She wakes up one morning to a calling. The blood pounds in her ears as she pushes herself up. She looks past the crumbling walls, seeing the skyline beyond it. Grey and blue and she hears it.
“You’re awake.” Luke is already returning from foraging, setting out his findings on the ground. As always, there is more than enough. He seems to sense her anxiety when there’s only rations for a day.
“What is that?” She asks, knowing she doesn’t need to explain.
Luke gives a tired smile. They come easier now, but they’re still strange for his features—like an old, washed out holo in sepia instead of color. “Nothing you aren’t prepared for.”
Rey’s tongue seems to stick to the roof of her mouth. She’s not sure whether she’s elated or anxious. “You mean-?”
Luke hands her a bowl with berries on the top. Her favorite way to eat the strange gruel he makes every morning. “You’d better have two helpings,” is all he says, “We’ve got a long walk ahead of us today.”
He isn’t lying. It’s been hours, and the rain is coming down hard enough that both of them are soaked. Luke is surprisingly ahead of her still, though she can tell from the hunch of his shoulders that he’s just as exhausted as she is.
“Where are we going?” She finally questions. Normally, she knows the trust in Luke’s guidance, and it’s a very rare moment where she asks him to explain anything. But it’s been four or five miserable hours of cold, wet hiking on a path that’s more than overgrown and she still hasn’t quite figured out how to deal with rain yet.
“I’m not sure,” Luke calls back, giving a grunt as he attempts to lift himself over a rock ledge. Rey hurries over and gives him a boost. He nods his thanks and offers her his non-mechanical hand to help her over in return. “But we’ll see it when we get there.”
He grins, as he heaves her up. It’s something she’s never seen before—something that makes her believe, for a moment, in the stories. The ones about a farmboy on Tatooine. And for a brief pause, she can imagine him as he was when he wasn’t a legend—young. Naïve.
The grin only lasts a second, but it’s enough to make her keep trudging on behind him without any further hesitation.
When she starts to see different ruins on the horizon, they stop for lunch. The rain’s still pouring, and Luke has abandoned his water-logged robe in favor of a simple tunic and pants. Rey’s in her training gear, all of it now uncomfortably heavy. With careful hands, she sets down the lightsaber from its holster on her back.
Luke slides her a bowl of soup. She takes it. She once thought he knew how to cook, but after six months here, she’s decided he knows how to cook four things. It’s endearing to her, and also three more things than what she had to eat on Jakku.
“Getting close,” he says, sending her a look. She isn’t sure how to read it—one of the first expressions of his she can’t puzzle out.
She licks her fingers after she scarfs down her food. “’S louder.”
“Yeah. For me too.”
She swallows. “Are you coming with me?”
Luke shakes his head. “No. This is something you have to do on your own.”
Nerves flutter in her chest. “You think…you think I’ll be alright at it?”
He chuckles, a harsh sound that reminds her of terrain gears clogged with sand. “Why else do you think I’m hiking in the rain?”
She blinks, wide-eyed. Before she smiles down at her bowl and helps herself to another serving.
Another two hours, and the reach the edge of the new ruins. They look, at first, unremarkable when compared to the ones where she and Luke have been making camp. But sight isn’t everything, especially in the Force. She’s there not two seconds before she hears whispers. Old songs, reduced to echoes and vibrations. Rey closes her eyes, and does her best to parse out the notes. They’re muddled, but she thinks she could hear them again—if only she had time to try.
“This is the furthest I go.” Rey’s eyes open—Luke rests his hands on his hips, looking up to where the tallest ruin starts to crumble. His tired and constantly sad eyes find hers. “Remember your training.”
Her mouth feels dry, but she nods. A hand goes up to rest on the hilt of her lightsaber—a welcomed gesture of comfort. “Will you…”
Her throat seems to close as the words die on her throat. Her heart races, her pulse thrums. For a moment, tears prick her eyes and she is terrified—unable to voice the one thought that haunts her more than any other.
Luke pulls her into a hug, his metal hand resting on her back as the other cradles the back of her head. He holds her there, until her breathing starts to settle. Until her eyes stop stinging.
“Yes, Rey.” He whispers into her ear, “I’ll be here when you get back.”
When she takes her first steps alone, the whispers grow louder. She can’t make out their meaning, only their intent: she has to keep going forward. What’s left of the ruins is similar to a mausoleum—old gray stones, fallen through violence and worn down by time, make skeletal half-formed walls that guide her through. The grass is green under her feet, moss and other flora having wormed their way up over what was once, she knows inexplicably, a temple.
She walks for what seems like days. The ruins do not end, nor do they ever form more than a half wall. Rey’s moving, she knows, through a sea of ghosts. What’s left of whatever was once here clings to her like cobwebs, unresisting yet never removed from her skin.
She goes, until she finds one door—one solitary door that still stands. The whispers grow louder, insistent. Rey takes a step forward, and presses her hand against the stone entrance. It slides for her, revealing a dark and narrow staircase leading downward.
Rey takes a breath, and withdraws her lightsaber from her back. Pressing the ignition, two, twin blue blades ignite from either end of it.
“Here it goes.”
Her lightsaber casts a blue glow on the stones, illuminating the stairwell only enough for her to see two or three steps ahead of her at any time. On the walls, she sees the etchings—similar to the ones which housed the compartment Luke got her crystal from. They seem to hum.
The air grows colder and thinner the further she descends. The rain water on her clothes, hair, and skin starts to freeze. Her breath comes out in puffs.
The stairs end. Underneath her feet is snow.
Rey walks forward, listening to the voices. Listening to those still of the Force as they surround her with both memory and purpose. Her lightsaber shows the walls falling away—replaced by trees.
Trees she’s seen before.
Rey tenses, narrowing her eyes. There is no one. But she heard his voice.
She pivots. Only the dark and snowy woods are there.
“None of this belongs to you.”
Rey grinds her teeth. “Show yourself!”
“If you insist.”
Until the electric hiss of a lightsaber igniting. She hears its hum behind her, and takes a slow turn.
Kylo Ren stands before her. His lightsaber flaring crimson against the snow. She’s not afraid, merely wary, her hand absently rotating her double-bladed saber until it’s horizontal before her.
“What do you want.” Her voice is level.
He’s staring straight at her, she can tell even with the mask. With one, smooth movement he lifts his arm and holds out his saber—parts of it licking out like a flame to make the snow hiss in the air. “You don’t know?”
She swallows, taking half a step back. She remembers the forms Luke taught her: Shii-Cho. Makashi. Soresu. Ataru-
“He can’t help you here.” Kylo’s footsteps are heavy, seeming to sink into the ground with their own sort of gravity. “He can’t help anyone, anywhere.”
“…you’re not real.” Rey realizes, though she does not lower her weapon. “This isn’t real.”
“Does it matter?” Without warning, he swings down, a violent motion that nearly cuts her head from her body. She ducks down just in time—smells the acrid scent of burnt hair from where his weapon grazed the back of her head. “Would you like to test it?”
She springs up, rotating her arms in a quick circle to parry his next strike. His metallic breathing echoes through this forest that is not a forest.
“You’ve made your own weapon. No longer an apprentice. Interesting design.” He presses down, his lightsaber bears down on hers. The blue blades stay calm and focused, the scarlet one seems to flare. “Did you know that twin blades were used by the Sith?”
“It doesn’t matter,” she protests. Her arms ache. He doesn’t seem tired at all.
“So much you don’t know.” He is close enough that she can feel his exhale on her face. “He won’t teach you what you need. You know that-“
Rey kicks out with her leg, making him stagger back enough for her to break away. She rolls, brandishing her weapon up once more from her half-crouch in the snow.
He stands a few feet away, his tall form hunched over. “Do you need a reminder?” His free hand slips under his mask. He pulls it away, revealing a face bisected by angry, red welts and deep, purple burn scars. “Of what you can accomplish?”
The mask falls in the snow. Rey braces herself as he attempts another charge-
She’s in the desert.
The air is still thin, but dry, and Rey staggers forward until she is knee-deep in the sand. Jakku, she thinks. But not quite.
“You shouldn’t be out here.”
Rey blinks, the sun stinging her eyes, and looks down.
A boy sits in front of her, one hand wrapped around a multi-tool. The other holding the head of a droid. He looks up, bright blue eyes that remind her so much of Luke’s squinting. “Sandstorms are no joke, you know. People die in them.”
“I know.” She says, not sure what else she can say. She knows sand. She knows the desert. She does not know this boy, here in the middle of both. On the horizon, the wind howls, billowing up tall, orange walls.
“You shouldn’t be out here,” the boy says again. His nose scrunches. “No one ever comes out here.”
Her thumb slides off her lightsaber, and Rey hunches down until she sits near him. “…What are you working on?” It must be important, for him to be doing it alone in front of an approaching storm.
“I don’t know yet. It’s not done.”
“Can I see?”
The boy shrugs, “Sure.” His small hands lift the tool and droid head into her hands. She turns it until she can see the front.
The helm of Darth Vader looks back at her. Her hands shake.
“Like I said,” the boy continues in the same light tone, as if this is as remarkable as a new power cell. “I haven’t finished it yet okay.”
Rey says nothing. Just stares into the black, bottomless eyes of the helm as the waves of sand come crashing down on them both.
She gasps, eyes widening. Sand is stuck on her skin, in her hair. She feels the warmth of the sun still on her cheeks.
But she isn’t in the desert anymore. Rey hears the air pollution of speeders and she staggers a bit as she tries to find equilibrium.
The toe of her boot trips over something, and she falls. The floor is metal and solid underneath her. A walkway. Rey pushes herself up, and her blood runs cold as she sees what she’s tripped over.
It’s a child. Wearing light tan robes and lying face-down. A small, circular burn hole is present in the middle of its back. Next to it, another body. Perhaps a year or two younger. The two children are holding hands, even in death.
Rey pushes herself into a half-lean, too stunned to move into a full stance.
“The Dark Side.”
She looks up. A robed man stands before her, sadness and regret emanating off of him in waves. He offers her a hand. She takes it without question, and he hauls her to her feet.
“What happened here?” She whispers, looking at the rows and rows of bodies. Jedi. Stormtroopers. Children.
The man turns to her, and she can see only below his nose—a pair of tightly pressed lips, a brown beard carefully trimmed. “A horrible mistake.”
“Has it…” she swallows. Her experience with Force visions is limited, but… “Has it happened yet?”
“Yes. Long ago. Not long enough.”
The man looks down at the bodies of the children. Younglings, Rey hears in her mind—crisp and clear and beyond sorrowful. “He was once Anakin.”
“Anakin?” The name is strange to her, but her mind goes to the boy for some reason. The one swallowed by the storm.
“Yes. And I was not the one to stop him.”
“Why is it showing me this?”
The man pulls back his hood. A face that she knows was once kind stares at her, empty and hollow. “Because it will happen once again.”
She’s in the jungle. And she sees a girl being chased: small, grey robes. Three brown knots of hair. Rey’s heart jumps into her throat, before she runs after her.
The girl doesn’t hear her. She keeps going, so Rey follows. The vines and leaves snap at her face, make small cuts in her skin. It doesn’t matter. She rushes after that little girl with more desperation than she’s ever felt in her entire life-
-she loses sight of the girl through the foliage. Rey pants, frantically brushing away trees, and shrubs, and anything else-
The girl screams in the distance.
Just one word. Just one name.
Rey turns on her lightsaber in barely enough time to block his next blow. She’s back in the snow, bracing her weight on one of her legs as Kylo Ren bears down on her.
“Now’s not the time for distraction,” he taunts. His eyes are somehow darker without the mask, more intense.
“Don’t do it,” Rey demands, lip curling back into a snarl as she swings the other end of her saber around. The violence, the force of it makes Kylo back a half step away. “Don’t you do any of it!”
She charges, arms aching as she hits him with a barrage of strikes. Controlled, at first. Then faster and faster. Less refined, less polished. Anger hits her, tightening in her chest as she keeps pushing. Pushing this creature until he can’t hold up against her anymore-
She is in a clearing—back in the jungle where she saw the little girl. A boy is standing in the middle of it. He is not like the boy from the sands. Dark hair curls to his shoulders, his arms are crossed over his chest.
“You might as well do it now.” The boy takes a step forward. His dark eyes flicker yellow. “Or I’ll kill them all first.”
Rey’s hand is still gripping her lightsaber. It trembles.
“I’ll make sure you’re all alone, Rey. I’ll find them all.” The boy takes a step around her. “Luke’s students. Han. Finn. Leia. It’s only a matter of time.”
He sneers. “Unless you’re strong now.”
Rey’s eyes water as it all plays out. The same story, told in different ways:
Younglings on Coruscant.
The students of Luke’s temple.
An old man, wise in the Force.
An old man, a smuggler.
“It’s going to have to be you.” The boy promises. “You’re the only one who can.”
Slowly, she lifts her saber and brings it to his neck-
-Kylo kneels in the snow before her. The cold wind whips through her hair, loosened from Kylo’s earlier strike.
“Do it,” he demands.
Anger floods through her veins. The whispers grow louder, insistent. Do it.
Rey breathes in through her nose. Her hands are shaking. Her blade starts to burn the skin at his exposed neck.
Do it for Han.
She brings her arm back. Ready to strike. Ready to claim the vengeance against this pitiful man-
“DO IT!” Kylo Ren cries out.
Rey lets out a scream, swinging her arms down to deliver the final strike-
-and she stops.
With a frustrated cry, she turns her wrists. The lightsaber splits the ground between them, cracking and scouring the earth. She sinks to her knees, burying her face in her hands.
The whispers circle around her.
When Rey looks up, she is alone once more. And it is not snow under her knees, but stone.
She’s shaking, her body covered in cold sweat, as she makes herself stand. As she makes herself pick up her lightsaber and return to the person who is waiting for her.
She doesn’t know if this was a test.
She doesn’t know if she failed.
The steps are much shorter on the return.
When she makes her way back to Luke, it’s no longer raining. He’s sitting there, like he promised. Waiting for her.
There’s so much she wants to say. So much she needs to tell him. About the forest. About boys in the sand and in the clearing.
“It can wait.” He says, pulling her into a hug once more.
Rey takes a deep, shaking breath, and holds him like the lifeline he has suddenly become.
They stand there for what feels like hours, until Luke pulls away and says two words she didn’t know she was waiting to hear:
Rey shakes her head. “But I-“ she squeezes her eyes closed. “I couldn’t do it. I didn’t stop him.”
Luke pats her shoulder before he bends over to shoulder his pack. “On our way back, remind me to tell you a story.”
Rey slowly opens her eyes. “A story?”
“About a cave.” He sends her a look that is distant and heavy. “And about a man named Anakin.”
“Anakin,” Rey whispers. She remembers the boy. Remembers the skull in her hands.
“Yes.” Luke grabs her shoulder. “But for now, let’s go home.”
Rey rests her hand over his. Takes a steadying breath. Listens to the whispers, as they find their harmony once more.