AN: Even years later, this is still my favourite vignette. Composed with the initial intent of giving Callista a "happy ending," it became something much more. Enjoy!
A Dream Within a Dream
It's amazing how much beauty is contained in a single glimmering star. My earliest memory is of staring up into the heavens, awestruck by the never-ending canopy of twinkling diamonds that stretched farther than my eyes could perceive. How could the universe hold so many examples of perfection? A star has no defaults, no flaws to mar its silvery radiance. Its only thought, only goal, is to send its sparkling rays out into the great void, until time or man extinguishes its precious beams. Stars have a passionate, uncontrollable beginning and a frosty, silent end, but no one remembers those events. It's those middle years, when they shine in the twilight through the dusky skies of distant worlds, which truly matter.
I've often thought the same way about love. At first it burns wildly, fiercely, without any regard for those around it. Infantile love, in its early stages of existence, is selfish; your feelings, and the object of your affection, are dwelt upon more than anything else. Flames, leaping higher and higher, consuming thoughts, emotions, ties, and flesh itself. First love rages and roars, absorbed in its own powerful vigor.
But eventually, that ardor must fade. Passion grows weak on lust and physical attraction, and desires stronger food: constancy, fidelity, and devotion. The heat and uncontrollable excitement of immature love subsides, yet something still remains: sincere affection. A small fire, not a conflagration, it burns slowly but faithfully, and neither depression, nor fear, nor loneliness can snuff out its light. Only death.
And when that death arrives, love does not disappear like a supernova, violently, forcefully. The flames cease, the warmth slowly vanishes, but something lingers: the ashes of memories. They are few, and small, but still present in our minds and hearts. The furor of first love, and the mellow tenderness of the heat that saturated your soul for so long will never be forgotten; they are with you every waking moment, every hour of every day of your existence. Those remembrances are more than dreams, for they come in the stillness of sleep and the activity of daily life. They never end.
It took me years to learn this wisdom, years of heartache and pains and genuine sorrows. I've found love, only to give it up later to preserve others' happiness. I've walked difficult paths, both alone and united with someone else, and cried enough bitter tears to fill the oceans of my homeworld. Those trials have simply molded me, shaped me into the woman I now am. And those troubles have granted me the sagacity to see the purpose behind the stars.
When I first met him, I was possessed by the zeal of early affection. All we cared for was each other, and we did not look beyond the present. Yet as time passed, I began to realize that we were not compatible; my lack of Force-sensitivity had created inside me a hunger for that power, and I allowed myself to be used, abused by others in an attempt to regain my old abilities. I was not successful. I still adored him, but my experiences had taught me that our lives belonged on separate paths. We parted ways.
My skills never returned. I was a mere mortal again, cast down from the upper realms without even a fragment of my former gifts. The dream was over, and I looked at this world with disenchanted eyes. I felt the Force had abandoned me. So after the episode on Nam Choris, I gave up my quest for power and returned to my homeworld.
Who could have known the contentment that fate had in store for me? I had labeled myself romantically finished, and was surprised when life informed me otherwise. Keyvan Pirie was a deep-sea rancher, tall, fair-haired, and shy, but with hazel eyes that said more than the wisest philosopher. He truly cared for me, and when I told him of my past he just smiled, and understanding acceptance poured from those luminous orbs. We married; we bought a ranch that moved along the Algic Current, like the ark from my childhood. And I brought into the world a beautiful girl, with her father's golden tresses and depths upon depths of sentiment in her large grey eyes.
Jesilyn redeemed me, brought me alive again. I found it hard to believe that this child was both part of Keyvan and part of me, two flesh joined together in one small form. I cherished her precocious questions, watched affectionately as she grew and matured, and tried to be a better parent that my misunderstanding father, or my aloof stepmother.
One evening, I was relaxing outside in the open air, waiting for Keyvan to return from the herd and watching Jesilyn with a maternal attentiveness. The cy'eens were singing in the deeps, their mournful song, exquisitely lovely in a melancholy way, echoed over the still waters like a melody from the netherworld. The tune rose, increased in volume, as thousands more voices joined in, weaving intricate parts into one incredible piece. I shut my eyes for a second, letting myself float on the profound music, when a childish hand tugged at my sleeve. It was Jesilyn, her small face scrunched up into a look of stern concentration. I smiled, seeing her father's seriousness reflected in the sunburned cheeks and girlish dimples, and lifted her up into my lap. At four years old, she was no longer a tiny tot, but still little enough to be comfortably held and carried. "What is it, sweetheart?"
She snuggled closer, small hands tightly clasped around my neck. "There's a ship approaching, Mama. The people probably wanna talk to you."
I nodded, wrapped a hand around her tiny waist, and walked towards the railing. Few people visited Chad III, but occasionally strangers would stop by to ask for directions or assistance. I motioned the pair towards our small dock, and frowned when I saw the four empty slots. Normally there were three, but Keyvan had headed out into the deep ranges, trying to trap a lone wystoh that had been preying on the weaker cows. It was hours past Jesilyn's normal bedtime; the little imp had convinced me that we should wait for her daddy to come back from work, and I reluctantly consented to the angel's demands. I longed for my husband to return, that I might talk to him about the day and simply bask in his presence, but I put those thoughts behind me.
I approached the couple, and studied them closely. Both wore cloaks, a necessary garment in these cool nocturnal waters, but as I came nearer the woman threw back her hood and dipped her head politely. Even in the pale light of Chad's three moons, her red-gold hair glistened as it fell around her shoulders and rippled down her back. Her nose was a little too long, her mouth a little too big, her cheekbones a little too strong to classify her as a classical beauty, but she was certainly striking, and her brilliant green eyes seemed to hint at both a raw energy and a wry softness that seemed acquired, not natural. There was something familiar about her, something I just couldn't…shaking my head, I stepped towards her partner and extended my hand.
As I came closer, his eyes immediately connected with mine, and I nearly recoiled in shock. I knew this man like the evening star, like my husband's touch. I searched his face for changes, but found few. There were new wrinkles, suggesting knowledge and experience, but the clear, shockingly blue eyes were still the same. He kept glancing from me to Jesilyn and back with a questioning look on his farmboy face, so I smiled and began the introductions.
"Hello, Luke. What brings you here?"
The Luke I had known and loved would have gaped, open-mouthed, and stuttered out some insignificant words. Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master and leader of the New Jedi Order, merely reached out to shake my hand. "Callista, you remember Mara, don't you? We're celebrating our second anniversary here, but got lost somewhere around the equator. I had no idea you lived here, or we might have tried to get in touch with you sooner."
The name and the face clicked, and I looked at Mara again. Those emerald eyes had widened, and she was gazing at Jesilyn and me with an uncomfortable intensity. I had heard tales that she was once a personal servant of the Emperor, his Hand, and her concentration seemed fitting for both the role that she played now, as a Jedi, and her former career. I shifted my focus back to Luke. "How lovely. What do you think of Chad so far?"
He looked at my gently, a familiar emotion lurking in those timeless eyes: worry about my happiness, my satisfaction with a quiet life. My Master once told me that only a thin line separated worry from fear, but the greatest of Jedi can be concerned for someone or something without ever passing into that grey land of anxiety. Luke truly epitomized that proverb, with his apprehensions never venturing too far towards that dark path. I smiled, trying to reassure him.
Mara turned towards me, her features settled into a slightly more normal form of curiosity, but she still looked at me oddly, as if unsure what to think. That was understandable. She was concerned for how her husband, how I must be feeling right now, but she had no cause to worry. I had a spouse, and a daughter, and a happy life; any feelings that remained for Luke Skywalker were only those of friendship. "Luke and I think your homeworld is beautiful, Callista. The stars seem so much brighter, so much closer here." Then she pressed on to her main point. "Is this your daughter?"
I smoothed Jesilyn's curls, and nodded. This dainty child, with an earnest, candid face, was mine. I carried her in my womb for nine months, dealing with the trials of morning sickness and indigestion, and watched as my belly swelled with the new life growing inside me. Then there was the glorious pain, the nervous hours of childbirth, and the staggering pride I felt stirring in my heart when the medic placed the squalling, livid bundle into my expectant arms. Nature had blended my oval face, soft features, and grey eyes with Keyvan's blonde hair and fair coloring to produce an angel. She was perceptive, intuitive for such a small girl, with sensitivity to the living Force that would only increase with time. One day she would leave me, to follow her own path or to pursue Jedi training. But for now, she was mine.
"This is Jesilyn." I tried to get her to talk, but she seemed nervous and buried her head against my breast. I smiled apologetically and continued. "She seems a little tired tonight. She's had a long day."
"And your husband? What does he do?" Mara probed, her gaze intent.
I sighed, as all the memories came rushing through my mind. My husband was strong, honorable, kind. He taught our child with patience and humility, and lived every day with a pure spirit. He had saved me, provided for me, loved me like no one else in the world ever could. He was not prideful, or egotistical, but unbelievably humble. He was my spouse, my partner, my friend, my companion, my listener, my hero, my comforter. And my lover. He had his quirky qualities, like his fear of banthas and his stubborn insistence that we could manage this ranch on our own, but those didn't matter to me. I knew that I was content to spend the rest of my life with this obstinate, quiet man. Yet all I could give was a simple answer. "Keyvan and I move with the herds. It's not much, but it is enough for me."
And as I looked into Luke's eyes, I saw that he understood. I was happy. We had both found peace and security, though not at the same pace. The end of our relationship had merely brought stronger, warmer attachments into our lives. He had found a soul mate in Mara, just as I had found one in Keyvan. There was no other explanation needed.
He leaned forward, and his lips softly brushed my cheek. "I wish you and your husband the best of luck in the future." Mara added her acknowledgments, and I smiled. Our love was dead, and another flame had started in its place. I felt the brush of memory, and watched images of past times rush before my eyes: times of tranquility, of joy, and of pain. I did not regret my relationship with Luke, or the sorrows that followed. Troubles had simply refined me, sculpting my heart and soul into an instrument of the Force, as a diamond in the flames of trials is fashioned into flawless perfection. I lived to love, and to sacrifice myself for those in my care. And through it all the memories still remained of my past passions, of dreams within a dream.
And as I looked up into the heavens, with its white pinpricks of splendor, I finally understood the purpose of the stars.