All Good Things
The Living Force pervades all things, flows through them and binds them together.
Except when it does not; when those vessels of Light sworn to its service voluntarily isolate themselves, making of their hearts and minds lonely islands in a sea of luminance, fortresses raised against grief, against sympathy, against prurient inquiry. When this happens, the Living Force laps forlornly at their shores, forbidden entry, forbidden communion.
And this refusal of Light is a refusal of others, for what is a sentient being – especially a Jedi – if not an embodiment of the Force's universal power, a speck of life floating in an ocean of Life? When such barriers are raised, these others are also forced into exile, into a loneliness difficult to describe, for those raised and suckled on Light are not accustomed to such suffocating disparateness.
It is as though the world has fractured into shards, a broken mirror lying scattered, light refracted but no longer unitary. It hurts. But Jedi do not wallow in pain, they release it to the Force. When they can.
Obi-Wan sets the tea bowl down in front of Qui-Gon Jinn. The tall man nods, but this is not him. This is merely the outward echo of the true man, the one who has withdrawn into an unfathomable fastness, into his own solitary being. Qui-Gon, for all intents and purposes, has disappeared, for the time being. Since Tahl Uvain's death, grief has taken the Jedi master hostage and buried him deep in the bowels of its impalpable stronghold, leaving his Padawan to grieve for what grief has wrought.
The young Jedi is not content with this state of affairs, but neither does he have any power to change it. He must endure, patiently. And that is difficult for so many reasons. Without Qui-Gon Jinn, he is substantially disconnected from his world; for the master is the keystone to his own slowly evolving edifice of devotion, the foundation of his still-evolving identity as a Jedi. A Padawan orphaned would be assigned to another master; but one abandoned only invisibly, only in fact and not in appearance, is without recourse. He must fend for himself in a situation which none of his peers can quite comprehend.
After all, their masters live in more than name.
He goes to the dojo for solace, though he knows he will find only distraction.
The Unifying Force also binds things together, weaving destinies into a twisted skein, drawing surfeit and need into a unity of opposites, working all things toward an event horizon of balance. So he is not surprised to find the salle empty save for Taria Damsin, an old friend.
And she is also trapped in unspeakable loneliness. It bleeds from her in a wide pool, staining the Force with silent tears.
She is not surprised to find him here, either. It was meant to be, and they have no power to change what has been so cunningly woven by fate. So they merely bow to one another, recognizing the preordained necessity of this moment, and begin the kata in unison. They did not need to confer; it is the natural choice, one bringing their mirrored motions spiraling closer and closer until the dance is a slow and laborious synchrony, a measured catharsis. At the end, they stand so close that their very breaths rise and fall in unison, each exhalation softly stirring the other's thin Padawan braid.
And their isolation now encompasses the other.
"Taria. What is it?"
She throws back her head, golden eyes glittering, turquoise hair glinting in the soft illumination, dusking light dancing on some exotic ocean's waves. "Do you ever see.. the future?"
He would normally recoil from such a question. The future looms blackly, the Dark mocking him, tempting him to despair. He has always kept his back to its insults, his face to the Light. But here, in this tiny oasis of honesty, he knows he must answer. "Sometimes. But it is always in motion. Such visions are not to be heeded overmuch."
Taria has not stepped backward, He can still feel her warm breath flutter over his skin, coiling in the hollow of his throat. "I saw my own death," she tells him, lightly.
"Oh. I'm sorry. But … "
"I don't want to die. Not crippled and useless. I want to die fighting, Obi-Wan."
Why is she telling him this? Because they both know there is nothing he can do to change the future, not in that way. Not in flagrant defiance of the Force's will. He cannot, and he would not. And Tahl. Tahl so wounded, so helpless, crushed like a haffa blossom, she who was always triple-forged Bespari steel in life. So much like Taria, even down to her golden eyes. Is Taria also to be so crushed, her light broken and her lithe body limp, crumbling into ash even before she has perished? He swallows, and fights down the surge of grief. Qui Gon has not wept in months, and so why should he?
Taria presses her fingers into the corners of his eyes, playfully damming the leaking tears.. "Don't cry."
"I'm sorry. The future doesn't exist. There is only the present moment."
She likes this answer better, but her lips curve in a sad smile. "I can't find my way back to it," she confesses.
He cannot bear that she, too, is lost. So long as his pain is contained within the bounds of his own psyche, it can be tolerated, endured. But to see such raw devastation on Taria's face, to know that suffering has spread, plague-like, across his carefully constructed barriers, and clawed its way into another's heart… this is too much. There must be something he can do. Or say. But he doesn't know what.
They walk, alone through crowded corridors, upward, to the residential levels. Taria has chosen private quarters, rather than shared accommodations. Her master is the intimidating Iktotchi sentinel, Yarriss Moll; he considers it improper to house his female Padawan under the same roof. He is stern, and traditional, not one inclined to lend sympathetic ear to her present distress.
The room is bare, cold and scoured as their two hearts, an emptiness occupied now by two hollow lanterns, vessels which should shine with Light but are guttering in the void, one chilled by the future, another by the recent past. Between these two aching extremes there lies a narrow isthmus of balance, a present moment in which the Living Force might rekindle their stuttering flames.
Taria has been beloved by him since earliest childhood, when she savagely bit his ankle in the crèche, thus sealing a lifelong friendship in blood and tears. And now, Obi-Wan would gladly expend his last feeble flicker of joy, and be snuffed out utterly, if only he could spark her back to vibrancy. It would be a sacrifice willingly made. He wishes he could tell her this, give this gift to her, for then at least suffering would claim one less victim.
He lowers his shields, trembling, because he has not dared such a thing in all the long weeks and months since Tahl's murder – and Taria does the same.
Except she is also here- in his arms – and their tentative surrender has melted into something else, a bit unexpected, but not… unpleasant.
Taria's mouth is soft, and warm, and –
-there is no passion, there is –
-Taria, her skin sweet spicy and silken, her touch, her fingers tangling in his hair, skimming down his neck, so -!
-there is the Force, not passion , the Force-
-but this is the Force, too. This is the Living Force, pervading them, flowing through them, binding them together. They pervade each other, the embrace deepening until this is not enough, this is merely a taste, an aching enticement, and they must flow through each other, bind each other together into life, into the present moment, into the Force.
They must part to breathe.
"Do you remember when I bit you, in the crèche?" she asks, her fire already leaping back to life, joyful vitality dancing in her golden eyes, mischief cascading through the Force, making him smile.
And she bites him again, this time on the lower lip, and it hurts, but there are no tears and accusations, no rush to the clan-master to complain, no soulful apology. The pain explodes hot where her teeth sink in, but it also erupts in his belly, and lower, until he is arching into it and twisting his hands through her waterfall of gorgeous green-blue, unbinding the braid, parting the strands, untying the knotted path until it spills untrammeled down her back and –
They must breathe. It is like meditation. Inhale.
"Do you remember Push-Feather in the gardens?" He has other memories. They are good ones.
Taria smiles, and now joy burns steadily in amber pools, the future retreating before the leaping tongues of gold and wild, white-edged Light. "Yes," she laughs, soft and deep, mirth welling from childlike depths, forgotten realms of innocence.
They play Push-Feather again, now, until she topples him over onto her low sleep-couch, victorious. Only this time he does not shove her away but instead pulls her closer, until her triumphant straddle across his lap transforms into another embrace, the Force surging higher like a rising tide, their hands stripping away layers of cream-colored cloth, soft barriers dropping away, cast aside and released just as grief and fear roll away from them, purged and conquered by this strange joy, this novel meditation.
There is no passion-
Her breasts are the Force, too – smooth-firm beneath his fingers, gently swollen with Life, with abundance, with welcome. Between them is a sweat-bedewed valley, scented of Taria. He pulls her closer, suckling at this proffered fountain, this delicate curve where, in another world, another path, new life would find its first taste of Light. Taria grasps him, fingers pulling at his hair, her soft-hard body tightening beneath his searching hands. Shields down, souls mingling, her ache becomes his, and longing floods molten in his bowels, lower, and lower, until he is taut with it, gasping for breath or for her, or for the Force – he isn't sure which, or if these are even different.
"Do you remember … our first saber class?" she whispers in his ear, and then bites – gently, but hard enough to make him whimper.
"Yes." He remembers the burn. The horror in her eyes when she realized she had hit him, the knowledge that in real life this would be an impaling blow.
They reenact it now, in real life, moaning together as they pervade each other, flow together, bind and are bound. And they enact other scenes, some which were, and some which are now, and others which may yet be, until past and future are taken up, transformed and consummated in this present moment. And the guttering flames are rekindled, roaring into a bonfire of Life, of unbearable joy, of the other, until there is no Taria and no Obi-Wan, only the Force.
There is passion. There is the Force.
There is only the Force.
And when it releases them again, Obi-Wan is on top, though he does not remember how. It has been an eternity since they began this kata, and he is utterly spent, empty yet full, exhausted yet fulfilled. Taria lies beneath him, satiated, grounded in the present moment, and gloriously alive. She shines with life. She shines with the Force.
"Did I do that?"
"You gundark," she snorts. Tracing a hand over his face, tenderly. "Get off me."
They part, and discover that gross matter makes its own messy demands. This is new to both of them. Perhaps they will learn more of it, and perhaps not. It takes some time to restore order, to re-assume their identities, their roles and duties. They take turns in the 'fresher, and they dress each other. The lightsabers are replaced last of all, the gleaming hilts hanging at either hip, just covered by a sweep of brown cloth.
In the outside world, some time has passed. Grief has been vanquished without fanfare; there will be no outward difference. They bow to one another, gravely, thanksgiving and benediction at once.
And they go their separate ways for now, Taria to dwell in the present moment,; he to wait patiently for another's grief to pass. Death will not spare her in the end, and sorrow will not pass him by. But they have, for now, shown compassion to a friend in a time of mutual need.