Star Wars fan fiction
introduction to Circles Complete
Can’t Go Home Again
Trial by Fire
Turning Points: So Alone
Turning Points: So Alive
Steer the Shore
Seed of Deceit
Euphoria and Foreboding
Out of Darkness
Out of Doubt
~@~ Swells Rise
At the beginning of the sixth month, the Senate Inner Council met again to discuss the progress, or lack thereof, in Lyra's hearing. Today intelligence expert Wakiem and two top intelligence officials stood before them to make their final report.
"Mr. Wakiem, we await your conclusion," Mon Mothma conceded the floor to the Senate's intelligence liaison.
"Senators, New Republic Intelligence has completed a through search of the archive records. Agent Queill has overseen the pre-Endor section of the investigation; Agent Liali has overseen the post-Endor section of the investigation. In each instance the testimonies given to this Council have been painstakingly checked and double-checked against our archived data until we have been able to reach a conclusion.
"It is our determination that substantial proof does not exist to warrant further investigation into either of the charges in question. New Republic Intelligence can find no evidence to suggest that Lyra Dare poses any threat to the current regime, nor can we find evidence that she is an Imperial loyalist."
"Very well," Mon Mothma decided. "We thank you and your team for your time and effort."
A heavy silence fell upon the room as the NRI representatives were dismissed and quietly filed out, their roles in the drama completed.
"It appears," Admiral Ackbar finally put forth, his gravely voice serious, "that Lyra Dare poses no immediate threat to New Republic security." The room remained silent, waiting. "If there are no other issues to be faced, then we should move for an outright dismissal of the investigation against her and grant her her freedom."
"There is one final option, before we take that drastic a step." Fey'lya put forth his contradiction as a curious afterthought, but the entire room had known that he would be the only voice to contradict the New Republic's head of security on a matter of security. "I move for an official inquiry into her activities following the Battle at Endor.
"Councillor Fey'lya," the objection came from Councillor Organa Solo, "this body has already investigated–"
"Specifically," Fey'lya continued over her raised objection, "into the suspicious fact that this woman's immediate family members were executed at some time after Endor but before her return to her home planet." The crafty Bothan let the silence hang in the air, and the room buzzed lightly with the implications of those unconfirmed facts before he spoke them himself. "If she, in fact, has no traceable connection to the Empire, and truly did sever her Imperial ties after Endor, then what would be the motive behind such a heinous line of action? And who would have been able to ascertain such personal information about this woman who is practically nonexistent to the finest of our intelligence agencies?"
The room continued to buzz anxiously, but no one had an explanation to offer.
When quiet had resumed once more, Mon Mothma called the measure to a vote. It was unanimous. Like the rest of the stunned room, Leia found herself voting in favor. She had a sinking feeling that the Bothan senator had just maneuvered the Inner Council into extending an investigation that by all rights should have been finished... but she couldn't shake her feelings any more than she could ignore the facts that Fey'lya's Bothan spies had most certainly uncovered. If NRI had missed this, there could be more hidden in this woman's past. And if someone had reason to harm her family – to track them down and murder them – her friends could be marked as well. Luke could be in danger.
"Very well," Mon Mothma stated for a second time. "These questions will be answered – and this matter will be put to rest, for once and for all."
Night had long since fallen on the cityscape of Coruscant when Luke Skywalker's footsteps took him to the roof of the Imperial Palace. This was not an unfamiliar occurrence, but tonight there was an urgency to his step that he couldn't explain... except that he knew she was there. His friend was in pain. He recognized the feel of that desolate place in her mind, just as she had recognized it in him once before. Lyra had felt that, and she had come up here looking for him. She'd later told him that she'd felt pulled against her better judgement, unable to turn back. Luke understood that now. It was hard to think clearly when that blinding pain was your own, but feeling it in someone else....
The eerie sensation made his skin crawl, and it was impossible for him to remain still, much less stay uninvolved. He couldn't turn away, couldn't ignore what he felt. The Empire had orphaned her just as it had orphaned him. She hadn't deserved the hand that life had dealt her up to this point, and she didn't deserve to be alone with her pain now. Not trying to help her was not an option as far as Luke Skywalker was concerned. He didn't pause to consider that she might not want his help; she was his friend.
Lyra hadn't been able to sleep. It had been deep into the night by the time she found herself on the roof. Even in the deepest night, Coruscant wasn't quiet. There was always the endless and constant bustle of traffic. She let her eyes pass over the almost endless cityscape. It flickered at her, almost alive, in the almost living movement and light of the city that surrounded her. When she had first noticed that, months ago, it had seemed a wondrous realization... a thing of beauty. Tonight the same sight seemed insignificant, empty. The city wasn't alive; it simply continued to move, unceasing and unfeeling.
Beyond that Lyra was trying not to think, trying not to feel. Up here, she was simply alone. She felt every bit as alone as she had throughout the past two and a half years. But from here she could look up at the stars, see into the blackness of the universe behind them. From up here, she felt closer to home. She was closer to what was familiar. Closer to the pain. Pain and loneliness had taken the place of the family that she had once lived for, and now it was all that was left to fill the gapping hole their loss had left in her life, the gapping wound the loss had left in her soul.
She hadn't heard Skywalker open the door or walk across the roof to stand behind her, but she could feel his eyes resting on her now. She wasn't startled. She wasn't really even surprised. His presence simply didn't change anything.
The sound of Skywalker's voice cut unexpectedly into those forlorn emotions, and Lyra leaned more heavily against the chest-high wrought-stone rail at the edge of the Palace roof.
"I'm a little tired of being in lock down on Coruscant," she bit out. She was tired by the emotion, tired by the explanation. She could hear worry behind his careful voice, but she didn't want him here. "I just wanted some fresh air. That's all," she tacked on after a second. The words carried a little more venom than she had intended, but maybe that would be enough to finally drive him away.
"I'm sorry." He hesitated, stung by her unexpectedly, and uncharacteristically, sharp words. "If you really would rather be alone, I'll go."
Lyra closed her eyes and released a strained sigh as she slowly shook her head. Who was she kidding? His remorse and regret were completely genuine. She got the distinct impression that if she were to turn around and strike him he would only apologize for the intrusion of his face upon her fist.... But she had no desire to harm him, physically or otherwise. It wasn't Skywalker's fault that she was here, and she knew that he was only trying to help.
"No. I'm sorry. That wasn't directed at you – at least it wasn't supposed to be," Lyra amended. She leaned her elbows on the railing in front of her and pressed her forehead to her hands.
"Don't worry. It's already forgotten." Luke stepped up to the rail beside her.
"It's just the hearing and the close quarters," she squeezed her eyes tighter against the denial, but she couldn't even make herself believe that. There was little chance that the Jedi Knight standing beside her would believe it.
He watched her, knowing there was more to it than that. Feelings of helplessness and frustration may have been the catalyst for her edgy mood, but those things didn't begin to touch on what she was really feeling. The grief and guilt she still carried weighed heavily upon her emotions. Luke had tried at each opportunity she'd given him over the past six months to help her work through those feelings, but Lyra remained reluctant to lower the defenses she was hiding behind. He wished he could help her. He wished that he could find some way to see her let go of the pain she held so close... but he was afraid that Lyra Dare had no intention of letting anyone get close enough to help her. The thought pained Luke.
"If you ever want to talk, I'll listen," he offered gently.
She opened her eyes, looking ahead blindly. "I know that," she said. Lyra was the one who was lying to herself again, and she was tired of the lying. She lowered her hands to curl around her elbows and took a deep breath, continuing to look up at the stars. "I think that's why I was telling myself so stubbornly that I wanted to be alone, that it's easier not to remember that way."
Her eyes drifted away and slowly came to rest on him. "It doesn't work though," she admitted.
Finally, the truth. "I thought that might have been it," Luke said just as softly. Maybe his patient friendship was easing her defenses. He gave her an encouraging shrug, then waited.
Lyra tilted her head downward, momentarily avoiding his gaze. He seemed to know when not to push, and she respected him for that. A long moment passed while she found her voice to speak again, the pain returning with a vengeance.
Her avoidance told Luke that this conversation wasn't going to be easy or pleasant for her. Yet she was still willing to have it. Even through the pain, her easy grace still surprised him.
"This– is a bad night for me," she slowly admitted. Then, more softly, "I'm really missing my family tonight." Her voice filled almost to the breaking point, weighted with a distant pain. "Two years ago, today, I came home.
"The thought of that day kept me going, kept me alive, for ten years," she continued in quiet, disbelieving agony. "Only, when I went back, there was nothing left. It was just a shell of what it had been before." Her voice trailed away, struggling over the words. "There was nothing left but empty buildings and hollow memories. And pain." Luke winced at the unbearable pain that seemed to permeate her sense and ring in her strained voice.
Of course he knew that pain, knew how it felt to look on the place where you had lived your whole life and find nothing remaining there but death and destruction.
"The pain was radiating from that place, and as soon as I felt it, I knew. Everything was gone." Lyra shuddered and slowly shook her head. "I thought I could keep that from happening. I thought that my life would be enough, and I was willing to give it...."
It had been so clear to her then, so blindly clear.... The words rang in her mind from a lifetime ago, words that she had spoken: It has to be this way. If I go, it ends here. She had believed it then. She didn't believe anymore.
"I was willing to sacrifice myself, and that's exactly what I lost. There was nothing good or honorable in trying to survive that vicious insanity... and I did it all for nothing. I couldn't save them," she whispered. "The sacrifice turned on me, and I lost myself too. I was wrong. I was blind and I was naive, but I didn't have to pay for that. They paid for me. They died for me – because of me – protecting me." She abruptly fell silent. "What good was leaving them behind? I should have stayed," she decided bitterly. "I should have at least gone back..." she decided more softly.
"Instead I spent years tracking through the galaxy after Mara, after you, looking for some sort of redemption." She stopped and took a deep breath. "I still don't regret that," Lyra admitted truthfully. "It's the only thing I don't regret.
"At first, my only hope was that at the end of it all I would find them safe and well. Then, I started to hope that somehow I could manage to return to them," she shook her head, at a loss for words, "a little better than I had left them? she tried to explain it. "But at the very least, it was supposed to be over.
"No matter what else had happened, I had survived... and it was finally over." She turned her eyes back toward the stars, the universe beyond, as if seeking an escape. "I just can't shake the feeling that I should have been there. If I'd been there when they'd come for me..." her voice trailed off, unable to say the words.
Finally Luke broke the silence. "Then you may have been able to stop it," he said for her, "or you may have died in front of their eyes."
"You know it doesn't do any good," he chided her softly. "This game. What could have been."
She shook her head. "There isn't anything else," she argued bitterly. "There's no way to make it right and there's no way to get past it. It doesn't end," she finished, her voice falling from bitter blame into painful acceptance.
"I asked you once before," he said softly. "Would they want this for you?"
She shut her eyes, a pained sigh escaping her.
It was agonizing, Luke thought miserably, just on the outside. "I know it's not," he said softly. "You've told me as much. You've got to let it go, Lyra," he urged her.
Her eyes opened to look blindly ahead. The words were oddly familiar, or was it the emotion behind them? She didn't feel any closer to being able to do that than she had two and a half years ago. But this guilt... it hadn't been in her, not yet, not like this.
She sat there for a few moments, alone with her thoughts, concentrating on breathing. He was right. She swallowed past the lump in her throat. Her parents would hate that she was doing this to herself, and Myrk.... She closed her eyes. Myrk wouldn't stand to see her like this; he'd be beside himself. Lyra laughed suddenly at the vivid imagination that came unexpectedly to mind. Myrk would tell her that this self-pity was ridiculous, and he'd threaten to shake her by the shoulders until she was dizzy. Then, as suddenly as it had come on, the imagination left her. The closeness she had felt to him just a second ago was gone. That had been more than twelve years ago.... How could it have been? A sudden sense of loneliness crashed in on her so hard she couldn't breathe.
"Lyra," Luke spoke her name, but it was as if from a long way away. She had forgotten he was there.
Luke had been watching her in silence. Now he was worried. Lyra didn't respond to him, and the pain he sensed in her was so vivid he was beginning to fear that she could slip away from him entirely.
"Lyra?" he asked again, quietly, urgently.
She blinked, not really comprehending, but she had heard him. He released a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Her eyes still held a glassy, faraway look as they flickered over him, taking him in. Luke met her gaze with a small smile, trying to give reassurance, but her attention wasn't on him. Lyra closed her eyes briefly, looking for something else now, something inside herself, and when she opened her eyes a moment later it was only to sigh and look away again. He could feel the pain she carried in that sigh. The silence grew long, and Luke felt at a complete loss.
"I just, miss my brother, more than anything," she whispered.
This time her voice was closer to the even, solid tone Luke recognized. But it was also deeply lonely, intensely quiet, longing for something that was lost and far away. There was nothing he could do to ease this pain. All he could do was stand beside her, wait until she was able to speak, and then just listen to her.
"Growing up," she said slowly, "there was no small child's nightmare that he couldn't chase away. And when the things I felt scared me, he chased that away too." She spoke from feeling and from memory, times and things that were very real to her even though they were far away. Then she came back to the present, speaking to Luke again. "My parents hoped that it was just a connection between me and Myrk, but they were afraid that it was the Force."
"I don't understand," he said carefully.
She let herself smile. "In a place like Myrina, the entire system's top priority was to stay as far away from Imperial involvement as they could. A Force talent could easily have been a death sentence. And then there was the Empire – the Jedi hunted to extinction."
He nodded grimly, understanding.
"They wanted to protect me from myself, from my talent. They did everything they could to learn about it, and to explain to two eight-year-olds why this was something to be kept secret. We did keep it secret, not because we wanted it to be or because we believed that it could be a game. We knew, both of us, that it was serious, and important, and dangerous." Her face darkened. "But I knew especially. I could feel how terrified they were for me. No brave face or kind reassurance could undo that." She glanced to him. "For everything they gave me, for as hard as they tried and as much as they wanted it, they could never give me safety. Fear was always there, hiding behind it."
He took a deep breath. "How awful for a child."
Lyra looked away from him, but her eyes showed the depth of that truth. "They wanted very badly to protect me but they didn't know if they could, and that scared them. It was impossible for them not to be afraid when they knew that their child could be in danger, taken from them at any twist or turn. That's a tough thing to ask a parent to live with," she thought out loud. "If I had been a normal child, or if my talent had lay anywhere else, what they were giving would have been enough."
"But it wasn't," Luke said softly.
"No," she admitted with a sad shake of her head, "it wasn't. But Myrk was different," she offered quietly. "When it first started, these strange feelings pressing in on me all the time, I got scared a lot. Myrk saw the way it went, that our parents would try to help and somehow make it worse. He would get so angry," she remembered, "that they couldn't see how much it scared me, that they couldn't fix it."
She snorted lightly. "I was just a kid. I didn't know how to say what was wrong, or what would fix it, so I tried to ignore it, to pretend that everything was normal and the fear wasn't there. But Myrk, he learned to see through me, even when I thought I was hiding it. He was my lifeline," she remembered. "When I would wake up afraid from nightmares that I never could remember, too afraid to go back to sleep – I'd go crawl into bed with him, and he would make me laugh, or just talk to me until I could sleep again.
"He promised me that no matter what happened, he would protect me.... That was all it took. He understood that all I really needed was something real to put in front of the fear. Something real," she repeated. "After a while those nightmares went away... but I would still go to him whenever I was afraid. I knew that Myrk would always be honest with me. If he couldn't tell me that it was alright and that I didn't have to worry, then he would promise me what he could – whatever he could do, or give, or be. "I always believed in that, in him. No matter what, that never changed. I always–" she stopped, the words catching.
"You trusted in him," Luke said softly.
She nodded, her voice failing her. Something in the way she explained that stuck out in his mind, and Luke understood. He hadn't recognized the true depth of the loss for her, hadn't seen it before, or connected it to anything more than her outward defenses. But it wasn't just the defenses that were so hard for her to get past, it was all that she had placed on her brother, all that she had only been able to place on him, and all that she felt had died with him. When she lost her twin brother, she lost her best friend, the only person she had ever completely trusted. She still felt lost without that connection.
She stayed silent for a long time, lost, and quiet, and sad. Then Luke gradually sensed her mood change, as if something was prodding at her.
"You ever have nightmares?" she asked him, her voice hardly a whisper.
"No," he answered slowly, caught a bit off-guard by the question. There had been times when his mind and his dreams had been haunted... but over the years the Force had helped him find the mental discipline to finally push those unpleasant images out of his mind. "Not in years..." he amended. "Actually, I usually don't dream. Sometimes I have visions, but that's not the same." He was silent for a moment, waiting for her response. Finally he asked, "Why?"
"I do," she said, her voice that same unnerving tone as before. Then she seemed to come back to herself. "That's the reason I came up here tonight," she continued. "Not so much that I couldn't sleep, but that I didn't want to. It's a scary thing, to be afraid of your own mind."
"Yeah, it is," he answered into the silence.
The nightmares that once haunted Luke Skywalker's sleep had fed off of his fears and intertwined with his insecurities: Vader, and Luke's vulnerability to him, his own father. Even now Luke had more than his share of self-doubt and worry for the future, but he had never questioned himself as he had done in those times. Nothing had been certain. Luke had been shaken to his core, and the shadow of those dark days had remained with him every day thereafter, keeping him grounded, centered, determined.
Lyra could tell that Skywalker meant something different and unexpected in his reply. That drew her away from herself, away from her own pains and insecurities.
She turned to face him, and the icy cold blue-grey that he saw in her eyes was unnerving. He had seen it before, along with that sense of cold, hardened defiance that guarded her. And he had also seen the lingering pain behind it, in glimpses, but never as intensely as he had tonight. Now he was starting to see past it all. Behind the defenses and the pain, and behind that vital, defiant strength that guarded her, Luke was beginning to understand what was real. In the back of his mind he hoped that he would see those eyes return to the shade of blue that had been so bright and clear in his memory.
He gave her a half smile and motioned for her to come with him. They walked back toward the building where there was a bench-level stone platform a few meters from the entrance. There they sat, half facing out toward the cityscape and half facing each other.
Luke sat down beside her, casually crossing his legs in front of him and leaning back on his hands. He took a deep breath, his eyes scanning the stars. In the back of her mind Lyra noted that he looked for the stars to clear his thoughts, just as she did.
"It's hard to explain," he started. "When I was first learning, I thought," he trailed off, laughing softly at himself. "I thought the Force was something perfect. Like if I could just become strong enough in the Force, then eventually there would be a time when everything would make sense. Once I knew as much as my masters – surely the galaxy must have made sense to them, so eventually it would make sense to me.
"Now it's been, too many years," he admitted with a sigh, "since they left me. Sometimes I can almost touch that place. When I'm calm and at peace, as Yoda taught me. There are moments where there is some sort of order to the galaxy, and I can see it." Again his eyes stretched out toward it. "Then, the rest of the time, there are too many questions that I can't answer and too many things in myself that I doubt."
Genuinely surprised, she didn't say anything right away. "I had no idea," Lyra finally offered.
He snorted gently. "Well, I usually try to keep it under wraps." Then he grinned at her. "People tend to rely on a Jedi for knowledge and reassurance. It wouldn't do to have me asking everyone for advice."
Again she looked at him with surprise. "If I didn't know any better I'd say you were asking me for advice," she said straight-faced.
"At least for a sympathetic ear," he countered honestly. "There's a lot that I still don't know," he continued. "Sometimes I wonder if it was that way for them too. Maybe they were where I am now – maybe they were just presenting a united front and answering their own questions on their own time. Maybe. I don't know. Then again, they had considerably more life experience than I do." Again, he laughed at himself a little. "Yoda was over 900 years old, after all. I'm just a drop in that bucket."
"For what my opinion's worth, I think you're doing pretty well," Lyra offered. "You've almost single-handedly turned everything around, for the New Republic, and the Jedi."
He seemed to sigh. "You'd never guess something like that would be so much of a burden."
She considered that for a moment. "No, I guess you wouldn't. But now that you say it, I can see it. It's kind of like the whole galaxy becomes your responsibility now."
This time he was surprised, and for a moment he studied her face as if trying to be sure she was serious. "It does feel like that sometimes," he said finally. "If it wasn't for me," he struggled, "for my actions, a lot of things would be different. Now everybody depends on me to be wisdom and knowledge, and to keep peace, all the things a Jedi is supposed to do... and simply to know what to do.
"I want that responsibility," he continued, "I just want to be able to do it."
Lyra winced. She could empathize with the struggle he described but there was no way she could understand the magnitude of what he was facing, and, honestly, she had no idea why he chose to bring this to her, of all people.
"Luke," she shook her head, "I'm not a public servant and I'm certainly no hero. I've got no galaxy knocking on my door, looking for answers to their problems" Her own self-consciousness showed through the false lightness in her tone. "I don't understand what kind of guidance you think I can offer you."
"You know how I feel," he answered with a certainty that caught her off guard. "There are things that I feel," he continued a little hesitantly, "that I've never been able to speak to anybody about: the pain of losing so many people that I still need, and still feel lost without.... Other people want to give advice, want to make it better – but I don't want it made better," he spat the last words in frustration. "I do," he amended a moment later, struggling to express what he truly meant, "but nobody can give that. It's something that I've got to find in myself. You understand that."
She turned her gaze away from him, again growing uncomfortable with the weight of this exchange.
"More," he continued, and the urgency in his voice caused her to turn back to him. "You know what I'm feeling," he said softly, "without my having to explain it."
She got a strange look on her face.
He grimaced in response. "A burden, huh?" he asked, a little ashamed at the realization.
"It could be," she admitted, "but it's not from you," she spoke to him honestly. "I don't have to try to understand. I know. I know what it's like to carry this pain that's so intense – it feels like it's all that will ever exist. It blurs your days until you can't forget the past, and then when you finally can make it through the days, it keeps you awake... standing outside somewhere in the night air, staring up at the stars."
Luke only nodded. She could have been describing his life as vividly as her own, and they each knew it. They remained silent for the moment, meeting each other's eyes with the quiet knowledge of shared experience. Finally Lyra broke the silence to speak through a skeptically guarded grin.
"We're altogether too much alike, you realize that?"
"I do get that feeling sometimes," Luke conceded with guarded enthusiasm. "Does it bother you?" he asked pointedly.
She sighed, telling herself that she didn't have to answer honestly, that she could keep her guard up a while longer. He wouldn't call her on it; he'd know, but he wouldn't call her on it.
"It probably should," she admitted, "but I can't say that it really does," she answered cautiously, and with a little surprise. "After I went back to Myrina, I wanted very badly to be away from people. I didn't want to have to explain myself or my grief to anyone. That worked for a little while, but this talent – it pushes me toward people. What else can you do when there's a total stranger standing in front of you and you feel their most intense joy or sorrow without asking to?"
He looked embarrassed. "Kinda like me," Luke whispered.
She looked at him, stunned that he really thought that. "I didn't mean it like that," she said. Her voice was that same mix of gentle, soft, even, and honest that he realized he had grown to depend on from her. It left no room for argument or doubt. She shook her head. "That's exactly what I meant when I said that I didn't have to try to understand you. What you feel just – makes sense to me. I know that that's strange," she amended a moment later.
"No. I mean, yes," Luke admitted, grinning, and causing her to smile too. "It is strange, but," he shook his head, "it can't just be strange. It's not an accident that everything has happened exactly the way it has."
"You really believe that?" she wondered quietly.
"Yes, I do."
He could tell that the idea was hard for her. It was much easier for her to blame herself than somehow accept that the universe would allow such horrible pain and suffering, and for some unknown reason.
"Maybe," she finally admitted softly. "There's no reason I shouldn't completely resent all of this: the Empire, the Force, you, my being here in the middle of this trial, my talent – most of all my talent," she realized quietly. "It's the reason for everything else."
She paused heavily. "I have a lot of regrets, things I've done that I wish I could undo and take back... but this talent... it's a part of who I am. It's shaped me, shaped my life. I can't make myself resent that. Maybe there is a purpose," she admitted very softly. "Maybe it is bringing me where I need to be."
"Or to people that you need," he said gently.
She stayed quiet for a long time. She couldn't say what she was feeling inside: how she didn't want to need anyone, how it was easier that way, safer. She knew it, and yet she couldn't say that to him – maybe because she realized that he did need her. This common bond between them was necessary. Even if she couldn't quite grasp how much, she knew that it was. She could see the way they paralleled each other in so many ways. But she didn't need anyone. She knew she should just say it, but she couldn't.
Finally she did turn back to him, quelling the fight within her, taking a breath. Luke knew that being reliant on anyone other than herself was a hard thing for Lyra to admit. Needing someone else was even worse, but the denial he had been expecting abruptly faded, and in that moment he realized how much things had changed for her over the past few months.
"I don't know about that," she said softly, her argument fading against the quiet realization that he was right. They were so much alike; they did need each other, both of them.
They sat in silence for a long while after that, realizing that they were comfortable enough together to just enjoy the relative still of Coruscant's deep night in each other's company.
"Well, I don't think that not being able to sleep is going to be such a problem anymore," Luke eventually broke the silence.
She looked at him, momentarily puzzled.
"Look," he said, motioning toward the city.
She followed his eyes to the lightening horizon, far away against the cityscape. The lightening sky was creating an illusion on the Coruscant horizon, like the buildings themselves were lighting the sky beyond instead of the other way around. She sensed Luke turn to look as well, and she felt his mood lighten with the hope of a new day.
"Thanks, Luke," she said as she sat beside him, watching the sun emerge over Coruscant's cityscape.
He nodded. "I get the feeling you'd return the favor for me," he said.
She grinned, turning to face him. "I already have returned the favor."
"I know," he said quietly, smiling at her before he turned back to face the rising sun.
Lyra bit down on her lip, her smile evaporating. What had happened to her determination to push him away? Instead Skywalker had gotten closer than she had ever intended him to get, and it couldn't possibly continue. The risk was far too great, for them both.... Lyra watched the first curve of the morning sun duck through the tall buildings. She had to draw this line soon. It couldn't wait for long... but maybe just a little longer....
They watched the sun rise in shared silence. Then Luke stood and, reflexively, he extended a hand to her. But in the next heartbeat he dropped it back to his side again, knowing that she would only shake it off. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw her begrudging grin in response... but they were both able to smile a little more freely to each other when they stood. In the early morning light, they walked inside and went their separate ways without further need for words exchanged.
It had been a short night but Lyra was awake early, awaiting a visit from Luke and Mara. They were due to discuss the post-Endor years today. Judging by the lull of the last few weeks, intelligence was also busy researching those years. Lyra didn't know if she was more curious to learn what NRI might find or to hear how Mara would remember their misadventures. She didn't envy Luke in this process either; she knew that he would sit with them, listening alertly to everything that was said, but it couldn't be any fun to sit and listen to the stories of how your death had been plotted by someone whom you now thought of as an ally.
Her thoughts shifted back to Skywalker. He was a strange mystery. When she was around him, she felt as though someone could understand... understand some of the things she had spent the past few years telling herself that no one else could possibly understand. The fact that Skywalker had not only made it seem possible over these past few months, but had managed to make it something less than excruciating painful was another strange mystery... but then he had seen enough loss in his own life to know exactly where she stood.
Lyra Dare had focused on guarding herself, on separating herself from needing anyone, for years. First it had been for the necessity of survival in the Empire. Then, after, she knew that she couldn't take another loss. It was as simple as that. Now it had become habit, a different type of survival. Trust had never come easily for her. Now, after a world of hardship and loss, the possibility of coming to trust another living being was something that she simply didn't believe herself capable of any longer. She had already lost everything once; there was no conceivable gain that could make that bearable again, not when she knew what was on the other side of that risk.
The irony was extreme. Lyra, with the ability to feel other's emotions, wanted intensely to cut herself off from her own, to avoid opening herself to any more loss. But she didn't cut herself off from Luke as she might have. She found herself wanting to help him, and though she couldn't imagine herself developing that close of an attachment to anyone, still, it was happening. Almost every time they were together she grew to trust him a little more. They knew where they stood with each other. There was no duplicity, no deeper motives other than to protect the deepest parts of their souls. There were still pains and fears that neither was ready to part with, or to chance sharing, and they recognized that in each other. They knew not to ask, not to press against the highest of each other's protective barriers. Still, almost every time they were together those walls came down a little more. Despite her blindness to it, and despite his awareness that she couldn't yet reach past the defenses that held her in place, those walls were slowly coming down.
Some of these things and more occurred fleetingly to Lyra this morning as she waited for Luke and Mara to arrive.... Skywalker was a good person. Sometimes he made her feel more alive, and sometimes even less alone, but she had to draw the line there. For her protection and for his, it had to be that way. Lyra shook those thoughts away as she felt a distinct change in the Force around her. Luke was here, and he was nervous. She went to the door.
"Morning," she greeted him with a smile, and she felt him relax. Had he been nervous about seeing her again after their conversation last night?
"Good morning," Luke answered, then he hesitated just briefly. "I wanted to make sure you were okay to go ahead with this before we got started."
Lyra nodded. "A little tired maybe, but I'm all right."
"Good." Luke felt himself relax when she smiled again. He knew how strong-willed Lyra was; he was relieved that his worry hadn't offended her. Luke grinned. "I like watching the sun rise as much as the next person–"
"Just after a good night's sleep, and not in place of it?"
"Yeah, exactly," he agreed, laughing.
"We won't make a habit of that," she assured him, shaking her head.
"It could get detrimental to a being's health," he followed her cue, keeping the exchange light.
"What about you?" She motioned to the room around them. "This has got to be a little weird."
Luke grinned again. "You mean learning that there's a whole chapter to my life that I knew nothing about at the time? Just a little," he admitted warily, "but I wonder if I did know sometimes. Does that make any sense?"
Lyra nodded. "You probably did. You know how you get a warning or a suspicious feeling, but you never know what caused it?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I used to get that a lot growing up, usually when I was racing against Biggs, or in some other kind of danger. I'd get a warning sense, or sometimes I'd know something without really knowing how I could. That always worried my aunt and uncle. I guess they were hoping it would pass me over."
Lyra smiled, but she was holding something just below the surface. He waited.
"My talent started a lot like that too," she offered after a moment. "I was eight when I first felt it; Myrk fell out of a tree and broke his arm, and I scared our mom half to death. I was in awful pain all of a sudden. I kind of knew that it was really him, but I didn't know how; it didn't connect at first. Then before either of us really knew what was going on, he walked in holding his arm."
Luke fell silent. "Leia and I didn't grow up together," he thought out loud. "I wonder if it would have been like that, if we would have been that close." Then, self-consciously, he looked to her. "I'm sorry," he apologized with a grimace, searching her eyes worriedly. Only her eyes showed it when she hurt. Sometimes it was a cold stare meant to push him away or a numb emptiness that made him wince. He was expecting to see the latter, but neither met him. Lyra only smiled, looking down, almost oblivious to the implication. They had each other now.
"It's okay," she said easily. She had gotten used to this dance they did. He got a little too close to the bone sometimes, but she knew his intentions were good. She knew that he would never intentionally treat her pain lightly, and she was getting better at overriding those survival instincts that still popped up, like when he'd come out onto the roof last night....
"For a while our parents thought it was a connection just between us. Strange, but not entirely unheard of. It was always very strong between us, but as I got older it grew stronger in other ways. It extended to my parents pretty quickly, to anyone I was close to, really. By the time I was a teenager, it was any strong emotion. Finally, I could pick up on even little things in people's faces or reactions, if I was looking for them."
"Can you control it at all?" Luke asked curiously.
"It's not a conscious reaction," she stated thoughtfully. "I can phase it down to an extent, but it's not something that I can bend and shape, and it isn't something that I have to work at. It's not the Force like you know it. I learned that when I started training in the Empire.
"Other aspects of the Force were totally foreign to me when I started learning them. Sure, I can do those things: reach out with the Force, use simple mind tricks, and I can handle a lightsaber. Endless practice made all of that possible. Still, it's unrelated to what comes naturally to me, not at all the same as knowing when my twin brother was in trouble," she said, speaking lightly of him for the first time. Then she brought her thoughts back to Luke's question. "I can't turn it on and off. And if I'm distracted, myself, it gets clouded. I know it's Force-related, but I don't understand how exactly.
"I've never understood it," she decided heavily. "I should probably curse this talent, for all that it's cost me and all that it's put me through... but I've never been able to make myself feel that. It still feels like some sort of a gift. Even when I was young, despite the fear or the danger, I always felt that something was guiding me, even if I didn't understand what, or how. And even through the dark times, I've felt that sense of guidance."
"I've often wondered if the Force guides people in different ways, like that," Luke wondered out loud. "Times when I've been injured, I can control the pain using the Force but I can't heal myself to any useful extent. I wonder if the connection is specific like that, or if it's something you learn. You learned to use the Force in other ways, but your stronger connection to it is much more attuned to life, not quite healing, but knowing when people are in need."
She kept silent, seeing his newfound fascination with this aspect of the Force that was just occurring to him. Strange, she thought, but she had always assumed that he just knew, that whatever it was that made him a Jedi gave him some greater insight.
A chime at the door interrupted those thoughts.
"That'll be Mara," Luke said, standing to go meet her.
Lyra nodded. She had almost forgotten the purpose of this visit. Somewhere along the line, she had begun to enjoy this friendship between herself and Skywalker. When the two of them were together she could almost forget the true nature of things here. But she was still on trial, and likely to be found guilty by the Senate Inner Council. She still had a sea of past wrongs that couldn't be atoned for, and the past's pain always at her back.
"Everybody ready for a walk down memory lane?" Mara called as she came inside.
Lyra stood to greet Mara Jade. It wouldn't do any of them any good for Lyra to forget her limitations. "Where should we begin, Vishac or Musstar?"
"Musstar," Mara recalled heavily, "I had forgotten Musstar."
Lyra gave her a knowing nod. "That's the point of this exercise, isn't it, to remember what we've spent the last few years forgetting?"
"Actually, the objective is to remember what the Council might ask you about," Luke corrected, "so that you can be ready to give them your side of the story." He had been pleased to find Lyra upbeat and ready to talk this morning, but it appeared her optimism had limits. Her opinion of this hearing and her enthusiasm for remembering the past remained unchanged. Luke regretted that, on both counts. He wished that he could allow Lyra Dare to forget the past that caused her so much pain, but unfortunately her freedom could depend on those memories. "We'll begin at Musstar, then," Luke decided easily, dropping into a chair across the room from the two women as they began to compare recollections.
He remembered Musstar. It was one of dozens of short-term Rebellion bases where they'd taken sanctuary after Hoth, after Bespin. Leia had been preoccupied with her worries over Han, and the two of them had waited anxiously for word from Lando and Chewie, for a signal that it was time for them to move on Jabba the Hutt. Luke could sense then that Leia's feelings had changed. A short time earlier that knowledge would have been a crushing blow for Luke; Leia had captured his heart from the first moment he'd seen her, her holo projection pleading for Obi-Wan Kenobi's aid against the Empire. But those times had felt very far away on Musstar, and Luke had felt as if he had aged a lifetime in the space of only a few days.
No matter how hard he had tried to keep his thoughts centered on the Rebellion, on planning his friend's rescue, Luke hadn't been able to escape what had happened at Bespin. He couldn't forget the awful truth he had learned there, nor could he bring himself to speak it aloud to anyone, not even Leia. She hadn't learned the truth until Endor.... Musstar had been a dark place for him for all of those reasons, but at least he had been surrounded by friends, buoyed by the courage of the Rebel Alliance. He had never questioned his safety there. He was about to learn that he should have.
Lyra watched the Jedi sitting across the room trying to be unobtrusive as his life and death were discussed as an objective, time and time again, like a chess match played out between two masters. But as Lyra discussed the past she shared with her one-time arch enemy, it was hard for her to pull her sleep-deprived mind away from the events of last night and this morning, from Skywalker. Her first instinct had been to push him away, and quickly – before he could get in with that simple, easy way of his that kept opening him up to her, and inviting her to do the same – but even though that would be the easiest way out, she couldn't take it. Time and time again, she had stubbornly pushed him away whenever he got too close... but she couldn't deny the connection between them. That connection was real, and on such a deep level that neither of them could turn it away... not even when it was pushing them toward pains they'd rather forget and emotions that they weren't comfortable feeling, let alone expressing.
Just like that first time she'd come to him on the roof of the Imperial Palace, when he'd been in pain.... She couldn't turn back now, just like she couldn't turn back then. She had trusted him to understand, to listen, and in some ways she needed those things more than she was comfortable with. So she buried that need and she stubbornly pushed him away whenever he got too close to seeing it for himself... but even the need to keep him at a distance was growing steadily less urgent. She was finding his presence to be more and more of a comfort.... She had accepted the necessity of this friendship, and she was willing to let it go on as it was, at least for now. But she wouldn't allow it to become something that she couldn't get out of. That was self-preservation. It had to be that way.
Lyra stifled a yawn, and across the room she saw Luke stifle one of his own.
"I agree," Mara decided. "That's more than enough for one sitting." They had covered a lot of ground in the past few hours, making an effort to hit upon the more high profile of their encounters, things and places that NRI could conceivably know about – though Mara would be highly disappointed in both herself and Lyra Dare if they had left enough of a trail for any intelligence agency to follow.
"You're due for questioning tomorrow morning?" Lyra asked as the three of them walked to the door.
"Right. I expect they'll bring you in after they talk to me," Mara answered.
"Great," Lyra answered. Mara opened the door for her and Luke to leave. "See you then," Lyra added dryly.
Luke shook his head at the sarcasm exchanged between the two of them. "I think you two are spending too much time together. Lyra's starting to catch your sense of humor," he kidded Mara Jade.
Mara only snorted in dismissal, but when the door was closed behind them she saw a grim seriousness return to Luke's features. It matched the new edge that she could sense lurking behind Skywalker's familiar worry. They began walking down the hall toward the turbolifts.
"I've got a bad feeling about this questioning tomorrow," Luke admitted. "Something doesn't feel right."
"You've done what you could, Luke," Mara reminded him as they walked. "The rest is up to her."
Luke nodded. "I know. I just don't like it. They haven't found anything; I thought they would have backed off by now."
Mara only shrugged. "She doesn't need your protection, Skywalker. She can take care of herself, believe me; I've got the scars to prove it. And if you push her too hard, it's gonna come back on you."
Luke grimaced, puzzled. "You think that's what's happening?"
"I think that you've always cared a lot more about this whole trial than she has. In the beginning it was her attitude that worried me," she glanced toward him. "Now it's yours that's out of place. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad that she's easing up on herself a bit, and I'm sure that's your doing."
"Keep going," Luke prompted her easily. It didn't escape Luke that Mara had used the term "trial" instead of "hearing," something that only Lyra had routinely done. "You worry me when you hold back on your opinion – that's not like you. Tell me what you see changing here, Mara."
"I see this getting personal," she answered abruptly, turning to look Luke in the eye. "There's more going on here than meets the eye. Lyra's attitude is changing. It looks to me like she's returning more to her old self, and I think that you're the cause."
"What's wrong with that?" Luke cautiously objected. "If I can get her to give up this self-destructive grief and blame that she's carrying around–"
"Nothing's wrong with it; it's just not that simple, Luke. She's trapped here on Coruscant: her against this trial – against the Senate, the NRI, a slew of politics, and a hundred other factors that she has no hope of controlling – and in case you haven't noticed, Dare doesn't do 'trapped' very well. Until now she's reconciled herself to being here, and you've started to change that. If you keep pushing her to get over the past, you could push her past the last bit of resolve that's keeping her here. She might bolt before this trial even comes to a conclusion." Mara's voice quieted. "You know as well as I do that if that happened it would be nearly impossible to stop her."
"And if she runs, guilt would be implied."
Mara shook her head. "Wouldn't matter. She would disappear."
Luke sighed. It was hard for him to wrap his mind around what Mara was saying, but he had learned to trust her point of view. Mara Jade's insight was usually sharp and right on target, and maybe he was too close to be objective; wasn't that what Leia had been telling him all along? Maybe they were both more right than he wanted to admit.
"I'm just saying that you're setting yourself up for bad things to happen here. It's time to take a step back."
He and Mara walked a little further in silence.
"Maybe you're right," Luke finally decided. "Maybe this is getting too personal."
"Okay– Change of subject," Mara prompted easily, making Luke grateful for her tact, or was that simply impatience for an exhausted subject? He grinned. Coming from Mara Jade, the latter was far more likely. "Our Coalition sources out in the Aci sector haven't had anything to report for a couple of weeks now."
"Things are quiet there," Luke confirmed. "The clean up at Rhaci is progressing. There have been no more hostilities."
"No trace on those ships?"
"No, and no real motive for the attack. Have your people gotten anything new on Laus?"
"He's still the one you suspect?" Mara asked knowingly.
"Until we can rule him out," Luke confirmed.
"Nothing," Mara admitted. "His territory's been too quiet. Even activity along the Tritis sector is becoming subdued."
"Quiet all over," Luke repeated distantly. He didn't like the sound of that. His feelings were telling him that none of this would stay quiet for much longer.
So Let it Be Written Publishing © 2004