A/N: I do not own either Star Wars or Avatar: The Last Airbender. I am but playing in the sandbox.
As Rey blasts off from Ahch-To, she can't help but feel terrified.
Oh, Rey had been doing quite well in her Jedi studies. She had taken her first step into a larger universe, leaving that miserable sandball of a planet that was called Jakku behind to seek out her family among the stars.
In a way, the young former scavenger muses, I did- from a certain point of view. Poe, with his million-watt grin and deft hand at the joystick; Finn, who has stayed by her side despite all the temptations to flee; Rose, the sister she'd always wanted; and Luke, the father figure she never had.
It's a far better family than her actual family- and it this that sends a chill down Rey's spine.
Emperor of the Galaxy. Sith Lord. All-around monster the likes of which one doesn't find save for the stories parents tell their children.
Rey knows this to be true- for the Force tells her so- but Rey so badly wants to believe that it isn't.
She knows the stories, knows how powerful this man is from what Luke and Vade- Anakin Skywalker- had told her. He is the Darkness given substance and form.
But he is her family.
No. No he isn't.
Rey knows that it falls to her to stop him- but how?
"Excuse me… is this seat taken?"
Rey snaps back into reality with a jolt. She's not in her X-Wing. She's… in a diner somewhere, sitting at the counter. To her right comes the man the voice is attached to.
He is tall, like Kylo. His eyes are gold, like those she's seen in nightmares. But he doesn't quite register in the Force like Kylo. Kylo registers as a thunderstorm, a phenomenon Rey hadn't known about until Ahch-To. This man, in his unique clothing of red, black, and gold, registers more like a warm campfire.
And he's still waiting for an answer.
"Oh, uh, no," Rey stutters. "No, it isn't. Sorry- I was lost in thought."
The man chuckles. "I understand," he says simply, his voice a low rasp. "I have been lost in thought many times."
"Affairs of state. I run an empire, but before I explain, I'm afraid I didn't catch your name."
"I'm Rey," she says after a moment, holding out a hand to shake.
"Zuko," the man- Zuko, answers, looking at the offered hand for a moment before gripping it firmly. "What brings you here?"
"I… don't really want to talk about it," Rey says, trying to avoid thoughts of him from popping up. "It's… complicated."
"Complicated…" Zuko trails off. "I understand complicated, to a degree. I have to make decisions that will affect my nation and its people for years to come. Very rarely do I have to make an easy choice."
"I wish I had an easy choice right about now," Rey grumbles, before trying to make sense of the menu. There's way too many options…
"I'll have a pot of jasmine tea," Zuko tells the waitress. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Rey's eyes flash in interest. "And could I get another cup for my friend here?"
"Friend?" Rey raises an eyebrow. "We're friends, just like that?" Rey punctuates this with a snap of her fingers.
"Well, we know each other's names," Zuko shrugs. "Does that not make us friends at best, acquaintances at least?"
Rey ponders that for a moment, before conceding the point. "Fair enough. So… jasmine tea? I can't say I've heard of it."
"It's something of a habit of mine," Zuko says simply. "My uncle- who loves the stuff- is always telling me how calming it is. He's not wrong."
"Is he? Your uncle seems wise."
"Well…" Zuko smirks, reaching for the bottle of honey as the tea is served, "I like to sweeten it a little," before pouring a generous amount of it into his cup and stirring it in. Rey uses the Force to take it from him after he's done. Zuko only raises an eyebrow.
Well, kriff me sideways, Rey thinks as she takes a sip, "This is quite good!"
"Indeed it is. I come here often just for this. Now… what troubles you?"
Rey mulls it for a moment, before talking. Of being dropped on Jakku. Of screaming for her parents every day for weeks. Of finally leaving. Of the deaths of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. Of nearly falling in love with a man who only loved the power that he craved. Of finding out that the most evil being in the galaxy is alive once more- and that he is her grandfather.
By the end, the pot is cold, and Zuko is silent. He breaks it, though.
"…That's rough, buddy."
Rey bursts out laughing. "That… that is one way of putting it!"
"What are you going to do?"
Rey frowns. "I'm torn on whether to face him or run off and hide. He killed three Jedi Masters in two minutes! He can shoot lightning from his fingers! What can I do against that?!"
Zuko nods, and is silent again for a long moment, before finally speaking. "You have to face him," he says with all traces of humor gone. He is serious. "My uncle would tell me that our destinies are funny things. They never come when we want them to. We find out a lot about ourselves in that moment. Your destiny, it seems, is to face this creature. Alone, if you must."
"But if I die… if I Fall… then what?"
"I don't know, Rey. No one does," Zuko says, before wincing at the cold tea, "I cannot go with you- such power is beyond me, and there is too little time to find the man who can help you- but I have one thing I can show you."
"What is it," Rey asks, "and what are you doing with that tea?"
They're on flat ground now, standing several paces apart.
Zuko gets into a ready stance, and runs through a basic drill. "This is called Firebending," Zuko says, moving his arms in a circular motion, a stream of fire trailing behind his clenched fists. "I'm not sure you're a Firebender, but you mentioned a Force that runs through your body. What is this Force?"
"It is energy," Rey answers. "Life and Decay, Peace and Chaos, the universe- the Force is… it simply is," she shrugs.
Zuko nods. "Not too different, then. As a Firebender, I have the ability to summon lightning. I would show you, but I'm not very good at it, and this is highly dangerous. I can, however, show you how to redirect it."
Rey perks up at this. "Show me."
Zuko obliges and raises his arms, index and middle fingers pressed together and pointing ahead and behind him. "Do as I do," Zuko instructs. Rey copies his stance.
"Take your two fingers, and when the lightning comes, pull it through your body. Take it into your stomach, up your other side, and out your other hand."
Rey copies this motion several times. "I can feel the energy flowing through me. Will this work?"
"I think it will," Zuko says. "I won't shoot lightning at you because Uncle didn't do that with me when he first taught me this skill. It has saved my life twice, and there's a valuable lesson within: Life will send you nasty things, like the lightning. You must take it in, let it pass through you, and you must let it go lest it destroy you. Also, be careful not to take that energy through your heart, or it will kill you. Do you understand me?"
"I do," Rey nods, before hugging Zuko. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Sharing a pot of tea with a stranger is one of life's greatest delights."
"More wisdom from your uncle?"
"Yep," Zuko says, bowing to Rey in a gesture of respect- one that Rey returns. "May your Force be with you."
A few…. Insert relevant units of time here
Rey stands alone. At least, it looks like she does. Ben Solo stood by her, but he was thrown into a deep chasm like yesterday's garbage.
At least twelve Jedi ghosts are protecting her from Palpatine's dark influence. They stand ready- they have watched Palpatine's return all these years and have prepared means to ensure that it will never happen again. The Darkness means to envelop her, render her as nothing.
But Rey still stands.
"Foolish Jedi!" Palpatine is snarling at her. "I have died before! I AM THE SITH!"
Bloody stupid line, Rey thinks to herself- and then time slows as the lightning is coming for her.
The lightning catches Rey's fingertips- and then it is traveling along her arm, into her torso, through her stomach and back up the other side, following a path Rey is tracing with her other hand.
It is working!
Palpatine doesn't see this, oh no. His hubris is so vast that he has not considered the possibility of defeat. His hatred is so great that all he sees is a Jedi, an enemy to strike down.
He does not see his granddaughter strain under the buildup of power, seeking a release.
He does not see the young Jedi take aim and return his lightning back to him.
And so it ends for him. He screams into the void, but Rey cannot hear him- she is too busy making out with Ben to notice.
In a different universe entirely, Zuko is telling Iroh about the young scavenger he trained.
"Very good, nephew," Iroh smiles. "And over a pot of tea, no less! Truly, I have trained you well."
"Thanks, Uncle," Zuko says, head bowed in humility. "I was having a tough time deciding what to do about Azula. I have made up my mind- I'll have her moved here."
"What brings this on?" Iroh asks, curious.
"Rey had no family," Zuko answers. "I just… I want to make sure my own is taken care of, and I kinda miss her."
Iroh nods thoughtfully. "I think it is a wise choice, nephew."
"You think so?"
"I do. And it seems that you have learned something I did long ago: Sometimes, the best way to solve your own problems is to help someone else with theirs."
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