mating with verve. The rocks that constantly assaulted him without a visible source turned into a bombardment. With all of that, the Lanais, who were retiring by training, faded from his mind as soon as they were out of sight.
"Come in," he said.
"We brought you some supplies," the Lanai said. "We'll hand them in through the window."
"That's very kind of you." He stood up to accept a bottle of the horrible blue milk, so reminiscent of Tatooine he had to close his eyes to drink it, and the meat that was as salty as the ocean. He left the blanket on the bed, along with the pillow, with some reluctance.
It would have been nice to have the blanket, the pillow, or a lightsaber when a ten-centimeter rock came through the window and thwacked him between the eyes.
"Master Skywalker!" one Lanai cried.
The other said, "Luke! Are you all right?"
For a second, there were three of them in front of him. Then there were two again, holding a bottle and a package.
"I'm fine," he said, with more dignity than truth. "Thank you." He accepted the bottle, hoping that a rock would break it in his hand, then the package of meat. The bottle with the hateful milk survived, as did the meat. "The rocks don't hit anyone else, do they?"
"No, they don't," said the Lanai who knew his name. She was frowning. "Surely you can dodge them."
He could, if he were listening to the Force. "I'm glad they don't touch anyone else." He smiled through the pain in his forehead and felt a trickle of blood down the side of his nose. "I appreciate your gift of food." He gritted his teeth and made himself say it: "May the Force be with you."
"And with you, Master Skywalker," said the Lanai who didn't listen. She curtseyed.
"Be careful, Luke," said the Lanai who listened. She nodded.
He wondered what her name was as they walked away down the hill.
When he couldn't hear anyone or anything but the porgs, Luke sighed, closed the shutters on his window so the interior would be dark, minimally porgful, and as unmolested by flying rocks as possible, and sat on the bed.
The Force was, as always, exactly where he had left it, and as glad to embrace him as the first time he had reached out to it. Touching it was like pins and needles made of crashing loss and bright joy and ridiculously blissful porgs and three very annoyed voices saying "Finally!" in chorus so loudly that for a second he couldn't hear the benighted squawking.
Luke kept his eyes shut tightly, unwilling to see even a flicker of a ghost with his physical eyes. "The rocks, Master Yoda. Why were there so many?"
"Dodge them, you can, if listen you will. The Lanais know."
He wiped the blood off of his nose. "I've proven I can't listen to the Force very well."
A tiny rock hit his ear with a searing pain. "More carefully you must listen, young one. Open yourself, not close yourself, when mistakes you make."
Luke resisted the urge to stick his fingers in his ears because he was too old to do something that childish, even in comparison to Master Yoda. "It hurts."
"Mm, yes," Yoda said, and at least this time he didn't pair his words with another rock. "Life it is."
"Only pain." Luke sighed.
"No, never. That's what the porgs were for," Anakin said, too young and full of life to have been Darth Vader. There was a laugh in his voice that a vocoder would have erased. "They're as alive as anything you can find on this rock."
Luke cleared his throat. "Oddly enough, even the most enthusiastic porgs don't inspire me to feel much of anything."
There was a yelp of porgish glee from outside.
"Even annoyance?" Anakin asked.
It had been a cycle since Luke dealt with trainees. He could not quite suppress his smile. "Some annoyance, yes, thank you."
"That's something." Anakin sounded satisfied.
"Was this your grand plan?" Luke asked. "Scrape my skin off and annoy me with happy porgs until I gave up?"
"Not exactly," Obi-Wan said.
"What, then?" Luke asked. They were quiet. It wasn't the silence of being cut off from the Force, or the absence of presences; they were holding their peace. "You didn't make the Lanais, or anything else on Ahch-To, Ben."
Obi-Wan cleared his throat, a thoroughly unnecessary noise for a ghost. "Well."
"Well?" Luke looked at his visitors, narrowing his eyes at each in turn. Yoda looked as self-satisfied as ever, wrinkled, green, and full of himself. His father was smirking, the Hero Without Fear of the pre-Imperial holos, with a little more gravitas. Obi-Wan was somewhere in age between the aged hermit of Tatooine and Anakin's youth, and he wouldn't meet Luke's eyes. "What did you do?"
"A harmless Force-induced mutation," Obi-Wan said. "All the mammals on this planet used to give white milk."
"You underhanded bastard." Luke shook his finger at him. "Are you sure you didn't turn to the Dark Side?"
Obi-Wan and Anakin exchanged a long glance. "As these things go, I'm relatively certain," Obi-Wan said.
"What do you want from me?" Luke asked.
"Go apologize to your family," his father said, more than a little Vader in his tone. "Tell them you were an idiot and you won't make the same mistake again."
"Give up, you must not. Hide, you cannot." Yoda pointed a finger at Luke. A rock thumped him in the chest.
"Get off of this planet and pick up the pieces of what you've broken," Obi-Wan said, with a crooked smile.
Luke groaned. "Hypocrites." He rubbed his temples. "Hate leads to the Dark Side. Hate leads to the Dark Side. If I start packing, will you stop throwing rocks at me?"
"Pack quickly," Yoda said.
"And let the porgs get back on their normal schedule so they're not nesting completely out of season?"
Anakin shrugged. "They'll be fine. I've been bringing them plenty of food, and most of the mating hasn't been procreative. I only needed to make that mistake myself."
Luke was too old to stick his fingers in his ears and almost, almost too old to blush at the thought of his parents having sex. If he'd had more practice at it, it might not have gotten him at all. "Good. That's. Good to know. And --" Luke pointed at Obi-Wan so his sins wouldn't get lost in the libidinous porgs. "You didn't do anything to hurt the mammals other than change the color of their milk. You wouldn't."
Obi-Wan smiled serenely. "Most of them are color-blind, and the Lanais put it down to the will of the Force, which it is--"
Luke said, "From a certain point of view," in unison with his father, which was as surreal as being on a planet attacking him with rocks from nowhere, surrounded by mating porgs, drinking milk as blue as banthas'.
Not for the first time, he was suddenly, strikingly homesick, but for the first time, he was willing to name the cure: Leia, Han, Chewbacca, the family he had tried to disconnect from and the friends he had tried to disavow in the name of rebuilding the Jedi Order.
"All right, all right. I'm going home," he said. "I'll tell the Lanais in the morning."
"Tell your sister tonight," his father said.
"Why don't you do it?" Luke said. The porgs were still squeaking outside and the noise, while cheerful, was as deeply aggravating as anything could be.
"Fear leads to anger," his father said, and disappeared.
"Yeah," Luke said. "Same to you." He frowned at Yoda. "You should really fix the milk."
"Fix them we will, once you are home."
"They're fine, Master Yoda," Obi-Wan said, fading out as he spoke. "Besides, he needs a reason not to come back, doesn't he?"
Luke wrapped his arms around his knees. The porg chorus was starting to die out a little bit and there were no attacking rocks. The Force felt like life and also death, not like death with a little life.
He stretched out, and into his deepest self.