Disclaimer: The recognizable characters in this story were developed by George Lucas, Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta and are copyrighted by Lucasfilm, Ltd. & Boulevard Books, a division of the Berkley Publishing Group. This story is written for entertainment purposes only. No challenge to the copyright holders in intended, neither should any be inferred.

A/N: Set after Heirs of the Force. Jacen is 14 years old during this story.


Penance

Jacen Solo stood hesitating outside the closed door of Luke Skywalker's office. Immediately the Jedi Master sensed his presence.

"Come."

The word echoed over and over again in his mind. Jacen tried a Jedi calming technique, but it didn't seem to work. Gathering his courage, he pushed open the heavy wooden door and strode in.

His uncle regarded him for a long moment. Finally he motioned him to a low chair. "Sit."

Jacen sat.


The Jedi Master could clearly sense Jacen's bubbling anxiety through the Force, but there was another emotion as well...what was it? Ah. Regret. Luke thought back to the events of that morning. He had entered the grand audience chamber of the temple, only to find disaster. He replayed the scene in his mind...

A blond-haired boy was out cold on the stone floor. Blood oozed from his obviously broken nose, staining his brightly colored robes. It was Raynar. Several students surrounded the boy, all talking at once. Others stood back, horrified at the sight of the blood.

"Who did this?!" The Force-enhanced voice was stern and intimidating. No one dared look at him. No one dared say a word. The Jedi Master let his gaze sweep over everyone. "Very well. You're all confined to your quarters until one of you finds the courage to confess."

Luke easily scooped up the injured boy and turned towards the door. "You'll find me in my office."

Now Jacen sat before him, subconsciously wiping his sweaty palms on his pant legs, unable to meet Luke's gaze. The silence was becoming unbearable.


"I'm the one who hit him!" Jacen finally blurted out.

"Why?" His uncle's voice was gentle with compassion, and somehow that made Jacen feel even worse. "Raynar...he killed one of my purple jumping spiders!" Jacen spat the words. "He did it on purpose too!" Feeling somewhat vindicated by this pronouncement, he finally looked up at his uncle.

"And that gives you the right to lash out in anger?"

There was silence for a moment. Then Jacen looked away, ashamed. "Well, no, I guess not, but I was so angry, and it was so easy to just use the Force and hit him, to use...the Dark side..." his voice trailed off.

Luke nodded, his expression grave. "The Dark side is the easy path."

Jacen finally looked up again. "I do not want to succumb to it!" his voice was firm. "I've chosen the Light side...but the Dark side seems to keep lurking. Now I feel so awful, like I'm burning up inside. Uncle Luke, I'm so sorry."

Luke nodded. "But Raynar's the one you need to apologize to. He is, however, still unconscious."

Jacen rested his head in his hands with a sigh. "Uncle Luke...is the Dark side stronger?"


Luke remembered when he had asked Yoda that same question. Now he gave the same answer: "No." The ancient Jedi had left it at that, but Luke decided to elaborate. "The Light side is the more difficult path. It is harder and braver to walk away rather than to fight. The Dark and Light sides both use the same Force. But the Dark side uses emotions like fear, anger, hate. How can there be any control in that? And that loss of control, of focus, is what weakens them."

Jacen nodded slowly, considering.

After a few moments, Luke spoke again. "I was wondering how long it would take before you came to me, Jacen."

This statement rocked Jacen back in his chair, his surprise was so complete.

"I must say, your classmates surely respect you a lot, to keep silent for you–"

"How did you know?!"

Luke hid a smile. "Somehow I've always been able to read your face like an open book Jacen...and a fully trained Jedi can sense a great deal through the Force."

"But Uncle Lu... I mean, Master Skywalker, if you knew, why didn't you just say so?"

"Well, I guess I wanted you to come to me on your own. Speaking of which, why did you wait so long?"

Jacen hesitated a long moment. "I was afraid you'd send me home," he admitted at last.

Luke shook his head slowly. "We must learn from our mistakes, and move on. You will, however, have extra duties around the temple for the next month."

Jacen smiled a sheepish, relieved smile. After a moment he said, "Uncle Luke? I'd like to go see Raynar."

"Good."


The infirmary was lit by two glowpanels that pulsed softly overhead. A deactivated medical droid stood in one corner. Raynar was lying on a cot nearby. His breathing was slow and shallow, and his face was pale, but his nose was straight again. He moaned in his sleep.

Jacen winced at the sound. "I thought he was alright now."

"He's in pain," Luke said simply.

Jacen looked down. The results of his anger. "Is it bad?"

"Let's just say it's good that he's unconscious."

Jacen picked up Raynar's clammy hand and gazed at his wan face. If he used the Force, perhaps he could make a connection with Raynar's mind, could consciously feel his pain. He began to concentrate. As is from a great distance he heard Uncle Luke's voice saying, "Jacen! You're conscious and he's not. It's going to be awful..."

Jacen didn't care. If he did this then maybe he would be able to forgive himself..."Yes," he decided, it would be his penance, his means of atonement.

Jacen reached. Brilliant white pain exploded in his mind. He felt as though his face had been smashed with a brick. He tasted the copper tang of blood in his mouth. A wave of nausea swept over him as the pain intensified. The corners of his vision were growing blurry. He had to let go of Raynar's hand, had to break the connection. But he found he could not, it was as if their flesh was welded together. Jacen's stomach churned. The blackness was reaching for him, and he only hoped it would take him before he lost his lunch.

Suddenly Uncle Luke was there, slicing them cleanly apart with the Force. Jacen swayed slightly and watched in fascination as blue sparks danced lightly away over his hand.

"Thanks, Master Skywalker." Somehow it didn't seem appropriate to call him 'Uncle Luke' just now.

Luke nodded, relaxing his firm grip on his nephew's arm when Jacen's legs didn't seem so rubbery anymore.

Jacen's gaze flickered over Raynar once more, and he turned away with a sigh, starting towards the door. He felt worse than when he'd come in.

"Jacen."

The young Jedi paused and turned slightly.

"Tomorrow is another day."


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