Eyes Half Closed
A Vignette by LuvEwan
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me.
The line between love and betrayal proves thin for a bruised heart. Pre-AOTC.
This is dedicated to Kynstar. Without her suggestion, I would not have written this.
"Beloved, let your
eyes half close, and
your heart beat
Over my heart…" -W.B. Yeats
The shop is small and terribly old-fashioned, with ratty planks of wood concealing the steel walls beneath. I can't help my amusement at the aim of the owners, to create a kind of antiquated façade that has never truly existed on this mechanical, streamlined city/planet. Handcrafted knickknacks and tapestries are lined in beaten wood cabinets. I nearly expect the prices to be written out in ink script, but no, digital symbols mar the illusion of wilderness, I notice with a smirk.
Still, this place comes as close in resemblance to general stores of bygone years as anything can on Coruscant, with glow rods radiating a warm, low radiance of burnished yellow that softens edges and brings the space in close.
Which is exactly why she…why she is here. For you see, even if she were sought out by those who claim to know her best, they would never imagine to find her roaming the faded carpet of this shop, a delicate index finger resting idly on her chin. I stand in the midst of slowly-turning racks, my presence masked from her in the physical and Force sense, watching as she stops here and there, to touch a carved figurine or appraise a silvery chain.
No, no one would guess she would spend her quiet moments here, engaged in such normalcy and, in a way, vulnerability.
I think that most everyone believes her to be as rigid as the chiseled stone character she currently holds, unchanging in expression and stance, dependable in her anti-evolution. As a child, she was steady, a willing backbone for the outgoing ones, the daredevils, and the shy sect, too, the wallflowers. They sunk into themselves, or explored in bursts of energy and charisma. But not her. Never her.
At least, never when anyone else could see.
It's a very silly thing to think, but I'm an old man now, entitled to my encounters with the indulgence of haze and sentiment, so I allow the muse to form. There were times when I privately considered myself the luckiest member of the Order, because I saw, sometimes a glimpse, sometimes enough to drink in to the verge of drowning.
She had more than a spark. She was, and is, more than a sturdy platform for all the rest.
She stays at the nexus of my being, stubborn and unyielding to my decades-long attempt to be rid of her. She is my molten, crackling, warming core, although I do not wish for it to be so.
This woman wrapped in her fine violet robes, gray hair smoothed and swept into a tight bun, profile refined and…simply unmistakable, she is my weakness. It has taken me years to say it, and oh how it wrenches the lifeblood from my heart. I am not meant to bend to whimsy, nor lust.
And a small part of me dances in its treachery, reminding me that neither is the case with her. It surpasses a compulsion of mind or body. The soul is independent of them and. apart from all else, we are each dependent on the soul. In shadow or sun, that is unwavering truth.
Right now, she is both, facets of her face shaded while others are set ablaze by the glow rods. My breath catches, and I have the sudden impulse to run from here and abandon the fool that resides within me, and tricked me into becoming silent audience to her wanderings.
But my feet are encased in the granite of a different resolve. I came here for a reason. I came here for her. And yet, the twine that binds me to that decision is ever-unraveling, wanting to chase away the madness, and return me to sanity.
The Universe has engorged itself in Dark. On some planets, the streets are crammed with the mindless. I have seen it. Some might say I have aided in the cause of it.
So perhaps, for the generation of this Time, there is no sanity to be had.
My stomach lurches, but I move forward, emerging from the veils, coming to stop behind her, already engulfed in the nearness of her. My eyes shut against the current, though the action is of little use. Beneath the lids runs another deluge, of stolen walks through deserted corridors and shared glances, hands tightly linked and minds so beautifully clashed and joined.
I open them in time to watch my hands drift involuntarily toward her shoulders, a breath away from the renewal of a sorely missed connection--
And she turns around, very calmly. "You are silly, my dear, to think that I wasn't aware of you."
Her voice has changed, sharpened, but remains recognizable. "It seems you bring out the dunce in me." I say with a (tentative?) smile.
She rewards me with a quick laugh. "I wouldn't think it would take much." Then, she slips into a deeper layer of her persona, the gentler version that so few can decipher from the masks. "Why are you here?"
For a split second, I hope that she can supply the explanation, and I will not be forced to speak aloud what has been so painful to describe, even to myself. Alas, she stands in perfect patience, waiting for my answer. "I have…" A sputtering sigh escapes me, and I must start again, "I have been busy, my friend. Very busy."
A manicured brow raises with her sardonic tone. "Forgive me if I'm a little confused by that."
Strange panic stirs inside me, and I turn my gaze away from her intent, absorbing eyes, looking instead to a scratched locket strewn out on a counter. "I have been busy, but I…I find my thoughts have detached themselves from my work. The Dark is all-encompassing, and with every day that passes, it reminds me of my imminent mortality."
"Don't," Jocasta interrupts with a pained expression, "Don't talk of such things. I thought the Dark was your chosen path in the first place."
I hear her accusation laced through the words as cyanide through champagne. "It was not my intention, Jocasta. You must know that."
She sighs, and I catch the deep lines that cup her eyes, a sign of weariness I have never seen before. "There must have come a time when you realized the danger your idealistic politics posed to you," Shadow clings to her sad smile, "To the best parts of you. The ones I always cherished the most."
My heart contracts, and I bring up a hand to graze her cheekbone. "You must think the worst of me."
She does not swat or bite the touch away. Instead, she rests her fingers atop mine. "No," Tenderly, "I think you've lost yourself. I think that's why you're here. You left the Jedi, but the memories will never leave you." She grips both my hands, "I've always known this. Which is why I'm not especially surprised to see you here."
I chuckle quietly. "And I'm not surprised by that. You," My voice cracks for an instant, as I study her treasured features, "Perhaps your memories of me have not left you, then."
Her touch, more soothing than the richest of silks and far more rare, drops away. "It has not been from a lack of trying."
I take a half-step back and feel a fleeting burn scorch in my heart. "I see." My eyes seal against an exhale, and I am transported to the last moments of my career as a Jedi, that horrible interval of my life when my beliefs came to shatters, and the jagged edges still left me bleeding. I came to her then, at the dark birth of midnight, while she was sitting at a comm station in the Temple Library. I was prepared for a long, tremendously difficult speech, but when I arrived at her side, she looked up at me, and the knowledge was welled in her eyes. It had been many years since we were involved in the intense relationship that brought us to moonlit rooms with wine and rustled linens. We had begun to grow apart, for she was devoted to her name, her place among them, the weight of intellect her words carried through the halls. And I…
I had become bitterly disenchanted by the creed that owned her and my Master, my Padawan. I was unsatisfied, and that feeling hung like clouds of ash in me. I didn't understand then, that it was Jocasta that had the potential to fill my empty spaces. I only knew that my talents were being squandered, and the power I possessed was lying dormant in my veins.
Her eyes were stinging me then, as they do at this moment.
The same reaction trembles at my mouth. "I'm sorry."
Today, her smile forms brittle. "I'd say you should be. But then," A breath breaks away from her, "We all seem to bear our own share of the blame."
I run my palms from her shoulders to her elbows. "The Jedi are crumbling, Jocasta. But I would never believe it to be your fault, in any capacity. You are a remnant of what they once were…what they can never be again."
She is silent, her lashes falling and the pupils searching. "There are rumors," She says, in a slightly choked tone, "That you are more than an idealist."
My fingers curl in tightly, then loosen again. I channel my faint shock into the Force, so that it is beyond her perceptions. "And do you believe them?"
Jocasta smiles and shakes her head. "I…" She crosses her arms, "I don't know what to believe about you anymore. When we were young, it was different." Frustration, perhaps anger, pulls at her face, "You were a mystery, and I had the energy for such intrigue. But now…I wish the mystery would dissipate…to allow me to see…you."
Me? What is there to see of me? Plumes of smoke? "No.." And it is crushing to stand witness to the gentleness that overtakes her occasional severity. She is my secret, you see. The hidden world where only I have resided. I do not want to forfeit that haven, by speaking a clumsy word or striking the wrong chord. I would wish to undo all this--but it is too good just to see her, and remember what life was like, before I took up my shroud. Is this betrayal? Am I turning from the existence I fled to, when my first treason was committed?
It is very possible that I am. There are two men that sprung from my mind, a conception of Light and Dark, but I have ever only one soul. I twist in the torrents of damnable titles, Jedi or Sith, lover or fighter, leader or…follower.
I don't think the divisions can reconcile. It is too late. I am too old and settled into the nuances created at the hand of my new Master. But I would risk, this once, for this beat of time, everything. I would sacrifice my seat on the totem, if she would walk away with me.
But the hope is dying in my heart. "There is nothing to see in me, my love. All that I am is what you see now. I have masqueraded nothing."
Her lips, the taste of which I remember too vividly, straighten out in a line. "Then it's true." The dread quivers through the Force, but her body remains still. "You are lost."
My hands grip her abruptly, with unleashed vaults of strength. "I know. I know that something has been buried inside me. As you've said, the part of me that you knew and loved. But you can…you can resurrect it, Jocasta. Come with me," I strip away the last vestiges between our minds, so she feels me wholly and completely, "Come with me. Leave them. Leave them before you can't. And we can be together."
I know it's a last-ditch effort, solidified by the subtle slump of her shoulders and the grim, gray cast that falls over her face. "As long as the Jedi exist, Count, I shall exist among their ranks. I have a job to do, I have peers, children, friends to serve."
I'm shocked by the civility and evenness of my voice. "And what of me? Have your sentiments shrunk so small for your old lover?"
"I told you," She whispers, and pulls my mouth against hers for a brief kiss, "He is lost."
And then she squeezes my hand, brushes unseen wrinkles from her tunics, and walks out of the shop.
Those small parts of the man I was, who stayed under the flourish of the Light, for her…they go as well.
I don't expect to see them again, either.