rey time travel, ~2.7k words
follow up to this: part 1. rey ends up on tatooine pre-phantom menace. this part contains a podracer, technobabble that may or may not have make sense, and a quote from canon whose exact wording i didn't look up
In the morning, Anakin helps Shmi cut up fruit for breakfast and asks Rey for a retelling of what it was like to see a forest for the first time.
“Anakin, she just got up,” Shmi chides gently.
“But I liked that story,” Anakin says. To Rey he continues, “I like the way you talked about green. Pilots talk about trees, but no one does it like you.”
Rey stares down at Anakin, at his wide eyes, and sees the same desperate hunger she still feels claw at her insides sometimes. The need to see more, to be more. She feels something, something tugging at her very core, and she can’t tell if it’s pity or empathy or something more, something more Force.
“Well,” she says, accepting a plate from Shmi, “then I ought to start at the beginning, shouldn’t I?”
She tells him a cleaned up story of how she met Finn, a lost man on the run, and how she helped him steal a ship and then made friends with smugglers.
“If you have your own ship, why are you here?” Anakin asks, eyes hungry for more details. “Where’re your friends?”
“Long story,” Rey says with a wink, and Shmi interrupts them to remind Anakin he’ll need his work gloves today.
They hurry out the door. They are not allowed to be late for Watto’s chores, not even little Anakin. When she’s left alone, Rey sets a handful of coins on the kitchen counter and then goes to tidy up the nest she made in their living room as best she can.
She ends up spending the night at the Skywalkers again, and then next night, and the next. Something about the knowledge of what Anakin will be bothers her, but right now he’s small and eager to help and to drink in her stories, and she learns to ignore the buzz in the back of her mind insisting something must be done.
He’s a good kid, and she finds she likes him.
She makes money scrapping, and occasionally fixing up ships and speeders. Ostensibly she’s saving up for transport to the Inner Rim, but she keeps sneaking coins into corners of the Skywalker kitchen. She buys her own barely-functional speeder used from a band of Jawas, to help her with her scavenging. Anakin is happy to help her fix it up.
“Okay, I know this isn’t the right type of capacitor,” Anakin says, grease smudged across his cheek, “but I think we can make it work if we…”
Rey has to stop Anakin from trying to make her speeder “the fastest ever,” because they really don’t need to sink that much effort and money into mods, but she also helps him do the math to make his podracer the actual fastest ever.
“Oh no,” Shmi breathes when she sees the numbers Rey has etched into the ground with a stick. “Anakin!”
“What?” Anakin calls, popping out of where he’s busy trying to reupholster the seat of Rey’s speeder. Watto deemed some seats from a crashed podracer useless, and so Anakin had greedily grabbed them up for his own purposes.
“You know I don’t like you racing,” Shmi says, chewing at her bottom lip and staring down at Rey’s math. “And now you’ve got Rey mixed up in it too?”
Anakin hops out of the speeder and plods over to the two of them. Rey has moved her operations into the meager shade at the back of the Skywalker’s apartment block, and Anakin blinks several times as his eyes adjust to dimmer lighting.
“Rey thinks it’s cool,” he says, leaning over her calculations. Shmi pinches the bridge of her nose.
“It is cool,” Rey agrees, eyes flicking between the two Skywalkers. “But it’s dangerous. I didn’t know you were planning to actually race, Ani.”
She’d thought this had been more of, you know, a hobby. If she hadn’t been desperately selling off every part she could for food, Rey definitely would have spent her childhood building ridiculously designed speeders. It’s fun.
“Of course I am,” Anakin, and his little chest puffs up in pride. “I’m a great pilot! I’m definitely going to win one day.”
“Uh-huh,” Rey says, then taps at her calculations with her stick. “I’m pretty sure this is outside speeds human pilots are legally allowed to operate at, kid. Too fast for normal reflexes.”
There is, of course, no law out here besides the Hutts’, and Rey has no idea what the current Republic’s piloting regulations are. She’s not even sure Anakin Skywalker needs the laws of regular human limitations. Darth Vader certainly didn’t, although Anakin is currently very young and completely untrained.
Still, Shmi balks. Maybe she hadn’t known that about podracers before? Rey immediately regrets her words and tries to backpedal by saying Anakin can just fly casually. She’s still all for building a ridiculous junkyard racer, and it’s not like Anakin has to fly at full speed.
“But I can do it,” Anakin insists, and he crosses his arms and scowls. “And I’m definitely going to ask Watto to sponsor me in the next race.”
“No,” Shmi immediately snaps. “Don’t you say a word about this to Watto, Anakin. I forbid it.”
“But Watto said if I win--” he protests.
“Watto doesn’t care about you!” Shmi bursts.
Anakin plows onward, frowning up at his mother. “He said if I win, I could keep half the winnings, and then maybe we could--”
“All the money in the world won’t mean anything to me if you get hurt, Ani,” Shmi interrupts.
Anakin pouts, but he doesn’t argue further. Shmi deflates a little, staring down at her son with a remarkably torn look on her face, like she wants to give Anakin the world but can’t. Rey wonders if this is how her own mother looked at her, right before she sent her off to become a no one on Jakku.
“I’ll take your podracer out flying with you, Ani,” Rey offers. “It’ll be much safer with a co-pilot.” She flashes a smile at Shmi. “I won’t let him go too fast.”
“Podracing doesn’t have co-pilots, just a pit crew,” Anakin grumbles, but his face says he’s pleased.
Shmi sighs but squeezes Rey’s shoulder in thanks.
By the time Rey and her skills are well-recognized enough in town that she thinks she could probably trade labor for transport, she’s no longer interested in pursuing that route.
She still wants to get off-planet. If she’s going to undo some sort of time-travel accident and see her friends again, the solution definitely isn’t on Tatooine. But… her priorities are a little different now.
The desert breeds harshness and cruelties, but it also breeds bonds deeper than anywhere but wildest parts of space. In the desert, you help others survive and they help you. It’s a simple law that Rey has known in her very core since she was a kid. She’s not leaving Tatooine without the Skywalkers.
She hasn’t told them that, but she’s seen the way Anakin’s eyes shine with yearning whenever she talks about visiting Lando in Cloud City, or the sounds and smells and feeling of the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit, or looking out over the oceans of Ahch-To. She’s seen the worry lines carved into Shmi’s face and how worn her hands are from constant work.
She’s listened to Anakin whisper to her about inventing a scanner to find where his chip is, about his dream to free all the enslaved people of Tatooine, and she doesn’t understand how this little boy became Darth Vader.
Is she meant to stop it? To intervene? Or is the Force trying to rub her face in its horrible perversion of unstoppable destiny?
Rey doesn’t know, but she knows she can’t just abandon a little kid and his mom.
Instead of transport, Rey scraps and does repairs for space pilots and locals alike, and runs mail from Mos Espa to surrounding farms and tiny, single-family communities on her newly refurbished speeder. She does her best to dodge getting mixed up with the Hutts, turning down jobs that are clearly related to spice-running or gambling or trading people, but nothing about Rey has ever seemed particularly special until she was actively stealing a ship or swinging a lightsaber at you. She succeeds in keeping her head low.
It’s known, at least on the Skywalkers’ apartment block, that Rey likes helping Anakin with whatever absurd project he’s into now. She indulges him-- bringing him parts and scraps of metal and publicly helping him weld together a podracer, and so no one picks up on the fact that some of the parts are from medical droids. She tucks them away in a bin with the scraps of wire and programming chips for C3PO, and Anakin raises his eyebrows at her but stays quiet.
With Rey’s help, Anakin’s podracer gets put together in record time.
It’s evening when they take it out on a test-drive. One sun has set, and the other skirts the horizon, making the warm sands shine pink. The air is pleasantly cool, and they tow the podracer into the desert by Rey’s speeder. Podracers are not meant for distance traveling, only huge bursts of speed over short amounts of time.
Anakin had had to give Watto a heads up that he was test-running a podracer, which annoys Rey. Anakin is very casual about the very real danger of Watto noticing him missing from his apartment and deciding he was making a run for it and detonating his chip.
“He’d probably at least look for me first,” Anakin says with a shrug. “Watto’s not the worst. Mom just worries.”
Rey has to hold her tongue. Not the worst is the kind of flawed reasoning that kept her on Jakku, and she at least had the option to leave, in theory.
They drive to a canyon, hiding Rey’s speeder in a rocky outcrop and awkwardly climbing into the body of the podracer. Both of them wear secondhand helmets and goggles, and Rey’s has an annoying crack in one of the lenses.
Podracers are indeed not meant for copilots, but Anakin is small enough he can sit on Rey’s lap and still operate the controls comfortably. He doesn’t seem to mind the cramped fit at all, happily babbling to her about last-minute modifications as he flips switches. The repulsorlift hums to life, the racer shifting and vibrating beneath them, and the crackle of the plasma beam connecting the dual engines echoes through the canyon.
“Start slow,” Rey calls over the roar of the engines.
“I know, I know!” Anakin yells back, and then starts his podracer.
He does start on the slower side of what a podracer is capable of, but the jolt of speed still slams Rey back in her seat. She lets out a half-hearted shriek as Anakin propels them directly at the canon wall and then turns last-second, but it’s covered up by the whoop of joy that Anakin lets out.
Rey is filled with terror for the first few seconds as Anakin zips around rock formations and through narrow off-shoots of the canyon. One wrong turn into a part of the canyon that’s too narrow, and the collision will probably kill them, and Anakin seems to not be heading caution at all and speeding up.
But… inexplicably, Rey feels like they are fine. She trusts Anakin’s intuition not to make the wrong decision, the same way she’s always trusted herself to never accidentally set off an active weapon in the wreckage of a Star Destroyer on Jakku.
The Force hums in her very core and in Anakin’s, even if he seems oblivious to it, and Rey lets out her own yells of joy.
They tour what feels like the whole of the canyon in only a few tens of minutes, testing the agility of the podracer, and then Anakin maneuvers it back into the widest, longest stretch, which Rey has heard is popular for speeder drag racing.
“I’m going to see how fast we can really go,” Anakin yells at her, and Rey nods even though he can’t see her. Even though she’d said they should go slow, she wants to know how fast they can go too, and she’s seen the proof Anakin can handle it.
The podracer excels at a rate that impresses even Rey and chases her breath right out of her mouth. It seems like they travel the entire length of the canyon in a blink of an eye.
She feels the shock of warning before anything happens, a preternatural scream of alarm in the back of her mind that something awful is about to happen. Her adult hands automatically come down on top of Anakin’s hands on the controls to redirect them, but his are twitching to turn the podracer before she does anything, and she feels him tense in her lap.
One of the engines suddenly catches fire and fails, dropping out of the air and dragging against the rocky bottom of the canyon. The failsafe to disconnect a dead engine from the podracer doesn’t activate, and they spin uncontrollably as the working engine is dragged down by the plasma connector.
The whole incident takes barely a second, and before a normal human could have fully comprehended what’s happened, Anakin has already jerked the control to the side to correct the spin and keep them from crashing into the canyon wall. Still, they’re headed right for a column of yellow-brown rock and Rey reacts on instinct, pushing it aside with all the violent force of her mind.
Anakin has cut the working engine and turns them to the side in a stomach-rolling maneuver that just barely dodges where the column had been. The belly of the racer scraps against the rocky floor of the canyon and the crash becomes less of a lethal accident and more of a rocky landing that beats up the podracer more than either of them.
When they’ve finally come to a complete stop, the two of them sit in the cockpit in dead silence for several seconds. Rey’s heart is racing in her chest, and with his back pressed to her chest, Rey can feel Anakin’s racing equally fast.
“Aw man!” Anakin finally cries, fumbling with the buckle of the safety belt and freeing himself, rolling out of the cockpit onto the ground. “I knew there was something off about our capacitor correction calculations! It must have rerouted something wrong and…”
He grumbles, completely unconcerned with their near-death encounter and kicking gritty sand onto the fire of the engine to put it out. Rey climbs out of the racer with much more reservation.
“Uh…” Anakin says, pausing in his rambling when Rey’s shadow falls over him. He blinks up at her sheepishly. “Sorry about that?”
Rey raises her eyebrows at him.
“I did save us, mostly,” Anakin defends, squirming under her gaze.
“I’m not mad,” Rey says. “I’m supposed to be in charge, and I let you go too fast. It’s my fault.” She sends him a reassuring smile and says, “Nice save there, Ani. You really are a great pilot, even if you’re kind of nuts.”
She lets Anakin shove her playfully for her teasing, and then helps him get more sand on the fire. Once it’s out, the metal of the racer is superheated and they have to wait for it to cool before trying to make any sort of repair or trying to move the racer.
Rey sits down on one of the rocks that once made up the pillar, now scattered across the floor of the canyon. Anakin frowns down at it.
“So I know what caused the crash,” Anakin says slowly. “But why did the rocks… do that…”
He peers curiously up at Rey. “Did you do something?” he asks.
Rey considers telling him. The Jedi Order should still exist in this timeline, if Rey remembers her history, and Anakin will eventually need proper training...
(You went right for the Dark Side, Luke had told her with a sort of horrified awe. I’ve never seen anyone do that.)
...but maybe Anakin’s Force training shouldn’t be from Rey.
Rey looks around the empty canyon conspiratorially and gestures Anakin forward.
“The truth is,” Rey starts, and Anakin eagerly stands on tiptoe so she can whisper in his ear. “I’m a space wizard.”
Anakin rolls his eyes and puts his hands on hips in his very best imitation of his mother telling him off. “Rey!”
She laughs, and he joins in. The sound fills the canyon.