“But why,” asks Rey, probably for the 20th time that day and at least the 400th time since she arrived. Luke looks ready to throw her off the cliff and it isn’t even noon. Of course, looks is a strong word - strictly speaking he looks the same way he always does, but the Force wrapped around him is pulsing quickly and feels to Rey like agitation and anger.
He takes a deep breath, carefully schools his voice into something resembling calm, and says, “The Jedi code-”
Rey’s so sick of hearing about how everything she does is anathema to the Jedi code that she blows out a frustrated breath before he can finish and snaps, “Didn’t you say they were all slaughtered? Twice?” Luke’s face crumples a little in a way that makes Rey wince. “I’m just saying, maybe their way of doing things wasn’t the best way. Maybe we could do things different.”
“Then perhaps you should be teaching me ,” says Luke. He stares at her for a moment, during which she fidgets and remains silent. “No? I’ll let you have some time to come up with a lesson plan.” He turns and walks down the hill toward the ruins he’s been living in.
Rey considers, not for the first time, walking all the way back down to the Falcon and flying it all the way back to the rebel base. Maybe she’d even kidnap Kylo Ren on the way, take him back to his mother and force him to teach her the mechanics of the force. He’d offered, after all, and he probably wouldn’t be telling her that she needed to be less excited about it. And if he did, she’d just kick him in the face until he stopped.
She thinks a lot about fighting Kylo Ren, and Luke has told her that she shouldn’t be doing that either, even after she told him what happened to Han and Finn, even though she could feel that the news upset him. Sometimes she feels like, as far as the Jedi Code is concerned, anything that isn’t meditation or tending a nice herb garden is ‘the path to the darkside.’ Rey is no psychiatrist, but she’s pretty confident that bottling up all your emotions and refusing to feel anything except ethereally calm is a recipe for explosive disaster.
In any case, she has no idea what to do about lesson plans so she skirts the ruins until she gets to the building that serves as her hangar/work station. She hadn’t expected this place to have much in the way of salvage but to her surprise she found bits of machinery all around the settlement. She’s not sure whether it belongs to Luke or if it was left by whoever had been here before him, but she’s been trying to build a communicator so she can talk to the Falcon even when she doesn’t have time to hike all the way down the damn island. Whenever she hits a wall with that, she works on repairing the old T-65 Luke flew here in. He had allowed it to fall into pretty serious disrepair, which makes her think he’s not planning on leaving any time soon, if ever. Unfortunately for him, his sister specifically asked Rey to drag his crotchety, self-pitying ass back home, and Rey likes Leia a lot more than she’s liking Luke so far. Worst case scenario, she could have Chewie knock him over the head and fly him back in the Falcon while she followed in his X-wing. She’s always wanted to try out a T-65, and General Organa would probably be glad to see it again, too.
Rey walks in and sets her staff against a wall before digging a secret stash of bread out of one of the toolboxes and shoving it into her mouth. It’s real bread - mixed and baked by Luke once a week, and Rey always hides it and eats it slowly, savoring it. There wasn’t a lot of freshly made food on Jakku - not for her, anyway. Luke cooks everything himself and Rey is fascinated by the time and detail he puts into it.
Chewing on the bread, she takes a long look at the communicator and decides to go for the T-65 instead. She crawls under it and gets to work, sliding her hands over its metal and wiring and circuitry. A smile spreads over her face and she feels for a little while like she’s home again, working on salvage in her AT-AT.
The fuel cap had been busted, meaning a tight turn - and this ship was built to make tight turns - would have you hemorrhaging precious fuel into the atmosphere, where it might come in contact with the tail of the 4L4 fusial thruster engines and blow the entire bird to pieces. She’d had to flush and sand the entire fuel tank before fixing the fuel cap was even worthwhile, which meant a lot of carting tools and spare materials up from the Falcon whenever Luke was busy or asleep. Portions of the wiring for the guidance systems and the hyperdrive engine needed redoing, and the proton torpedo launch tubes were a mess.
She loses herself in the work for upwards of a few hours, and she never hears him come in. It’s more like she starts to feel that he’s closer than he ought to be. The Force wraps around him and she can feel it pulsing, but it’s a gentle pulse; his earlier agitation is nowhere to be felt.
Unfortunately the feeling of being watched is making her agitated and being elbows-deep in the T-65’s guidance system works better when she’s not agitated, so she says, “You gonna stand there all day or are you gonna help? Do you know which button manually dumps the-”
“I know every inch of this machine,” says Luke. He sounds slightly amused. Rey actually extricates herself from the X-Wing’s bowels and stands up, putting her hands on her hips and fixing Luke with a glare.
“Excuse me? You mean to say that you knew how to take care of her and you still just let her rot?”
“The fuel cap was ruined coming into this system, I didn’t have anything to fix it with,” says Luke.
Rey makes a rude dismissive noise. “I already fixed that. The real problem is all the wet salty air that’s gotten in, so now you’ve got rust and build-up all over and who even knows what in the launch tubes because you didn’t have the common decency to fix the walls in here and give her a nice dry place to rest!”
Luke watches her for a moment and then shrugs off his robe and goes to examine the fuel line. Rey gets back to work, grumbling about people who don’t take care of their equipment, and after satisfying himself that the fuel cap was actually repaired, Luke starts working on the other end of the ship, cleaning it up and making sure all the wiring is still viable.
They work in companionable silence for almost an hour before he says, “You think I’m not training you.”
Rey had nearly forgotten he was there so the sound of his voice makes her jump, and for a moment she scowls and tries to figure out if he’s digging around in her mind or not. She doesn’t feel anything, not like when Kylo Ren did it, but she has a feeling that Kylo Ren’s methods hurt by design rather than necessity.
“I went down and spoke to Chewie and R2,” he admits.
“Oh,” says Rey, while she considers his previous statement. She hasn’t said that, exactly, but it’s a fair summary of everything she has said. “I just...I already know how to be quiet and alone.”
“That’s not all meditation is,” says Luke.
“I don’t need to not feel my feelings either,” says Rey. “Kylo Ren-”
“Ben,” says Luke. “His name is Ben Solo.”
“Okay,” says Rey. “Ben isn’t a problem because he has feelings, he’s a problem because he deals with them by stabbing people.”
Luke huffs a laugh at that. “The Jedi Order used to be pristine. Calm. Collected. Their legacy, their code, it’s about maintaining that calm, that balance.”
“Calm isn’t balance,” says Rey. “It’s just one side. Look, when we’re done with this, she’ll be pristine, like your order was. Shiny like the day she was born and running like a dream, but she can’t stay that way and do what she needs to do. She’s got to get out there, maybe take some hits, get rough around the edges, and when she sits back down we can work on her again. You wouldn’t just throw her out over a few dents, would you?”
“I didn’t throw Ben out,” says Luke.
“Moira isn’t Ben. She’s just a metaphor,” says Rey. “Just...chill, okay? Work on the ship. Talk to me about levitation and concentration and how to draw power and put it back. Stop trying to tell me that caring about people is a weakness, because I believed that for ages and I know now that I was wrong.”
Luke sighs, and he’s quiet for long enough that Rey doesn’t think he’s going to do as she asked, but then he starts talking. At first it’s pretty clinical, like he’s spouting memorized passages from some crusty Jedi text book, but the longer his voice curls through the air around them the more comfortable he seems to become. Eventually he weaves in stories about himself, about his own early misconceptions about the force, from the days before he’d ever met Obi-Wan or Yoda or any of the other names that Rey had always thought of as characters in a story. She learns more from the hours they spend on Moira than she has in the whole time she’s been here, and when he stops talking she makes a small noise of protest without meaning to.
“I need water,” he says, giving her a smile. “And we both need to eat. Also -” he pulls some bread out of the spare toolbox that he’s been working from so they wouldn’t have to fight over tools. “Why is there bread in here?”
Rey turns red and immediately closes her mouth. Her whole body tenses, as if the question is a punch that she can take. She stops herself a second later, because if Luke can bend and share things with her then maybe she can too. “I hide everything important,” she says. “Where I grew up, if you left things laying around they weren’t likely to be there when you came back.”
Luke watches her for a moment with an unreadable expression and then puts the bread back. “Come on, take a break while I make dinner.”
Rey buttons up the bits she’s been working on and wipes her hands off before following Luke out of the shop and up a winding and weathered staircase to another building, where he has his kitchen set up. She offers to help, but she has offered to help before. He was foolish enough to take her up on it the first time. This time he politely declines, which is a relief to both of them, but without anything to occupy her hands, Rey gets restless.
“Tell me about Jakku,” he says, just as she’s about to excuse herself to go back to the shop.
She glances over at him and hesitates. “There was a battle there, ages ago, between the Rebellion and the Empire.”
“Yeah, I remember,” says Luke with a laugh. Then, under his breath, he mutters, “‘Ages,’ she says.” She notices that he’s making more bread, even though it hasn’t been a full week since the last batch.
“Well, neither of them were inclined to clean up after themselves, so there are all these great metal ghosts from the war buried in the sand. Great for salvagers. Finn and I made it better when we left, dropped a few fresh TIE fighters on top of all the old mess. I lived in an AT-AT about an hour out from Niima, and I salvaged parts from other ships to sell to Unkar while I waited for-” her voice dies before she can finish the sentence. She swallows. “I found a flight simulator in one of them and played through the whole thing, every ship it had, I learned to-” she stops again.
“What happened?” he asks gently.
“I found a Ghtroc 690,” says Rey. Her voice is nearly a whisper, but that just makes her feel foolish so she scowls and clears her throat, then continues in a louder voice. “I kept it hidden for a while, patching it up, but eventually a couple other salvagers noticed. They offered to help.”
“Isn’t that good?” asks Luke.
Rey gives him a harsh look.
“Why not?” he asks.
“If I turn them down, they could just turn it into Unkar for the finder’s fee. Unkar would send someone out to collect and they wouldn’t get as much as if we fixed it up and took it in ourselves, but they’d still get something compared to my nothing. If I accept, maybe they wait until I get it up and running and then they take it in and sell it without me.” She can tell that Luke thinks that’s a little too paranoid but he doesn’t comment. “Maybe they wouldn’t have screwed me over, if we’d wanted the same thing. But we didn’t. They wanted to get off Jakku, and I couldn’t leave. I just wanted to fix it and sell it. So we worked together to fix it, and when we took it to Niima, they let me get out to go get Unkar and then they took off.” She used her hand to mime a ship flying up from the table and away.
“Why couldn’t you leave?” asks Luke. “When I was your age, getting off-world was all I wanted.”
Rey shrugs, like it’s not important. “I had to stay.”
“But you left with Finn,” says Luke.
“Yeah, well, he said BB8 knew how to find you, and the First Order was trying to kill them both and me along with them to get that information, or at least to keep General Organa from getting that information. They were shooting up Niima, calling in an air strike. When the First Order hits a place like that, they don’t usually leave much behind, and even if I thought they’d let me walk away, I can’t live there if I can’t make a living.”
“How’d you escape?”
Rey smiles at him. “I stole the Millennium Falcon from Unkar’s junk yard.”
“Han lost the Falcon?” demands Luke, turning to stare at her. “He loved the Falcon.”
“Yeah, I imagine that’s why he showed up all of thirty seconds after we got out of atmo,” she smiles at him, but it slides off her face after a moment. “I meant to go back, I was going to...but then Ky-er- Ben caught me, and Han…” She shakes her head.
“I’m sorry they took your ship,” says Luke.
Rey shrugs. “Won’t happen again,” she says, but she’s not so sure. She thought, after the Ghtroc, she’d learned her lesson. But then there was BB-8. And then there was Finn, and Han and Chewie. Devi and Strunk had told her they wanted to leave and first chance they’d got, they’d left, without so much as a glance back or a ‘sorry’ for her to carry home with her. But Finn and Han, they both said they wanted to leave and then they had their chance and instead of disappearing they broke into a top-security First Order weapons base to free her. Sure, there were other reasons, but they came for her first.
So, tentatively, for the first time ever, she has friends. That makes her feel vulnerable, because any one of them could disappear or die or just take off at any time. The Falcon’s not so easy to pilot alone, but Chewie’s got reach. He could do it. He enjoys seeing her, though, and he never seems impatient with the lack of progress she’s making. She asked him about it once and he said, ‘Jedi take as long to talk as trees do, it’s good you aren’t one yet. Luke was more fun when he wasn’t one too. He scared easier.’ Then he grinned toothily.
“Rey?” asks Luke.
“Fear,” says Rey.
“What?” he turns to look at her.
“Fear is the path to the dark side, that’s what your order teaches, right?”
“Caring about people comes packaged with fear. Fear that they’ll leave or die or get hurt.”
Luke nods again, his mouth curving down as he thinks about that.
Rey makes an irritated noise.
“What?” asks Luke.
“Being afraid for Finn and Chewie and Han didn’t make me evil.”
“Have you heard some of the things you’ve said about Ben?” asks Luke dryly.
Rey glares at him. “Ben cornered me in the woods with a lightsaber after kidnapping me and killing and hurting my friends. Should I have let him?”
“No,” says Luke, “of course not, but harboring that kind of anger and ill intent toward a person weakens and twists you. In the moment, defend yourself. Defend the weak, and the innocent. Then let it go.”
Rey looks away for a moment. “I don’t like Ben. He has hurt me, and literally everyone I can call a friend. But I don’t actually want to go tear him to pieces.”
“What do you want?” asks Luke.
Rey looks down at her hands and shrugs.
Later that night, she gets the communicator working and hails the Falcon. R2 picks up and fills the hangar with a string of excited trilling. Rey shows him the T-65 and he makes several alarmed and mournful sounds at the state of it. Rey assures him that she’s working on it, and they spend a few minutes grumbling together about Luke letting the ship fall apart the way he did. Chewie’s already in bed for the night, so after a while she hangs up with R2 and heads over to the little sleeping pallet she’s made for herself for when she stays up working too late.
She’s woken several hours later by the communicator beeping at her, and she answers it to find Chewie on the other end. He greets her happily, apparently very pleased that she was able to annoy Luke into visiting him. They exchange pleasantries for a bit before she steels herself and says, “Hey, Chewie? Can you...can you tell me what Ben was like?”
Chewie stiffens slightly, but then he obliges. He describes a lonely child, not unlike Rey, who was clever and eager and wanted approval so badly. Han and Leia were both Generals in the resistance and the New Republic after it, and long after Endor that still required a lot of their time and attention. Chewie ended up watching Ben a lot, but then Ben showed affinity for the force and was sent to train with Luke and something happened when he was away that made him cold and angry. The next time Chewie saw him, he wasn’t the same anymore. The distance grew and grew until the news came that Luke’s school had been destroyed. That Ben had brought in the Red Knights and slaughtered everyone, and not long after that Luke disappeared. Han thought Leia blamed him for everything, thought swindling people was the only thing he’d ever been any good at. He wanted to leave and go back to their old life, and Chewie couldn’t talk him out of it so they left.
Han is an open wound for Chewie, and listening to him talk about his friend makes Rey’s chest ache. After they disconnect, she tries feeling angry about Ben again, but it isn’t the same. It isn’t the sharp sort of anger that incites violence, it’s slow and deep and sad. She’s angry about everything that has happened, but all she can think to do is try to make it better. The First Order needs to be stopped. Whoever got to Ben needs to be stopped. She gets up and goes to find Luke.
Despite (or perhaps because of) the early hour, he’s out atop the hill where she’d first met him, meditating. Rey waits a couple minutes but he shows no signs of acknowledging her so she plops down beside him and swats at his hands.
“Hey,” she says. “Stop that. I think I found the word you were looking for.”
Luke sighs, but he doesn’t open his eyes, like he’s hoping this will be short and he can get back to his morning routine, or whatever this is. Rey’s never come to this part of the island this early in the morning before.
“I was looking for a word?” asks Luke.
“Yes. You kept saying calm , but I think what you meant was patient .”
He quirks an eyebrow at her. “Is this your demonstration of patience?”
“ Ha, ha ,” says Rey sarcastically. “No.”
They’re silent while the wind tosses their hair and nearby the sea hisses against the edges of the ragged little island.
“Was there more?” asks Luke. “Or did you just come here to glare at me?”
“I’m not glaring at you,” says Rey dismissively. “I’m not angry.”
He considers her. “No, I suppose you’re not.”
“There was more,” says Rey. “I’m still working on it.”
“Can I meditate?” asks Luke.
Rey makes an irritated noise and gets up again and goes back to work on Moira. When it’s time for their morning lesson, Luke joins her, picking up his part of the work where he left off the evening before.
“I had no patience for Kylo Ren,” she says.
“Ben,” corrects Luke.
“No,” says Rey. “Ben is who you and Han and General Organa want him to be. Kylo Ren is who he is right now.”
Luke frowns, but doesn’t argue. After a moment of thought he asks, “What’s the purpose of the distinction?”
Rey struggles for the words for what she’s trying to express. “Moira isn’t done yet. It wouldn’t make sense to say, ‘oh, she’s such a good flier!’ She’s not. Maybe I fixed something wrong and when I take her out for a test run she’ll refuse to start or won’t be able to gain altitude fast enough or corner as tightly as she used to. I want her to be a good flier, and that’s what I’m working toward, but it’s not what she is right now.”
“Okay,” says Luke.
Rey swallows and it takes her a moment to say the next thing. “Han acted like Kylo Ren wasn’t a real person. Like there was only his son, and not the thing that began when something dark crawled into his son’s heart. But there was both. One of them cried while the other one killed Han and dropped him down a hole.”
“Ben isn’t going to kill me and drop me down a hole,” says Luke.
“No,” says Rey, “but Kylo Ren might. You can’t pretend he doesn’t exist.”
“Okay,” says Luke again. “So you had no patience for him.”
“Right,” says Rey, “and so I hated him and I only had my own context. I was acting like Ben wasn’t real, and that’s wrong too. So I wouldn’t have walked up to him for a hug, right, but I wouldn’t have offered him forgiveness either.”
“But you will now?” asks Luke.
“No,” says Rey. “It’s not mine to give. Not entirely. But I talked to Chewwie, and I got context for Ben. I know that Chewwie and General Organa miss Ben. I think you miss Ben too. So I’m still angry, I still want to stop him, but it’s not an easy anger. I took the time to learn about him, and now I am sad for him as well as because of him.”
“Does that help?” asks Luke.
“No,” says Rey. “It hurts more, and deeper. But I don’t think being a Jedi is about making things easy. I think the complexity is important. If I’m going to do something meaningful, change things for the better, heal some of this new rift that has grown since the fall of the Empire, then I think I need to be able to absorb and navigate complexity.”
Luke doesn’t respond, but he looks like he’s thinking hard, so Rey leaves him be for a while. Eventually, almost as the idea pops into her head, she says, “Finn was a Storm Trooper.”
“Oh,” says Luke. “I - yes. I think you mentioned that.”
“Storm Troopers hurt people. Finn - he’s probably at least contributed to hurting people,” says Rey. “But he turned away. He made a good choice. He helped Poe and he helped me and he’s with the resistance now. I wouldn’t be here without him. Maybe there are good things that only Ben can do. Maybe if I don’t give him a chance to do them, people who could have made a difference won’t get the chance to. Maybe for them, if nothing else, it’s worth it to get him that chance, even if I have to drag him to it kicking and screaming.”
Luke laughs. “I think you did need to teach me.”
“Have I taught you enough that I can learn to use the bloody lightsaber?” asks Rey irritably.
He laughs again. “Yes, I think so.”
Rey drops a wrench and leans around Moira’s hull to look at him. “Really?”
“Really. Let’s finish up here while I talk through some of the basics.”
Rey picks the wrench back up and carefully returns to her work, as if sudden movements might make him change his mind.