Too Deeply Marked
Summary: That’s it. It’s over. You’ve lost.
A/N: Kindly beta'ed by Gabri_Jade. Apologies for the torture, though this was written expressly to torture you. ;) This story was completely inspired by a comment that Burkie, aka KatarnLead, made in his blog. It was honestly one of the most insightful things I'd seen about marriage. Definitely something I won't forget. :)
Feedback is always appreciated. And no shooting me, please. ;)
It wasn’t like breaking. It was destruction, the pain he felt. It wasn’t the pain that clawed at the edge of his mind, finding its way through the cracks into ... everything.
This pain lived past any protection.
The pressure on his arm was gentle, and he flicked a reassuring glance Leia’s way. She paused by his side, momentarily turning her focus away from the gathering. He met her eyes, and reached up, stroking her cheek, and the softness of her skin made him smile. At that, Leia’s eyes brightened a little.
“Do you want to go?” she whispered, but he easily heard her beyond the noise of their surroundings.
“I’m fine,” Luke assured her. He had only come at her request; she hardly let him out of her sight anymore and, oddly enough, that wasn’t a smothering feeling. Han, across the room with dozens of people between him and Luke, noticed Leia’s attention and turned his own worried gaze towards Luke. That quiet worry required even more effort to reassure, but he would deal with that later.
Leia paused, and a slip of the Force touched him.
He cocked his head, smiled again, flicking her sense in the Force.
Her eyes narrowed, but she smiled. “Let me know,” she said, and he clearly understood that she would do anything he needed of her. Then she uneasily drifted away, making conversation with various politicians as she passed. Few even noticed Luke, a deliberate act on his part.
He leaned back against the column, focusing on his breathing. He closed his eyes against the garish people, the calculation/fear/worry they projected. The Force moved against him like a strong wind against his back, and his eyes snapped open. It was surprising that it spoke so clearly and yet without true pressure.
He blinked, offhandedly sent a wave of desire for solitude in Leia’s direction, then stepped through the party, gracefully avoiding touching anyone. Like a breeze that passed over nothing.
When he stepped outside, he took a deep breath of the fresh air. It was dark, well after sunset, though as always on Coruscant, the sky was shades of blue and gentle hues of other colors. He paused, seeing little more than dark shapes with his eyes, then let his awareness of the garden spread. He had thought it might be empty, but it wasn’t; a familiar presence waited.
The first thing he saw of her was the glint of silver in her hair, and something within him stilled, the pain going no further. She turned, smiled sadly as her gray eyes met his.
“Callista,” he said simply, and gave her a true smile.
She turned her palms up, giving almost a gesture of welcome, but instead merely spoke. “Hello, Luke.”
He stepped up to her, searching her eyes, then grasped her hands briefly, squeezing, and embraced her. She exhaled, and for that moment hesitated; then her arms went around him as tightly as his were around her.
As he released her, he said softly, “How are you?” Another moment, and he added, smiling broadly, “I can feel you.”
Callista nodded, her smile carrying a wry twist. “I can’t ... touch the Force the way I used to, but I am part of it again.”
“That’s good,” he said. “That’s good,” he repeated, looking down, wanting to regain ... something. Surety in his actions; he wanted to know what to do.
“I heard about Mara. I’m very sorry,” she said.
Luke’s throat tightened momentarily, then he relaxed, letting his grief fill him and fade. “Thank you,” he murmured.
“I wanted to see – I wanted –” She stopped and sighed heavily. “I don’t know,” she said, spreading her hands, a sudden self-amusement in her eyes.
“I think I do,” Luke said, feeling a moment of amusement himself. “Are you staying?”
She set her weight back on her heels, wary in posture. “That’s the plan, if that’s all right.”
Luke gazed at her, seeing so many things in her gray eyes, in this woman he had known so well. Pain and age, that still, but an odd contentment and humor, too. He took her hand in his, watching her expression relax. “I’m glad you’re here,” he said simply.
Luke stretched out his legs, letting the smooth sand cover his feet. He put his arms behind him, propping himself up so he could see the dark ocean spread before him. The sound of it somehow required his concentration, his focus. Such a strange sound, that endless murmuring.
The shifting of sand more than her presence in the Force told him she was there. She touched his shoulder, then moved to sit beside him, all without speaking.
“Hello, Callista,” he said simply, smiling.
She dragged a piece of hair out of her mouth and grinned back. “It’s windy.”
“I hadn’t really noticed.”
“That’s because your hair is shorter,” Callista replied with a raised eyebrow, casually swinging herself into a position similar to his.
“Surely Chad was this windy, with all those oceans?” Luke asked, curious.
“It was, but I was used to it then,” Callista said ruefully, gray eyes sparkling as she turned towards the sun.
“Strange how expectations change so easily that way, with time,” Luke remarked, not sure himself what he was thinking of.
“That’s because people change,” Callista said darkly.
Luke gazed at her for a few long moments, as some dark tendril seemed to reach out for her ... then he looked away.
“I didn’t mean you,” Callista said abruptly.
“I didn’t –” Luke said, uncomfortable.
“We all change, but you’ve always held the center of yourself,” Callista interrupted softly.
Luke felt his lip quirk almost into a smile. “I don’t feel that way,” was all he said. “I feel like my center is always moving, shifting out of my control.”
Callista did not deny that, instead just met his gaze. “That’s how I’ve felt, so much of my life. Life is never steady.”
He sighed. “I suppose not.” There was always that shifting in the Force, as well, as events and lives were changed and those ripples just went on forever, and he could never be out of their reach. “So what happened, Callista?”
“What do you mean?”
“I sense something odd in you,” Luke said at last. It was intriguing to feel her again, feel those minute reactions. Perhaps it was that distant curiosity that had asked her to come here, with him, where Leia and Han had so often retreated.
“It’s sadness,” was her honest response, in acknowledgement that her search never yielded that which she had sought.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. He searched her face for some sign, something to lead him forward into the next moment. But he didn’t know her anymore, and there were only riddles.
“I searched for some kind of peace, contentment, but I’m not sure that’s possible for one of us, for a Jedi. We can never relax our guard.” She smiled briefly, a certain kind of peace in her. “Even now, as I am, unable to touch it and use it as I once could.”
“Once a soldier, always a soldier ...” Luke murmured, something Han had said to him once. Luke never really did quite forget those days of battle, aware of the ease with which he slipped back into it.
“We have been too deeply marked,” Callista said softly, squinting out towards the sea.
Luke’s eyes suddenly stung with tears, as that remark hit something within.
“Luke?” Callista said, turning her whole body to face him, hand on his shoulder – so swiftly aware, that apparently had not changed.
“It’s nothing,” Luke finally managed, forcing a smile. “Just – I don’t know.”
She stroked his arm, a touch he allowed, then suggested, “Perhaps we should make dinner.”
Luke nodded. As she rose, he reached out, a glancing touch of his hand to hers. “Thank you for coming,” he murmured.
“I was happy to,” she said, with a lazy, sincere smile.
He watched her go inside the beach house, then followed.
The Force gave an allowance of grace. Being able to touch life gave an awareness of it, a certain understanding that one could always move within. That a Jedi could.
Callista followed him into the lush jungle with the grace of experience, and once he felt he was far enough out from the Temple, he paused and waited for her. He leaned against a gnarled tree, one that twisted around itself and provided a small bit of unoccupied space, of sorts. She pushed branches and leaves out of her way, entering the tiny space and giving Luke a smile.
“I think your students would worry if they felt they knew you enough to do so,” she commented, standing beside him.
Luke let his eyes narrow. “It’s not that bad. I still teach and stay at the Temple, I’ve just been a little withdrawn.”
Callista shrugged, letting it go. “You know them better than I.”
“I think more than anything, it is a harsh reminder for them, the price of being a Jedi – the price of attachment,” he said softly. “They can’t help but see me and think, what if they lose their lover during a mission? A friend? A brother?”
“I’m sorry,” Callista murmured. “I know how it doesn’t fade.”
Luke turned away. “No.”
“It’s not just Jedi that lose people – I lost friends, over the years,” Callista said awkwardly, a strange kind of comfort.
But it relaxed Luke. “I know.”
For a brief moment, they had a shared solitude, the jungle dancing in the steps of life around them.
“I assume this place reminds you of Dagobah,” Callista ventured. “Do you ever take your students out and try to recapture those intense times?”
Surprised, Luke nodded. “Yes,” he said softly. “Those days were ... magical. So much to learn, so much ignorance that I knew I could – conquer, I suppose.”
Callista smiled wryly.
“I know,” Luke said dryly, and their eyes met, a perfect understanding there, just now.
It broke when Luke looked away, uncertain as to what to say next. She knew well enough what he was thinking; some things, some understandings had not shifted beyond the center.
Callista gently took his hand in hers, a quiver of uncertainty to her presence. “You know, we haven’t talked about the Force since my return.”
Luke raised an eyebrow. “What do you want to talk about?”
“How about ... paths?”
Curious, Luke asked, “Yours?”
She shrugged. “Do you ever think ... ever wonder, if you step off the path you’re supposed to go down, can you get back on? Or is the path gone, changed forever?”
Luke considered that. “I think our decisions change what our path can be. Not necessarily in a bad way, just ... different. Perhaps not the best way,” he added, thinking of dark times, “but who is to say that path can’t be blessed anyway?”
“The Force is not so cruel,” Callista murmured, eyes lidded.
“No, it’s not,” Luke said, with some force.
Callista looked at him and smiled. “My master always said I had to trust the Force, and just do my best.”
“My life has never really been the path I thought I was looking for, and I’ve strayed from the center line, but ...” He looked at Callista, her eyes the gray of mist. “I’ve been happy. So will you be, someday.”
Callista nodded lowly, but not entirely sadly, Luke thought.
Luke squeezed her hand. “Shall we go back to the Temple?”
She nodded shortly, a new lightness to her eyes. “Let’s.”
When night fell on Coruscant, the world glittered – especially from the top of the former Imperial Palace. Luke leaned his weight against a railing, not bothered by the extreme height, and remembered. He closed his eyes against the gentle wind.
“I hope I’m not bothering you,” came Callista’s soft voice.
Luke opened his eyes, stepped away from the railing. “No,” he said. “Though I’m surprised to see you here. How did you know where I was?”
Callista moved up beside him, taking his place against the railing. “I don’t know,” she said. She flicked an amused look at him. “The Force, maybe.”
“Hm.” Luke smiled.
“I guess I just felt ... you needed someone.”
Luke cocked his head at that, but didn’t disbelieve it. “I was just thinking.”
Luke lowered his gaze in response. “She liked it up here.”
“I’m all right,” Luke said quickly, somewhat anxious to reassure. He’d had time to heal, this shouldn’t be so painful.
Callista looked out at Coruscant. “She affected you a lot,” she said softly, turning to him to smile slightly.
“Yes,” Luke said, hardly more than a breath. Too deeply marked. “Do you think –” he began, but cut himself off.
“What?” Callista asked, not out of curiosity, but concern showing in her eyes instead.
“When you lose someone. That’s it. It’s over. You’ve lost.” Lost the war.
“I don’t understand,” Callista said, shaking her head.
“It will never fade, never ease ... you’ll never know anything like it again,” Luke whispered, wrapping his arms around himself.
Callista was silent, turned away. Then she said softly, “No, never anything like it again. But a new path ... a different path. You can still know happiness.” She faced him. “Isn’t that what you said to me?”
“How can I love again?” Luke said, his voice almost breaking, and he walked away from her.
“I would think that ... you love anew.”
Luke stopped. He faced nothing, and asked, “What are you saying, Callista?”
She walked up beside him, then in front of him, arms folded protectively around herself. “Only what you said to me. You’ll be happy again, one day.” She paused. “This isn’t the end. I thought it was the end so many times, Luke. And it wasn’t.”
Luke exhaled roughly, then put his face in his hands. “A different path,” he said, testing the words.
“Different, but not so bad,” she said quietly. “And maybe even blessed.”
“The Force isn’t cruel,” Luke said, in concert to her words.
Callista smiled tentatively. Luke stepped up to her, and she embraced him. He breathed through the silver of her hair. He kissed her forehead. Her fingers threaded through his hair.
They stopped there, for now, but it was enough.
This love was not the end.