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Different Deserts

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"Listen, just stay there and let me do the talking. I'll let you know when I'm ready for you," Luke said, hoping that there was enough authority in his voice. It would be nice to be listened to, for once.

The ship ramp started descending. With one last worried glance back at the passenger cabin Luke stepped forward, standing at the top of the ramp. Despite the nerves crawling through his chest, he couldn't help but smile when he saw Bodhi through the ship opening. He waved to his husband.

Bodhi looked worried, bounding quickly up the ramp when Luke hesitated in coming down. "Everything alright?" Bodhi asked as he cleared the top, flicking an inquisitive glance over Luke's form, cataloguing his sand-worn shoes and tattered clothes. "You look a little worse for the wear."

"I'm fine. Deserts. Sand gets everywhere." Luke gave a wan smile.

"Uh-huh." Bodhi didn't sound convinced. "And the reason you commed and asked me to come meet you at the ship instead of at home? Something go wrong with the artifact?"

"No! I mean, aside from the fact that I had to destroy it because it is an object that's been tainted by millennia of evil and attempted to kill, um, me."

"Well, congrats on not being dead. Another day in the life of Master Skywalker." Bodhi's eyes crinkled in affection, and Luke thanked the Force, as he did regularly, for bringing him a partner that could put up with the weirdness that came along with being a Jedi. "So if it's not about that, what's it about?"

Luke didn't answer right away, instead edging closer to Bodhi and holding his hands open for a hug. Bodhi obliged him, and Luke felt the peace that always came with Bodhi's presence. Bodhi had always felt like home, like comfort, belonging, and a place to rest. Luke let himself relax into feeling.

He hoped it wasn't for the last time.

Luke internally rolled his eyes. No need to be so dramatic. Bodhi had put up with his antics for over a decade, now. There was no way that this would be the thing that broke them.

Granted, they hadn't face...exactly this situation before. Luke took a deep breath from where he was tucked against Bodhi's neck and said, "I have something to tell you."

He could feel Bodhi tense, but to Bodhi's credit, all he said was, "What's that?"

Luke took a step back, laying his hands on Bodhi's shoulders. "Bodhi. Love of my life."

"I'm worried."

"Light of my soul."

"I'm really worried. Luke, darling, what did you do?"

Luke swallowed. "Well, you see—"

Luke was interrupted by a soft, high voice saying, "I thought you said he was alright with everything."

Luke winced. Bodhi gave a confused look, and then his eyes widened as he looked past Luke.

Bodhi's eyes widened past him. Luke laid a pacifying hand on the front of Bodhi's chest and turned himself. In the doorway to the passenger cabin stood a small human girl, clad mostly in scavenged cloth strips, her dark brown hair done up in three knots. She couldn't be more than eight.

"Technically," Luke said to the girl, "I said he would be alright with everything. I just need to explain to him what's going on, first." Luke turned back to Bodhi. "Bodhi, meet Rey. Rey, this is my husband Bodhi."

"A pleasure," Bodhi gave a short bow, his time in politics showing as he covered the shock with pleasantries. Bodhi turned back to Luke, "Luke, why is there a child on your ship?"

Luke winced. It was usually 'our ship.' Bodhi was pissed.

"I can explain," Luke said quickly, his eyes darting between his startled husband and the defensive girl in the doorway. "Alright, so, you know I was on Jakku looking for the gunboat carrying the Teeth of Vaknor, right?"

It was one of the great ironies of Luke's life, he thought, that he spent so much time on desert planets when all he had wanted to do was escape the one he had grown up on. Not only had he made a desert planet his eventual home, insult to injury, it was a cold desert planet. The worst of both worlds.

Luke would be furious, if the people living there and what he had built there hadn't also also made it the best of all possible worlds.

Still, he tried to be optimistic about the fact that Jakku, covered in sand and bereft of water—unmistakably a desert—at least had the decency to be hot. Though, Luke mused as he wrapped the linen cloth around his head in an attempt to shield from the sun, it was possible Jedha had made him soft. The heat seemed more oppressive than it usually was.

He didn't have to stay long. Just long enough to find the gunboat Persecutor, search it thoroughly, and confirm or deny that it was carrying the Teeth of Vaknor. After that, he could leave. With the teeth, if they were found. Luke was half hoping they wouldn't be. Oh, certainly, it would be good to know that the teeth were in the hands of someone who wouldn't use them, and even better to know that they would be destroyed. And yet, it was a necklace made of actual teeth and Luke wasn't too proud to admit that the very idea grossed him out.

Unfortunately, while on most planets a crashed gunboat would have been a landmark worth noting, here it was a part of the landscape. The phrase "starship graveyard" wasn't hyperbole. Alliance and Imperial ships alike littered the landscape, a grim reminder of the high cost of the Empire's dying days. Scavengers knew the graveyard best, and if they kept a filing system on which ships crashed where, they weren't exactly prone to sharing it with outsiders.

"The Persecutor," Luke tried again.

"Many ships!" chittered the teek scavenger, his rodent-like face screwing up with enthusiastic earnestness. "I can show you many ships, small fee!"

"But I don't need many ships, I just need the Persecutor," Luke tried again.

"Yes!" the teek said.

Luke could read the scavenger's emotional state well enough, bright, eager to help, even more eager to get credits.

Luke gave a small internal sigh and tried one more thing. He reached out with the force, radiating trustworthiness, encouraging openness and honesty, "You will tell me where the Persecutor is."

"Yes!" the teek said, it's mind as blank as ever.

No sign of recognition in regards to the Persecutor. Well. At least this one wasn't actively malicious, the way the most of the others were.

"Alright, three credits a day for use of your speeder and knowledge, ten credits once we find the Persecutor," Luke said, starting scandalously low.

The teek gasped and narrowed his eyes, and the bartering began.

The bartering went well, the price landing just on the bargain side of fair. However, the search did not. Earnestness was not equal to helpfulness.

"I need a gunboat." Luke put his hands on his hips as his gaze went up and up, tracing the wreckage of the Star Destroyer, many, many times the size of the ship he was looking for.

"This good ship!" The teek made to get off of the speeder.

"It's not the right ship." Luke stayed on the speeder.

"Good, good ship, many good wires, you see."

"I don't need wires." Luke pinched his nose. "Not the right ship. Next."


"Next. Ship."

"This might take longer than I had hoped," Luke grumbled as he rested his chin on his folded arms on the table, staring morosely at the holoprojector.

The flickering blue image of Bodhi smiled affectionately at him. "What, no big sign that says 'Dark Artifact This Way, Please Don't Be Evil and Use It?"

"Strangely enough, we are completely lacking those." Luke managed a wane grin before it fell off of his face. "I don't know. Half the scavs here have no idea what I'm talking about, and the ones that might have some idea are not really the sorts of people I want to be taking around an artifact with tainted force energy."

"You might have to deal with the less savory types sooner or later, love."

Luke massaged his temples. "I'm going to try to avoid it. That gets messy, and I hate killing when I can avoid it."

Bodhi winced at that and Luke gave a rueful head tilt.

"Mind wipe?" Bodhi offered.

"That's not really that much better. It's still an invasion. I'd still rather avoid it."

"I trust your judgement," Bodhi said, with a soft smile.

"Glad to hear it."

If there was any single thing in his life that gave Luke hope that he wouldn't go the way of his father, it was this: he listened to the people in his life. Bodhi's trust was earned, and Luke was determined not to squander it.

Luke ran his fingers through his hair. "Right, I should sleep and sonic so I'm well rested before another frustrating day of dead ends."

"Enjoy that, darling. I've got the local cluster economics summit, so I'll be in transit for the next couple days."

Luke nodded. "I miss you. Negotiate for clearer trade lanes and more reasonable tariffs like the terrifying force of political maneuvering that you are."

Bodhi's grin was sharp enough to cut durasteel. "Will do."

He blew a kiss as he shut the holoprojector off, and Luke pushed himself off the table with a resigned sigh.

The next day's scavenger at least knew what a gunboat was, and she took him to seven different ships before she noticed him making a map. Once she caught sight of him writing things down she shook her head and took him straight back to the outpost over his protests.

"You should be glad I am not stranding you, yes? The rate negotiated, it is not, not, not sufficient to cover recording. Soon everyone knows where ships are. Everyone knows, nobody profits. You seem decent, you seem offworlder, I will not hold against you but I will not help you."

"I promise I just need to figure out where the Persecutor is, search it, then I can leave. I will not share the map with anyone else."

"Words good good words. But useless things. Useless without trust, and there is no trust between us. Well, little trust. Is why I am not stranding you. But I will not ruin my life over you, offworlder."

Luke found he really couldn't argue with that, and he was pretty sure compelling her into helping him against her very reasonable objections was Dark Side territory. He would find another way.

The third scavenger was lying. Luke knew that much. So he pushed, as gently as he could, and the man admitted he had no idea where the Persecutor was, and that he really wanted to drag Luke off into the wilderness, kill him, and come back with his personal belongings as scavenge.

The rest of that day was spent trying to figure out where the local police were, and how to best get someone arrested for wanting to murder someone. Luke was disheartened to realize that nobody cared that the man wanted to kill Luke, that was simply a matter of personal conflict. However, the fact that the man wanted to take Luke's money first, and then kill him, that was fraud. The man was dragged off, and Luke spent the rest of the afternoon theorizing a way to reshape a justice system to value individual life.

Pointless, probably, but it did make him feel better.

The fourth day, the fourth scavenger, and Luke was exhausted. He felt grimy, both from the dust the sonic would never really clean off, and from dealing with the low-level constant moral bankruptcy around him. He was irritated, snappish, and after dismissing the first three people he talked to, Luke heard about a new scavenger in town.

Luke sat across the table from the Whiforlan, its bright blue-red plumage a startling bit of beauty in the otherwise drab tan town. He wore his feathers with a showy pride, visibly preening the dust off every few seconds Luke was talking to him.

Luke disliked him intensely. It was an opinion that had cyrstallized shortly after the scavenger had started talking. He had begun his speech in beautiful Whiforla-Song, but before Luke could respond he stopped. He somehow gave a derisive snort without actually having a nose, and started again in basic, the words sounding thin and raspy in his throat.

"I hear you have been stumbling around the sands fruitlessly. I can solve your problem."

Unfortunately, while he was presumptuous and patronizing (Luke couldn't speak Whiforla-Song, but he understood it perfectly well, an fact he felt no obligation to disclose to the stuck-up scavenger), he also wasn't actively plotting to murder Luke. At least, Luke didn't think he was plotting any sort of untimely demise.

And he was just about the only scavenger still willing to work with Luke on this outpost. Luke debated spending a day or two in the man's odious presence versus spending a day or two finding a new trading outpost on this forsaken excuse of a planet, and Luke decided he was willing to work with the man.

"I have never bothered to learn the names of the ships, I cannot help with that. However, I know my sands better than the rest of these half-witted dust scroungers, and I am confident we will reach some satisfaction."

The Whiforlan gave Luke an avaricious once-over, and Luke, with a brief wistful thought that he wished Bodhi were around, settled in for a tense negotiation of fees.

The number they reached was...not one he would be bragging to Bodhi about. But it got them out of the trading post and into the ship graveyard, and Luke was so, so ready to be done with this planet. Resigning himself to basking in the Whiforlan's greedy satisfaction, Luke settled into the passenger seat of the speeder and watched the dunes fly by.

Thankfully, the Whiforlan did manage to take him to a gunboat he hadn't visited before. But, of course, the ship's transponder didn't work any longer (would have been a miracle if it had), it didn't have any clear identifier markings along the outside (likely buried in the sand, Luke had gotten lucky with the other seven), and had proved to be so well-gutted that even once inside it was nearly impossible to figure out which ship it was (a hugely frustrating bit of bad luck). Luke resigned himself to a long and frustrating slog to clear the ship. He looked hopefully over at the Whiforlan, who settled back smugly against the driver seat and clacked his beak at Luke.


The ship didn't have a strong force signature, which was both promising and frustrating. Probably, no signature meant no teeth. However, with the ship so well-gutted, if the teeth had been here, they were likely found, which meant likely used. So, unwilling to move on without confirmation, Luke trudged his way through the ship. Sooner or later he would find some sign of which kriffing ship it was.

While he trudged, he composed a mental letter to send off to Bodhi.

Dear Bodhi,

Gunboats are big. I don't like this.



He knew Bodhi's response would be something along the lines of an utterly unsympathetic "It could be worse. It could be a Star Destroyer." It made Luke feel better just thinking about it.

The gunboat remained unidentified and tedious for the next two hours. Then, just as Luke was ready to tear his hair out because the ship refused to yield up a name, the tedium was broken in one of the worst ways possible. A slight whistling was the far-too-late warning that Luke was being attacked. He tried to spin, but stopped as he felt a smack against the back of his head, the half-second herald of the bright pain that radiated through his skull, painful and nauseating.

Luke dropped to one knee, hands over his head to protect from another attack while he furiously tried to think through battle strategy. Luke hadn't felt the attack coming. Nobody could sneak up on him anymore. The attacker was dangerous, impossibly fast or possibly shooting from range—

"This are my grounds," an entirely too young voice declared.

Luke slowly uncovered his head and turned to look. He found himself face-to-face with a...girl. A human girl. Somewhere between five and eight, Luke's inexpert eye told him. Too young to be here. Too young to hold a quarterstaff like that, with wary alertness. And yet, there she was and there she stood, which meant that Luke had to find some way to deal with this.

"Um...I'm...sorry?" That seemed like a reasonably good opening line.

"Offworlder." The girl tipped her head, her child-large eyes narrowed to suspicious lines.

"What is it with people and calling me offworlder? My name is Luke." Luke was dangerously close to sounding petulant, but he was too tired and exhausted to care.

"You are one. What are you doing here? Scavenging doesn't bring in that many credits." Almost as an afterthought she added, "I'm Rey."

"Hello, Rey." Luke clung to the politeness drilled into him when he was barely older than the girl in front of him. "I'm not here to scavenge."

Luke was proud of himself for going with that line of conversation, rather than any of the less productive ones he was thinking of. For example, 'Ow! That hurt,' or maybe, 'How did you sneak up on me? I'm a Jedi Master I'm supposed to be very difficult to sneak up on.' That was leaving aside the more heartbreaking questions of, 'What are you doing in a gunboat?' and 'No, seriously, where are your parents?'

Luke strongly suspected he wouldn't like the answers to those questions.

Rey tipped her head to the side as she paced. No, she circled, keeping a wary distance between her and Luke. "So what are you doing?"

Luke tried to look less intimidating. He let his kneel collapse to a sit, sprawling in front of the child scavenger. "Looking for something."

"Something valuable?"

"Something dangerous." Luke hoped his tone sounded firm enough.

"Dangerous things are usually valuable." She said with a certain ruthless calculation.

Luke started to feel the beginnings of panic. He didn't want to have to hurt this girl, this child who was confronting him in a place no children should be. But the teeth, if they were real, would do far worse to her than Luke would. He had to find them first.

Rey's foot tapped. "But probably not worth the risk, if there's offworld blood buying in."

Luke gave a quiet sigh of relief.

"So, this thing, you're taking it with you when you go?"

Luke gave a short nod. "If it's real and I can find it."

"Okay," she seemed to be relaxing a little, her too-skinny stubby fingers drumming against her staff, "you're looking for something you want and you're planning on taking it with you." She tapped her staff against the metal deck of the destroyer. "Explain to me again how you're not scavenging?"

Luke blinked, then started thinking. "I'm...looking for a very specific thing. I'm not just looking for anything valuable...why am I debating the semantics of scavenging with you again?"

Rey grinned at that, and the years seemed to melt off her with the innocence of that expression.

With a squawk and clatter of talons against metal, the Whiforlan came swooping in, chittering in furiously in Whiforla-song. {Stand back girl, this fresh-hatched pushover is mine.}

With an exhausted sort of amusement, Luke realized that the Whiforlan never bothered to learn whether or not Luke understood Whiforla-Song. Since the Whiforlan hadn't shown Luke the decency of assessment before judgement, Luke felt precisely zero compunctions at keeping his face impassively blank and letting the conversation unfold around him, wondering what the scavenger would say when he thought he wasn't heard.

Rey snapped back at the scavenger, her human throat not quite able to form the musical language, but able to make herself understood clearly enough. {My hunting grounds. You paid no honor for right of trespass.}

{Only yours if you can defend them, you know your master won't mourn if you die.}

{There is nothing left here.} She sounds a little desperate, still furious. {Whatever he is looking for is not here. You know this. Take him somewhere else.}

The Whiforlan tipped his head back, a rolling clicking of amusement vibrating at his his throat. {Why do you think I brought him here? He is made of gold and he is mine to drain. I can keep him turned around in the sands for weeks, so long as he does not actually find the thing he is looking for.}

Rey gives Luke a protective sort of Luke that breaks Luke's heart. She flattens her lips and looks back to the much-larger Whiforlan. {You are despicable.}

{And you are unmatched. Run along, fledgling. Say nothing to my pushover and live another day. Or do you really think you can win?} The Whiforlan puffed up his feathers, in a display that no doubt seemed impressive to other avian species.

The resulting ball of feathered fluff was adorable and amusing, and Luke would have been fighting not to laugh if the words hadn't been deadly serious. It was time to bring this conversation to a close.

He drew his lightsaber and stood in the same moment, and a beat later he had placed himself between Rey and the aggressive scavenger, his lightsaber humming that familiar droning song as it lit the inside of the gunboat in green. "We're done," he informed the Whiforlan.

The scavenger's head is turned to the side, one giant eye fixed unerringly on the lightsaber. A ripple moves through the Whiforlan's feathers. "You haven't paid me."

"Pay you? For what? Taking me to a ship you knew didn't have anything I would be looking for? Also," Luke smiled, and it was mostly teeth, "I tend not to pay people who call me a fresh-hatched pushover. Run along."

The Whiforlan gave an indignant chirp, looked like he was considering a protestation of innocence, and then with an angry shriek and a blur of feathers took off toward the front of the gunboat.

Luke sheathed his lightsaber and turned back to face Rey. She blinked up at him. "So," she said, looking a little ashamed, "you understood that."

"Yes." Luke stood straight, trying to look commanding. Like he was in control of a situation. It was a pose that still felt faked, though less and less so, as the years went on. "Thank you for drawing him into that discussion. It was very informative."

Rey acknowledged him, tipping her head to the side. "Do you have a ride back to town?"

Luke deflated. So much for looking in charge of a situation. "No."

"I've got a powered sled," she said after a moment of deliberation. "I can haul you back to town. Fifteen credits."

"I saved your life," Luke muttered, a little offended, even as he pulled the credits out of his pocket. He held fifteen in one and ten in the other. "Twenty-five credits if you can point me toward someone who can show me around the desert without killing me, or being so inept as to be useless."

"You very much did not save my life," she informed him, pocketing the fifteen credits. She stared a the additional ten, thinking hard. "The only person I know like that is me, and Unkar won't let me leave my territory unless you pay him instead."

She said this with a flat certainty, unemotional inflection, and Luke was immediately seized with a dark urge to do painful things to whoever this Unkar was. He fought it down, but vowed to see what he could do about Rey's situation when they went back to town. If there was anything he could do without making things worse, even.

Luke looked over at Rey again, and he could see that she was still thinking, her body stock-still aside from her twitching fingers, and Luke could almost see in the movement how fast her brain was working. She looked back up at him, "If you give me seventy credits and tell me what you're looking for, I'll tell you if I've ever seen anything like it."

Luke flattened his lips as he considered how long the child in front of him would have had to work to even think about knowing the desert well enough to make that offer. A little desperately, he asked, "How long have you been scavenging?"

"A year and a half," she said, and Luke's heart broke.

Misinterpreting his expression, she quickly added, "But I've got good eyes! I know the wastes just as well as people who have been doing this longer. And I'm not dumb enough to try to screw you over. You have a lightsaber. I don't want to be on your bad side." Rey opened her mouth to ask something, changed her mind and closed it again.

"You can ask," Luke said, having some idea of what she was thinking.

"Luke Skywalker?" she blurted out, a mix of admiration and confusion.

Luke nodded.

"I thought you were a story. When people talk..."

"When people talk, what comes out usually is just a story. But I'm also a person."

"Can you move rocks with your mind?" Rey's face changed, that innocent expression back. For a moment, she was nothing more than a child meeting the hero of her legends.

And asking him some oddly specific questions. "Yes. I don't tend to just go around doing it though. Not much reason to move rocks."

Rey tried not to look too sad about this. Luke admired her attempt. Rey shook her head, tapped her staff against the floor again. "Anyway. My offer still stands. Seventy credits."

"Alright," Luke agreed.

He didn't really have any hope that Rey has seen anything like the Teeth of Vaknor. But it was a good excuse to give this skinny underfed girl seventy credits. He suspected she wouldn't just take them outright. Kids who grew up poor in the desert quickly learned that freely given gifts are rarely truly freely given. You just don't see the strings. He hands her seventy credits. "I'm looking for something called the Teeth of Vaknor. It's a necklace, and it's made out of...well, teeth."

"Ew," is Rey's opinion, which wins Luke over immediately. "Off the top of my head I haven't seen any teeth necklaces. I feel like I'd remember that. Haven't heard of anyone else pulling them in either." Rey started to pace. As she walked, she asked, "What other information do you have? Is there a way it was usually transported? Something else it was transported with? I might know if a companion piece got pulled out."

Luke was charmed by how seriously she took her role as informant. "It was on a gunboat named the Persecutor. Honestly, if you can tell me where that is, that'll be worth the seventy credits right there."

Rey gave a frustrated headshake. "I know a lot of gunboats but not that one. Do you have a map? I can tell you where it isn't."

"Yes, that would...yes. Be helpful."

Rey held out an imperious hand, and Luke sat down next to her on the metal floor, watching as she noted and eliminated ten more crash sites. She drew another five circles on the sands. "These are ones without clear designations that I know about. I'll number them by which ones have probably had the least scavs through them. They're hard to get to. You'll need a speeder, sled won't do it."

Luke nodded. He took the map back. "Thank you, this is honestly more help than I've gotten from anyone else."

Rey looked a little proud at that.

Luke cleared his throat, looking down at her. "I know you said you won't go after this on your own, but I need to make something really clear. I might not be able to find this thing. If you hear about this artifact showing up, you need to know that it is very dangerous. It's strong, and it can twist people's minds. Don't trust the person you see carrying it. I'll leave you my comm code. It's very important that I know who has it."

"Is it dangerous for you too?"

"Yes," Luke said, because he didn't want to lie. "But I'm better trained than anyone else is, and I'm aware of what it might do. I know how to protect myself from it, and I plan to destroy it is soon as possible."

"What does it do?" Rey asked.

Luke hesitated before answering. He wanted tell her the truth, but he didn't want to her to wind up tempted. "It has an...aura. Of evil and danger. Most people won't want to go near it. But people with the right power, if they get near it, it starts telling them lies. That it can make them stronger, that it can help them fight."

"Oh!" Rey said, sounding suddenly excited.

"But it's lies." Luke quickly added, a little concerned. "It might make someone stronger for a while, but in the long run it takes over their mind and leaves them broken."

"But you said most people avoid it, right?" Rey suddenly sounded excited. "Almost like they don't even know it's there? Because that sounds like the Black Place. Nobody goes there. Nobody else even acts like they can see it. I can see it, but I never liked the way it felt. It was like the sun was getting sucked into a hole."

Luke started to feel cautiously optimistic. "That sounds...even if it's not the teeth it sounds like something I should know about. You can take me there?"

Rey nodded enthusiastically, but the nodding became less enthusiastic after a few seconds. "Um. No. I don't think I can. Unkar won't feed me if I don't bring back salvage, and if I try to pay for it with credits he'll just take the credits away. But!" Rey raised her hands, trying to look pacifying, "I'll mark it on your map and give you really good directions. I still want the credits, I just need to hide them. It's not illegal or anything."

Luke looked down on her and felt that nagging overwhelming despair at how large and broken the galaxy was. The New Republic made it less broken, Luke believed that, he had to, but it didn't do a damn thing for this child left on Jakku, this bright and clever girl who wouldn't eat if she didn't work. Luke didn't know how to fix it. Oh, he could fix it for her, certainly. He could swoop in and feed her and keep her safe. But there were so many children like her, and he couldn't save them all.

Luke wasn't even sure if he could save Rey, as his father's ghost rose before him in a very different way than it usually did. Desert slave child meets a meddling Jedi, who frees him and takes him away from everything he's ever known. In the end, did taking Anakin off of Tattooine serve him well? Luke chewed his lip, useless thoughts of who his father might have been if he had stayed wandering through his mind again. What if Shmi had brought her son along when she had married Cliegg? If his uncle Owen and his father Anakin had grown up as proper brothers?

Useless to speculate on, normally, but it seemed suddenly important with this brilliant child in front of him. Luke decided to hedge his bets. "Do you think Unkar would let me hire you as a guide if I payed him? I'll still pay you, quietly. I'd really like your eyes on things. And obviously I'll take care of your meals while you're working with me."

Rey looked over at him. "Yeah...he'd probably allow that." She sounded reluctant.

Luke sighed and sat back down on the floor, looking up at her. "What's the hesitation?"

Rey shifted. She walked a little ways away. After a long moment of silence she finally said, "You're dangerous."

Luke stifled a burst of indignation at the words. He was trying to keep her safe and fed, as opposed to whoever this Unkar was who seemed only interested in working Rey to an early grave.

Rey slid a look over at him and gave him an exasperated shrug. "And so is the rest of Jakku, I know! But I know that danger, you show up with your lightsaber and you can lift things with your mind, I don't know how to judge how dangerous you are!"

Luke...could see her point. "I can't really reassure you. I am dangerous. But I promise that I will pay you first, and I'll be doing my best to keep you safe. It's up to you whether or not you trust those promises."

Rey nodded. She paused a moment longer, thinking, then strode over to him and offered her hand. "Okay. Deal."

Luke shook it.

Unkar was willing to let Rey go for five credits a day, with fifteen up front. Luke took a certain vicious glee at that, chances were, he'd wind up paying Rey far more than he'd pay Unkar. The ship that Luke profoundly hoped was the Persecutor was a two day's ride by landspeeder. Loading Rey's little powered sled in the back of the speeder, and the camping supplies behind that, he and Rey set off the same afternoon. They got a couple hours with of ride in, Rey pushing forward in the passenger seat and watching the way Luke drove.

"So," she said, an hour and a half into the journey. "You're Luke Skywalker."

Luke nodded. "We did establish that."

"You're the man who landed a turbolaser bolt in the exhaust port, that lead to the destruction of the first Death Star."

Luke grunted in surprise. "That's more specific than most people get."

"There's a sim." Rey shifted, wrapping her hands around her quarterstaff. Luke was learning her little shifts, that one meant she was a little embarrassed. "I've only been in it a couple times, but I've heard a lot of people run it."

"Oh, kri—" Luke glanced over at her "—mony. That old thing."

Rey barely contained her giggle. "You can say kriff, Luke."

Luke shook his head. "I really can't."

"Kriiiiiiff. I say it all the time. Kriff!" Rey was grinning over at him, obviously delighted as Luke squirmed.

"Good for you?" Luke managed weakly, which set off another gale of laughter.

Rey shook her head as she calmed down from laughing again. "But that wasn't my question."

"What was your question?" Luke asked.

"Why are you driving so boring!"

"Excuse me?" Luke exclaimed.

In response Rey just gave gesture that encompassed the ship, the desert around them, and the speedometer.

"For your information, Ms. Rey, I tend not to fly dangerously when there's no pressing need for me to do so." Suddenly, a childhood spent racing breakneck through the canyons on Tattooine sprang up in his mind, accompanied by his aunt and uncle's ever-present concern he was going to wind up smeared against a wall somewhere. "Well, anymore at least." His mind called up images of taking Bodhi up in Bodhi's gorgeous little aethersprite, steep climbs for altitude and twisting descents, swooping their way through eons-old pillars left in the desert. "Usually," he amended again.

"Hm," Rey said in disapproval.

"Insolent child," Luke muttered, channeling the spirit of a childhood neighbor. Mrs. Sunfinder never had liked him much. He softened his words with a grin in a way she never had, and after a beat Rey looked over at him and smiled.

About an hour before dark, Rey tugged on his sleeve and suggested they set up shop for the night. Luke bowed to her superior experience, and rattled around the camp setting up their Plastent while Rey set up the pyrocube. Luke decided not to insult her by encouraging her to stay away from the hot bits. She clearly knew her way around equipment well enough on her own.

After the Plastent was up, Luke settled down across the pyrocube from Rey, a sudden ache in his chest as he missed his usual camping partner. Luke glanced longingly over at his pack, holoprojector inside of it. He dismissed the thought, even if he had signal out here, Bodhi would probably be neck-deep in economic conference right now.

Besides, Luke had company right now. Beru had always taught him not to be rude to guests. Luke rummaged through their stuff until he found the prepackaged meals, took two out and offered Rey her choice. "Looks like we've got a choice between mashed lowroot with gravy, or ground nerf casserole. Though, I'm going to warn you, neither of these are going to taste like culinary masterpieces."

Rey looked blankly at her two options. She didn't move to take either one.

"Which one do you want?" Luke asked.

Rey looked up at him, confused and with an edge of fear, and reached out her hand for one, then the other, then tucked it back on her lap. What in her life had her so overwhelmed at the sight of food choices? Several options occurred to him, and each one sparked a new fierce anger that Luke had to force himself to keep down.

Rey misread his anger, tears coming to her eyes "I'm sorry! I don't know what you want!"

Luke took another slow breath, tucking the mashed lowroot towards himself. He made sure his voice was calm before he spoke. "I thought you might have some allergies, or a strong preference for food. There's no right answer. No wrong one, either. If you don't have a strong preference, I suggest the ground nerf casserole. It's got more protein."

Rey, looking embarrassed, wiped her eyes and took the meal, sitting in sulky silence across from him. Luke showed her how to open it, the food heating as it was placed next to the pyrocube. Luke spent a few minutes making mild one-sided conversation about camping, just trying to soften the awkwardness. Luke wished for Bodhi again, this time for a more practical reason. Bodhi's childhood had looked closer to Rey's than Luke's had been. Luke couldn't help but feel that Bodhi would be less helpless about the whole thing.

"So, I was thinking that you should take the tent, I'll take a thermasleeper outside. That way if anything attacks—"

"No," Rey said, sounding clear and calm once again. "Anything that wants to eat us is going to be confused by the tent. We should both be inside it."

Luke paused, "But—"

"Besides," Rey continued without missing a beat, "if you're going to do something terrible to me, then you're going to do it. It's not like the tent is going to stop you."

Luke thought wildly that he was going to need to start keeping a tally of all the different times Rey casually said something in her calm, matter-of-fact voice that crushed his heart to pieces. "I could give you the keys to the speeder?"

Rey gave him a flat look over the pyrocube. "You're too nice. How are you still alive?"

Luke shrugged. "Luck. And the Force. And sometimes kindness gets you what you want."

"Not on Jakku," Rey muttered.

It wasn't the most tense sleep of Luke's life, but it was close. He was hyper-aware of the small body next to him, who had passed out soundly three minutes after crawling into her thermasleeper. Rey had apparently been genuine in her fatalistic lack of concern regarding sleep. Luke, on the other hand, twitched at every unfamiliar noise outside the Plastent, panicked at every hitched breath next to him, worried without any sort of reason that Rey would stop breathing. Luke had just about drifted off to sleep at one point, then startled awake, somehow convinced he had managed to roll over and smother Rey. She was so small.

Luke faced the morning with a bleary resignation, while Rey was as chipper as Luke had ever seen her, bounding around their campsite getting things put away. Luke shook his head and blinked the sleep from his eyes. "Caf," he said, and stopped Rey from putting away the pyrocube. "And breakfast."

Rey looked surprised. "We just ate. We don't want to run out of food."

"We've got plenty of food," Luke said, looking up, suddenly concerned. "Were you still hungry? Do you need more food? You can have more food."

Rey shook her head. "No. I'm not hungry. Last night was more food than I usually get in a day."

Luke pulled out his mental notebook, and put another tally down in the heartbreaking column. "Well, you can have more food if you want it. If you're not hungry, feel free to take a meal for the speeder. It won't be as good cold, but it'll still be palatable."

Rey gave him a suspicious look, but grabbed a meal and tucked it away in the passenger seat regardless. Luke had some trouble choking his down, the realization that soon he'd be leaving Rey to a life of near-starvation nagging at him. Luke was less and less okay with that with every passing hour, but he didn't know what else to do.

Luke pointed the speeder at where the Persecutor should be and guns it, delights in seeing Rey's feral little grin at the increased speed. Luke grinned and took a tight turn and actually got her to throw her hands up in the air and whoop.

"That's better!" she said, grinning over at him.

Luke added another tally column to his mental notebook, this one for the number of times Rey's face lost her ever-present calculation and just laughed. He drove the speeder up the side of a battleship, settled at the jutting point. They ate lunch together looking out over the landscape, Rey spinning stories of her scavenging, that smear was where she found a transponder, those dunes had nearly trapped her for three days, but she had managed to shake free.

Luke added several more tallies to the heartbreak column, as well as a general respect for her survival ability. Rey was sharp.

Gradually, in the edges of the story, Luke pieced together the story of how Rey had wound up on Jakku. Her parents had left her there, she was supposed to stay until they came back. Until they did, she worked for Unkar as an independent scavenger, she got paid in food for her work.

"It's not so bad, really. I mean, it was hard before I got the sled up and running, I had to walk a lot, or catch rides with other people. That cut into my profit. But, you know, the base is pretty safe, Unkar makes sure nobody messes with the kids in his employment. That would cut into his profit. I don't go hungry too often. I'm pretty good at getting into small places. I've managed to set up in an old AT-AT, it's a good space. Defensible. And it's just temporary. Just until my parents come back."

"Do you remember them?" Luke didn't know why he had to ask that. But he couldn't help but see the parallels in their stories, in the empty space where parents should be.

"They were kind. They liked me. My dad sang. My mom held me on her lap," Rey answered instantly.

Luke didn't ask her if the memories were real or if they were what she wanted to be true. Luke knew what it was like to want something so badly it made it real.

When they got back in the speeder, Luke started telling her stories instead. Stories he didn't usually get around to telling, about winding canyons on Tattooine, about what it was like to have Obi-Wan show up and announce that he was made for more than his desert-bound life. How it felt to watch his planet shrink behind him for the first time, the expanse of the galaxy open to him for the first time. To step off the corvette onto a ship that was larger than any city he had ever seen, how impossibly full of people these capital ships could be. He shared with her how he clung to the fact that he was a pilot. That he was useful, even in the rush and chaos.

"And then I landed the shot and I was never going to be that farmboy again." Luke said, not entirely succeeding at keeping the wistfulness out of his voice.

"I can't wait to see Jakku shrink behind me." Rey nodded. "Someday my parents will pick me up and I'll leave here forever." Rey paused, then said very softly, "I hope it happens soon."

Luke swallowed hard. "I hope so too. There are some beautiful things in the galaxy. It'd be good if you could see them."

"Maybe I can come visit you!" Rey shifted so she was sitting cross legged on the passenger seat. "What's your home like?"

Luke smiled. "It's another desert."

Rey folded her arms and made a harumphing noise. "I'm not going to settle down in another desert."

"Yeah." Luke ran his fingers ruefully through his hair. "That's what I always thought too. I really wasn't expecting it. But I fell in love."


"I know, right? It's his hometown, and he really loves the place. And I fell in love with it too."

"Maybe you'll break up and you can move away?" Rey sounded hopeful, and Luke burst out laughing.

"We've been married for fifteen years, I think us breaking up now is pretty unlikely. But there's beautiful things on Jedha, too. It's a good place to settle. I have a school there, I train people who can use the force like me how to use it responsibly. It's a place that's full of people that love the place they live and are trying to make it better. That's the sort of thing that makes it worth it, you know."

"I don't know..." Rey trailed off, thinking. "I guess I'll come and visit and decide for myself."

"That seems like a good plan." Luke swallowed around a lump in his throat.

They fell quiet after that, a companionable silence underlined by the hum of the speeder, broken by the occasional point out the side at some landmark Rey recognized.

It was the sun was still a good ways from the horizon when a soft touch at his elbow made him look over at Rey. "We're getting close," she said. "We could probably make it there tonight, but then we'd be looking in the dark. The Black Place feels stronger in the dark. I don't like it. We can do it, but..."

"Let's settle down for the night," Luke said quickly, and was pleased to see her relax.

They found a shady overhang, that was also occupied by a pair of large lizards, easily startled away. As Rey and Luke set up camp, they swapped desert wildlife stories. Womp rats and sand chameleons, ripper-raptors and krayt dragons, spinning tales of their own outrageous encounters with the natives.

"But you could lift things with your mind! Didn't that make handling it easier?" Rey leaned back against the rock, looking over at Luke.

Luke chuckled as he grabbed the top of the Plastent and jiggled it, making sure it was secure. "I didn't have them growing up. Well, not that I knew about, at least. It wasn't until I started training with one of the last remaining Jedi that I realized what I could do."

"Can you lift rocks?" Rey asked, looking excited.

"There's a lot more to being a Jedi than lifting rocks." Luke shook his head and leaned back into the shade, tucking his hands behind his head.

"Sure, sure, but can you? Can you lift that rock?" Rey pointed to a large boulder and handful of meters away.

Luke hesitated. He didn't usually show off to people who he wasn't trying to train or intimidate. But he felt like it might make Rey smile, and Luke felt like that was a worthwhile use of his powers. "Yes I can. Do you want to see it?"

"Yes!" Rey's eyes went wide, and she leaned forward, tucking her hands under her thighs and shifting back and forth in excitement. Luke sat upright, for a bit of drama reached his hand out and closed his eyes. He didn't really need to do either, anymore, but it did look good.

Luke relaxed into the song of the Force, the bright and brilliant symphony winding through every speck of being. He narrowed his focus, found the rock. With a gentle whisper of command he told the boulder to rise, and for a moment, his will overrode physics, and gravity, and the Force moved to make his wishes so.

Next to him, Rey gave a delighted gasp. Her clear-bright presence next to him sang with joy. Luke pulled his hand closer to him and asked the boulder to come closer, dropped it carefully down next to him. He spun around and put his back against it. "I think this is even more comfortable than the last one."

Rey was biting her lip and she gave a rough exhale. "That's amazing. Can you teach people how to do it?"

Luke nodded, his heart sinking as he anticipated her next question. "If people have the talent for it, yes. But very few people do."

Rey nodded, looking a little sad. "I—" she started, then cut herself off. Instead, she said, "Thank you for showing me."

Luke wanted to offer her something, some way that his teachings could stay with her, regardless of the lopsided blessings of the Force. "There is some value to the meditation, though, regardless of whether or not you have the power to go with it. Would you like me to teach it to you?"

Rey gave a quick nod. Then she stopped. "How much?"

Luke quashed his first instinct to protest that he wasn't going to charge her for a few minutes of meditation training. But knowledge had value, and Rey lived the sort of life where she needed to know the costs. He considered his answer carefully, "The knowledge is free of charge, but it does come with two promises I'd like you to make for me. The first is that you will use what I teach you for good, whatever you think that good is. The second is that if someone else needs to know this, and you can teach them, you will do your best to do so, so long as you can do so safely."

Rey tilted her head to the side as she ran through the conditions. After a moment she nodded and said, "I promise."

"Good." Luke sat cross legged, hands resting on his knees. "Sit like this. It's easier if you close your eyes."

Rey followed his lead, and Luke let his own eyes slide shut. "The Force is the energy between all things. It is the tension, the balance, it binds the universe together. Take a deep breath in." Luke paused to do so himself. "Now exhale slowly, and reach out with your mind. With your spirit, with the part of you that is the most you. Send it out into the world, and see the connection between yourself and the universe."

Luke watched Rey in the Force, the bright spark of her against the hum of the earth and rocks, the harmonies of insects crawling through the sand, set apart from and knitted together with the world she lived in. Luke watched as she breathed, and did her best to follow his instructions. Luke felt an odd ache in his chest, a desire to share this way he saw the world with those he shared his world with. It was so beautiful.

Rey gave a shaky breath in and out. "I think I feel something?" There was a straining to her presence, a reaching. But nothing extraordinary, no resonant symphony with the Force. Luke bit down his own quiet disappointment.

"That's good. Keep taking deep breaths, and do your best to relax. Feel the movement of the universe around you. You are whole, you are a part, both of these things are true. You have a place in the universe, and no one can fill that place but you."

Luke lead her through a few more breathing exercises then encouraged her to open her eyes again. "Very good," he said. "You're one of my most patient students."

"It wasn't really...all that special." Rey wrinkled her nose.

"Most of the time, it isn't," Luke answered, mostly truthful. "But exercises like that are a practice, and they remind us to be the best versions of ourselves. So that when something exciting happens, we're ready for it."

Rey's eyes narrowed, and she gave him an assessing look. "I can't tell if you are really smart or really full of it."

The solemnity of the moment shattered and a laugh startled out of Luke. "Probably both. Hopefully both. More the second, sometimes, I'm afraid to admit."

Rey shrugged. "I think you're pretty smart, mostly."

"High praise," Luke said softly. He felt like he was about to start crying. He wasn't entirely sure why. "I actually feel like meditating some more, if that's okay with you."

Rey nodded, and Luke leaned back against the rock and let himself relax into the universe. Across from him, he felt Rey's starshine presence try to do the same.

Luke tried to find the source of his discontent. He let himself breathe steady, let his thoughts unravel at their own pace. When he was younger, he would press, try to push, desperate to find the answer as quickly as possible and move on. It was a haphazard way of doing things, and it had lead to no small amount of pain, both for him, and for the people he loved.

Now he had learned to take his time. He looked at his thoughts, not to lock them down, but merely to know them as fully as he could.

Luke was uncomfortable. He was away from the people he usually relied on, and he was stuck in a place that traded on a sort of vicious individualism that Luke had never felt comfortable with. So, he was off-balance, and isolated, but that didn't quite account for the heartbreak he was feeling.

No, that was Rey. It was natural he didn't want to see a child suffer, in particular one he had spent so much time getting to know. He knew that Rey was clever and careful and wary and hurt. She wanted to help, though, still showed a willingness to give back to the world that cared so little for her wellbeing. Luke admired her conviction. And her survival.

He wanted to save her. The idea of giving her back to Unkar dismayed him, a bone-deep ache that would not be soothed. The idea of leaving her on the planet was abhorrent. He could admit to himself that he had been hoping, an irrational, unreasonable hope, that the Force had marked her too. Then he would have an excuse to politely insist she come with him. After all, if she were powerful she could hardly be left unguarded.

But how selfish was that, to hope for an excuse to drag someone away? If he was going to do something, it should be because he chose to do it, fully facing the consequences. If it was something he truly felt was the right thing to do, why should it matter if she would fit the temple? He should just take her.

The thought was so startling that Luke startled out of his meditation. Across from him, Rey's eyes opened slowly and she tilted her head to look at him.

"Something coming?" she asked, her voice tight and one hand already around her staff.

"No," Luke quickly tried to reassure her, "I was just startled."

"That's what I'm worried about." Rey rolled her eyes. "Anything that startles you..."

"It was a thought. Not anything that's going to attack us. I should...think on it more."

Rey nodded, and settled back in with her eyes closed. Luke let himself watch her for a second. Take Rey with him? He was married. That's the sort of thing Bodhi should really have a say in. They had decided years ago they didn't need children, between Bodhi's protective shepherding of Jedha and Luke's commitment to his Jedi Center, they both had more than enough on their shoulders. That wasn't the sort of decision he could just undo because he wanted to.

This is not a matter of want.

Luke groaned internally. It wasn't. It didn't feel like a desire. It felt like justice. The very idea of leaving Rey on the planet felt immoral.

Rey shifted in the sands, her forehead narrowing in determination. Luke's heart gave a wavering thump, and he knew he was doomed. He wanted her in his life. He could be a good adult there.

But Anakin the boy, who he had seen on a holo from Obi-Wan once, haunted him still. Luke had no doubt that Obi-Wan's master had the very best of intentions when he had taken the boy off the planet, but Darth Vader had knocked the whole galaxy off-kilter, and Luke isn't sure he would say that it was the right thing to do. Anakin had been freed just to be fitted with new shackles. He was shuffled around until he chose to side with Palpatine and slaughter the Jedi Order. What Anakin had thought was freedom was only new shackles, and choice was stripped away from him again, until the very end. Luke shivered at the ghost of pain that dogged his memory. His father had saved him, in the end, but he had precious few choices in his life until then.

Rey had proven bright enough to know her own mind. Luke couldn't take choice away from her. But that didn't mean he couldn't offer her one.

"Rey?" he said softly.

Her eyes flew open again, looking over at him.

Before he could think twice, he blurted out, "Do you want to leave Jakku with me when I go?"

Rey froze.

Luke swallowed. "You don't have to give me an answer now. But I was thinking that I'd like to stay with you. Think about it." Luke stood up. "I'm going to do a circle, make sure that we're safe."

Luke took more time than he normally would have, circling the campsite and panicking about what he had just set into motion.

Bodhi is going to kill you.

Luke was...fairly certain that wasn't true. Bodhi would wish he had been consulted. He'd also use this as ammunition in every argument for the next three decades. But he'd do it while turning down the guestbed for Rey and figuring out what was needed to make her feel at home. Luke could handle the teasing.

When Luke came back to their campsite, Rey looked up at him and her eyes were tear-streaked. "Thank you for the offer," she said, her voice shaking, "but I need to stay."

Luke sat back down across from her. He shoved down his complicated surge of emotions, rejection and heartbreak and concern all screaming together, and asked her, "Why?"

Rey took a deep breath. "My parents are coming back for me. I need to be here when they do. So thank you, but I can't leave the planet."

Luke squeezed his eyes shut. Her parents weren't coming back. He wasn't—he couldn't leave her here waiting for the same damn people that had left her in this hellhole in the first place.

He couldn't force her to leave, either.

"What if we ask people to let us know when your parents come back into town?"

Rey snorted. "People don't do things unless they're paid for it."

"So we pay them," Luke said. "Being a Jedi isn't the most lucrative job in the galaxy, but I'm not doing too badly. Could make a good reward for the people that let us know first."

Rey looked at him, despairing, and Luke braced himself for Rey doubling down on her insistence to stay, her feeling that she needed to do penance. He would not force her to leave. But he could maybe...make regular trips out to Jakku? Let Unkar know she had someone watching how she was treated? It wasn't ideal but it was better than nothing...

But instead of the rejection Luke was bracing for, what actually came out of Rey's mouth was, "Kriff! What did I tell you about being too nice? You do that we'll both be drowning in fake parents!"

Luke bit his lip to keep from laughing. Once the worst of the urge had passed he said, "I'm open to suggestions."

Rey swallowed. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why do you want me to come with you?" Rey tucked one knee against her chest and curled around it in a gesture of self-comfort. It was a vulnerability that she hadn't allowed herself, before now. "I won't be useful off of Jakku."

"I like you," Luke said, with a helpless little shrug. "Kids aren't generally supposed to be useful. I'm fine with that. But you're smart, and fierce, and I just hate the thought of leaving you around a bunch of people who don't seem to see that. I know you barely know me but..." Luke trailed off, not sure what else he could say to that.

Rey rested her chin on her knee. "If you make it clear that not only will false claims not be reimbursed, but will be charged the full price of transport from wherever we were to Jakku, it'll cut ninety percent of the false claims."

Luke blinked slowly, "Does that mean...?"

"It means I'll think about it," Rey said, emphasising the think with a savage slash of her arm.

Luke gave a quick nod. "I'd expect nothing less."

They broke out the food after that, eating in silence until Rey burst out with, "I don't know how to work off of Jakku. I wouldn't be able to pay you until I'm older."

Luke broke out his mental notebook and added a check to the heartbreak column. "I wouldn't expect you to ever pay me back."

"Nothing is free." Rey looked sideways up at him over her meal.

"Some things are..." Luke tried to find the right word "...informal. I wouldn't be keeping count of credits. I'd just want you to be safe and happy, go to school, learn things, maybe help out around the house—but that's not payment it's just people living together."

"Until my parents come," Rey said quickly.

Another mental tick. "Until they come."

"But what do you get out of it?" Rey's fingers clenched around her plate. "I don't understand what you want."

"I want—" Luke stopped himself. "My father was a slave. He grew up on Tattooine, enslaved son of a slave mother. When he was a child, a visitor came, and saw him there, and freed him. Because of that, I was born free."

"I'm not a slave," Rey said, her jaw set.

Semantics, Luke thought with a vicious snarl at the universe, but he had no intention of robbing Rey of whatever dignity she had found for herself.

"I'm not even sure freeing my father was the right thing to do. He had to leave my grandmother behind. And he was freed to be...useful." Luke spat out the word, it tasted bitter in his mouth. "So, honestly, Rey, I'm doing this because it feels right. But I won't force you to go. I won't require that you be a certain way. And I would like nothing more than to get the chance to watch you reunite with your parents. I can't give you a well thought out reason, just that I need to do this, so I am."

Rey unfolded her legs and sighed over at Luke. "You're kind of impulsive, aren't you?"

Luke gave a wry smile. "Only when I feel like it's the right thing to do. I'm trying to get better at thinking things through but..." Luke shrugged. "Sometimes I just have to trust myself."

They fell into silence again after that, Rey not giving him an answer as they rolled up and went to sleep. She tucked in and was unconscious just as quickly as the night before. Luke rolled toward her sleeping form, watching as her thermasleeper rose and fell in time with her breathing, and relaxed into the knowledge that whatever her reluctance, she still trusted him enough for that.

Over breakfast (which she actually ate this time) Rey matter-of-factly informed Luke, "I realized something."


"I don't need to understand why taking me with you would benefit you. I just need to figure out if it would benefit me."

Luke nodded at the practicality of that statement.

"So, I have some questions."

Breakfast and packing up camp and the landspeeder ride were drowned in Rey's idea of 'some questions.' Was Luke going to follow her suggestion for incentives? What was Luke's transportation plan off of Jakku? What was Luke's plan for returning her to Jakku when her parents showed up?

Once the what Luke considered the 'parent logistics' we're handled Rey fell silent for about half an hour. The desert sped by. A soft clearing of her throat eventually caused Luke to glance over at her.

"What's Jedha like?"

Luke was two sentences into an admittedly poetic description of the city, before Rey cut him off with a sharp jerk of her hand. "No. What is the temperature?"

And they were off again. Length of day cycle, weather patterns, Luke's living situation, the Jedi Center's layout, a breathtaking array of detailed questions that made Luke certain that Bodhi was going to steal her to be one of his aids as soon as she graduated from her general education.

The silence was longer after that, and this time, was broken Rey tapping his arm and gesturing to the horizon. "See the dune flecked in grey?"

Luke nodded.

"That's the Black Place, just beyond there."

"Got it."

Rey shifted, before she breathed in softly. "You said you were married."


"What if he doesn't want me there?"

Luke shook his head. "I know him, he's going to love you. Trust me. He'll be fine with it."

"And I would go to school?" She asked again.


She continued in that vein, could she see Luke while he was at the Jedi Center? Did he have space for her to sleep? Were there any other kids who might take offence to her presence? Luke realized that these soft, hesitantly stated questions were the ones that Rey had been trying to ask the whole time. It was easier to deal with temperature concerns than fears that you might not be welcomed.

She went quiet again, and then right before they arrived at the dune she took a breath and Luke braced herself for whatever the question was that was so massive she waited until the last moment to ask him.

"Will you teach me how to fly?"

Luke couldn't help the smile that spread across his face. "I'd love to."

He parked the speeder in front of the wreckage. He looked over to the passenger seat. Rey was staring at him intently, stern set to her jaw.

"Yes, Luke, I'd like to go with you." And with that she held out her hand, offering to shake his.

Luke took her tiny hands in his own. "Excellent. Let's go get these teeth and get off this dustball."

Rey grinned at him, gave a quick nod, then sprang out of the passenger seat.

Now that they were closer, Luke could see exactly what Rey was talking about. In the Force, it was repulsive and attractive at once. To those with little to no sensitivity, the only thing they would feel was the incredibly strong aura of "don't bother me." Nothing of interest here. Nothing here at all. whispered through the area. Most would just turn and leave.

But Luke could hear, chiming high above the whispers, a second voice, Power, power, if you're brave enough to use it. Strong enough. Cunning enough. Power, power, bend the world to your will.

Luke glanced over at Rey. "I don't suppose I can convince you to stay outside."

"I'll just sneak in after you," Rey said as she walked up next to him.

"Yeah, I figured." Luke winced. "This is not going to continue in the future. I'm not making a habit of dragging you into dangerous ruins."

"How often do you go into dangerous ruins?" Rey asked.

"Often enough that it's probably going to be relevant in the future." Luke answered wryly.

Rey gave a soft hum. "Tell you what, I'll only follow you into ruins that I was instrumental in finding and identifying, or ones that you ask me to follow you into."

"That seems eminently reasonable." Luke gave her a sideways look. From everything he knew about parenting, it wasn't supposed to be this easy. Maybe this was the honeymoon stage.

Maybe that was the heartbreaking reality of stepping in with someone who had had to parent herself.

"I try." Rey twirled her staff. "I'm guessing that the thing is probably in the cargo hold? It'd be there"—she pointed—"and that's where the repulsion feeling is the strongest."

"Makes the most sense." Luke gave Rey a look. "Why isn't it pushing you away?"

Rey shrugged. "It kinda is. But it's also not? It doesn't seem to push you away either."

"Yeah, well..." Luke gestured to himself, "I have the power that the Teeth of Vaknor are looking for. The Teeth would want to pick them up."

"Still gross."

"Agreed. Maybe the teeth just like human children? Pretty sure I'm the only human child out here."

Luke looked down at her. "That's horrifying."

Rey shrugged. "Many things are."

Luke shook his head. "Right, let's go."

It was an easy trek to the cargo hold. The biggest obstacle was that the ship itself, untouched by scavengers, was proving distracting for Rey. She kept stopping to calculate the value of the goods they were walking by.

"You know once the evil teeth are gone, people are going to find this place again. It's going to be stripped bare, and only a few people are going to get to benefit," Rey said mournfully, after running her hands over a plush officer's chair.

"Alright." Luke squinted down the hallway, "So we'll spread the info to a few people you like best. Make sure they're the ones that benefit."

Rey stopped moving. "Luke," she said, startled.

"What?" Luke spun around his attention focusing on her.

"That was practical! Are you feeling alright?" Rey made an over-exaggerated show of concern.

"Oh." Luke rolled his eyes. "Ha. Ha."

Rey giggled.

As they came closer the luring song turned into a howl of compulsion. Luke winced and stopped searching in the Force. Just to be safe he boosted his own mental shields. He gave a glance over to Rey. "You okay?" he asked.

Rey shrugged. "It's fine," she said, her words a little distant.

"I really don't think you should be in here."

"I'm going to be safer with you than anywhere else."

Luke inclined his head toward her, acknowledging her point. He tried to reach our himself to see if he could wrap some protection around her, but winced as the necklace redoubled it's pull, quickly slamming his own shields back up. Rey seemed fine. Maybe she had some personal shields already intact. Some side-effect of her childhood, the protective layer of belief she'd wrapped herself in having tangible effects here.

There was just so much they didn't know about the Force. It was eternally frustrating.

The artifact itself was anticlimactic once they reached it. A simple row of storage lockers, one humming with malevolent energy. Luke braced himself, checked to see that Rey was watching from a wary distance off to the side, and pushed with the Force to open the locker.

The necklace, whether through proximity or some knowledge of the Force, pushed at his shields all the more. Use me use me USE ME

Luke winced at the torrent of power. He had been hoping to get the chance to study the necklace, but getting up close, Luke could see it was just too dangerous. He'd have to destroy it. Disrupt the physical form sufficiently, and it should destroy whatever power had been poured into it.

He ignited his lightsaber.

As if it could sense his thoughts, the energy emerging from the Teeth of Vaknor retreated away from him, to his dulled Force senses looking like nothing more than a perfectly ordinary necklace strung with hideous looking sharp teeth. Luke's sense of unease grew. That wasn't something an empowered object should have been able to do. Luke cautiously reached out with his mind as he stepped toward the necklace.

The necklace was supposed to have been an object infused with Dark Side energy by a powerful Sith. But that wasn't right, it wasn't reacting the way it should. It might actually…

Luke felt sick.

It might be the Sith. Someone had trapped their own life essence. Instead of fading back to the Force or exploding in a detonation of evil, that person took their very soul and anchored and sustained in these damn teeth.

It was a perversion, and now Luke didn't know what to do. Would destroying the teeth actually destroy the presence, or free it further? Would it empower the spirit? What if it didn't? What if it died, but triggered an explosion on par with Palpatine's death throes?

He didn't know. The risk was too great to destroy it outright. Maybe it could be contained, somehow, until he found a safer way of destroying it.

Luke tried to wrap it up in Force. It resisted, pushing, the necklace still reaching out, not to Luke, but connected to—his eyes widened in horror as he realized the reason he wasn't feeling the necklace's pull any longer. It had found a new target.

"Rey!" Luke cried, frantically stretching out with the Force. The spirit was ignoring him entirely, honed, targeted, bringing its full power to bear on what it had decided was the better target.

Rey was staring at Luke, eyes wide with fear, and as Luke stretched out with the Force he could see the energy assailing her, pressing against her bright presence, trying to find a way in. But that didn't make sense, if all the necklace wanted was a weak target there were thousands upon thousands of scavengers that had come by here since the Persecutor had crashed. Why hadn't the necklace lured one of them—

Rey's clear child presence Force presence cracked, and after a horrifying suspended moment, it shattered.

And then it exploded.

Luke was nearly blown backward by the sheer power suddenly pouring off of Rey. She had been shielding, Luke realized. Her latent Force powers were buried so strongly under a protective shield Luke hadn't even seen it. But now, with her defenses shattered open by the dark Force energy, what Luke had missed was plain to see. Rey wasn't just Force sensitive. She was a Force powerhouse.

Luke staggered back against the thick presence, flinging his Force-sense out toward Rey, who stood open, unprotected a bright and bountiful feast for the malevolent energy, that was even now twining its way inside her. The spirit of a Sith Lord in the body of a girl, running Rey like a battery—no, like a hyperspace engine—the amount of power she had turned to evil purpose. It was horrifying, terrible, and Luke didn't know how to stop it.

Rey collapsed. Luke started forward before realizing—no, she was sitting. Eyes narrowed, jaw set, radiating determination as she folded herself into the form Luke had showed her earlier. She slid her eyes shut and took a slow breath in. Exhaled. In again.

"No," she said, a certainty to her voice, and Luke blinked in amazement as her shield rebuilt, the cracks that had shattered mending themselves as he watched. "I am a part of the universe, I am me. Nobody can be me but me. You don't get to have me."

There wasn't sound, not really, but Luke could hear nonetheless, an angry screaming rippling its way through the Force as the spirit housed in the Teeth threw itself at Rey again.

"No!" she snarled, and a bright pulse of energy surged out from her. The spirit hissed and dodged around it, redoubling its attack on Rey's shields. As Luke watched, it sunk another tendril in, success and satisfaction radiating out radiating out of it.

Rey smirked.

The spirit had one moment of confusion, before Rey's energy slammed into the necklace. The connection between the spirit and the Teeth severed abruptly, and the spirit started to die, drawing further and further in on itself, concentrating into a small hard ball that was going to—

Oh, kriff.

Luke dived at Rey, wrapping the Force around both of them in a physical shield, layers and layers of protection that were still solidifying into place when the spirit's energy exploded outward, a vivid column of bright blue fire that roared against the shield. Luke grit his teeth and forced his shield to stay up.

The unbearable mounting pressure vanished as soon as it came, and Luke gave a shaky exhale. He stepped back, untangling himself from Rey as they looked at each other, stunned brown eyes meeting his own.

"I think I have Force powers." Rey said, looking more than a little stunned.

"I think you're right." Luke blinked, looking behind Rey.

She turned around, and they stared together at the at the massive hole in the floor of the ship, the new hole in the ceiling. Flecks of dust now danced in the shine of Jakku's sun, glinting along the top of the hole.

"Sometimes Sith explode when you kill them," Luke said, lamely.

Rey, looking more than a little stunned, nodded. "Oh."

Rey edged closer to the hole, and looked down. There was a creak, and her eyes widened and she scrambled backward from the hole. "I think the teeth are destroyed," she said with a decisive little nod.

The utter ridiculousness of the situation smashed into Luke with a vengeance. Luke bit his tongue, but a giggle escaped anyway, one chuckle, then another. After a beat, Rey's giggles joined his, and soon they were laughing together. "Yes," Luke said, gasping for air. "I think they are."

That set off another round of giggles, until the creaking of the ship around them caused them both to startle and look at each other. "We should probably get out of here," Luke said.

"I hope our speeder is alright." Rey looked pensive. "That would be a long walk."

"The speeder was fine." Luke said from his chair in the small common area of his ship. Rey was perched nervously on the chair next to him, body shaped like she meant to flee. "We made our way out and back into town. Settled things so that there wasn't any trouble with Rey coming with me. And here we are!"

Luke might have felt nervous at this point, the moment after presenting his husband with a sudden child. But Luke knew Bodhi as well as he knew anyone, and that man had melted within two minutes of meeting Rey. They were going to be fine.

"It didn't cost too much," Rey was quick to add. "I know the market, made sure Luke paid a fair price. It's going to be a little expensive once my parents finally do show up, but they might be able to pay you back? Or maybe I could?"

Bodhi didn't seem shattered in the same way that Luke had felt at Rey's quickness to value her own worth. But Luke had been fed and housed without trouble his whole childhood, and Bodhi, despite his loving family, didn't have the same story. He knew how to calculate ability. Bodhi inclined his head to Rey, "They way I see it, destroying the Teeth of Vaknor is a service that more than pays for the credit cost. You are welcome here, Rey."

Rey bit her thumbnail. "Luke didn't tell you about me. He just surprised you."

Bodhi smiled. "Luke's not always great at communication, that doesn't mean he doesn't know me. He knows this is the sort of thing I would be okay with."

Bodhi shot Luke an affectionate exasperated look, which Luke returned with a sheepish grin. He was in for a talking-to, once Rey was settled.

"I can use the Force." Rey said the words with nervous pride. "But I can't control it well yet. Doesn't that make you worried?"

Bodhi smiled. "Luke wouldn't let you hurt me. And the fact that you need training means that you definitely belong here."

Rey took a breath, about to summon another protest, when Bodhi cut her off. "Rey, there's a tradition here on Jedha. When someone offers you something that you want, but you're concerned they're only offering it out of obligation, you refuse it."

Rey, her eyebrows knit together, gave a slow nod.

Bodhi continued, "If they offer again, it still might be obligation, so you refuse again. Once more, the same thing, but after the third refusal...If the person offers again, that's when you can accept that the person is choosing this with their eyes wide open. So, you were worried about cost, I still offered. You are worried about communication, I still offered. You were worried about your power. That's three."

Rey gave a serious little nod. Bodhi leaned forward on his seat, arms folded in front of him. "So, Rey, will you come stay with Luke and me?"

Rey bit her lip, still looking nervous. After a long moment, she said softly, "Yes."

Bodhi smiled. "Good." He stood up. "Let's get home, then."

Rey was snoring softly in their guest bedroom as Luke watched from the doorway. Bodhi came up behind him and laid a gentle hand on his hip, resting a chin against Luke's shoulder.

Luke tipped back into Bodhi's comfortable shape. "How much trouble am I in?" he whispered.

Bodhi didn't answer for a moment, and they watched Rey's sleeping form together. "You can't save every kid in a bad situation by adopting them."

"I know. I had to save her, though." Luke squeezed his eyes shut. "You didn't answer my question."

Bodhi leaned back and tugged Luke away from the doorway, upstairs, to their room. Bodhi maneuvered Luke until he had Luke sitting on the edge of their bed. Then he reached out, tracing his fingers along Luke's cheeks, eyebrows, temples, jaw. "You're not in trouble," Bodhi said, a little louder now that they weren't right next to Rey. His voice was still gentle, a little careful, tone mimicked by touch. "I am worried, though. I figure we've been together long enough that I'd have known if you had a habit of bringing home strays. Why isn't she at the temple? She wouldn't be the only Force-strong child there."

Luke sighed, tipping back against the door. "I was going to adopt her before I ever knew she was the powerhouse that she is. But she's so smart, Bodhi. She's kind and vicious and bright and pragmatic. She wasn't getting fed unless she worked. She deserved better. She deserves good adults in her life."

Bodhi traced his palms down Luke's neck, thumb resting on his pulse. "Her parents aren't coming for her, are they?"

"They might but…I don't think so."

Bodhi's hand slid around to cradle the back of Luke's neck. He leaned down and kissed Luke's forehead.

Luke shifted on the bed. "Not that I'm complaining, but I was expecting a lecture at this point."

Bodhi chuckled against Luke's forehead. "I'm sure I could think of something." He pulled back, giving Luke a lopsided grin. "Would you prefer, 'taking in a child is a decision that will impact the rest of our lives and you shouldn't have made it for me' or the 'I'm worried you did this without thinking through the consequences'?"

"That's more like it."

Bodhi reached forward, catching Luke's hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. "Or maybe instead we could go with the, 'I love the fact that you trusted me enough to know I'd back you up on this'."

Luke blinked.

Bodhi continued, "There's always the, 'You know, I kinda always wanted a kid but between the temple and the city I figured we were busy enough, but this might be a good opportunity'."

"Really?" Luke asked.

"Really," Bodhi affirmed, leaning in to give Luke a kiss. "We'll figure it out together."

Luke gave a shaky laugh. "Thank the Force. I have no idea what I'm doing."

Bodhi pulled back. "That much is obvious," he said, his tone wry. "You really offered to take her home with you before you found out she had Force powers?"

Something resembling panic welled up in Luke as he nodded. "She's so strong. I don't—what if I mess this up?"

"I think part of parenting is always going to involve a bit of messing something up. We'll just try our best."

"But—she's—" Luke stumbled over his words. "What if I'm making another Vader? The Jedi probably thought they were doing what was best for Anakin, too. I told her...I told her it didn't matter if she was useful. And then I spent the whole trip back doing the same damn thing to her that Obi-Wan did to me, stupid little targeting drone and everything." Luke felt something like a sob welling up in him.

"Did you force her to do it?" Bodhi asked.

"No, she wanted to...but I was selfish! I'm sitting here thinking, kriff, she could be the strongest Jedi the galaxy has ever seen. I'm thinking about what she can do for me. Same as the Jedi did with Anakin."

Bodhi paused. "What if Rey came in here and told you she didn't want to train, that she never wanted to explore her powers, that she just wanted to live the most normal life possible?"

Luke swallowed. "I'd…I'd ask her to think about at least learning the shielding and suppression skills. That's what would let her live a normal life. Same as we do with the other uninterested Force users."

Bodhi gave a gentle smile. "Yeah. You're not kidnapping kids. You're worried Rey is too young, not condemning her for being too old. You're giving her choices." Bodhi sat down next to Luke, looking pensive. "I can't see the future. I can't tell you this is going to be perfect. But I can tell you this: I'll be here with you, and we'll make new mistakes, together."

Luke gave a rough sigh of relief. "I love you."

"I love you too." Bodhi grinned at him, an evil curve to his lips. "Even though you didn't consult me before recklessly adopting a child who won't even admit that she's been adopted."

An unwilling laugh was dragged out of Luke. "I knew you were never going to let me live that down."

"Never ever," Bodhi promised with a twinkle in his eye. "Alright, let's go down to the kitchen and make some hot chocolate and figure out what the fuck we're going to do with our new kid. Clothes? I think she needs clothes."

Luke took a deep breath, pulling himself together. "Right. Clothes. Right. Okay. We can do this?" His sentence turned into a question.

"We can do this." Bodhi's did not. As they walked down the stairs, he mused, "I wonder if she'll like hot chocolate?"

"We'll find out," Luke said, and he was smiling. "There's so much stuff I can't wait to show her."

"Like what?" said a quiet voice.

Bodhi and Luke both jumped. Rey stood in the doorway of the guest room, blinking slowly. Luke recovered a little faster than Bodhi. "Well, to begin, have you ever had hot chocolate?"

Rey shook her head slowly. "Is it good?"

"It's the best," Luke said quickly.

"He's biased," Bodhi cut it. "But I'll make you a cup and you can decide for yourself."

Luke settled in at the table, Rey hopped up next to him. She still held herself like she was ready to run, constantly looking for clues as to what she should and shouldn't do. Luke flipped open his mental notebook again, but realized he couldn't decide whether this moment went in the heartbreak or joy column.

And then, in a way that had nothing to do with the Force, Luke could see with startling clarity the future. Rey would fit around the table as easily as he and Bodhi did. She'd throw herself into the chair and talk about homework. She'd have favorite foods. They'd laugh together and train together and do...whatever else she wanted. It would be a future where this was Rey's home.

He was looking forward to it. But for now, he curled his palms around his mug, taught her to blow on the hot drink before she tried it, and watched as her face opened up in delight as she tasted her first hot chocolate.

"This is good," Rey said softly, looking down at her mug.

"Yeah," said Luke, looking over at her. "It really is."'