The bridge of the shuttle Faith was crowded, not meant to hold the dozen people that now occupied it. Wes sat at the helm--since the ship was his, he was the clear choice for pilot--his fingers dancing over the controls. "All engines disengaged," he announced, turning in his seat to face the gathering behind him. "Alderaan graveyard ahead."
The announcement was followed by a bottomless silence, as Tycho's friends and family gazed through the transparisteel window at the debris field. Chunks of rock moved slowly before them, all that was left of Tycho and Winter's home planet, destroyed many decades before.
It had become a ritual for some of the Alderaanians that survived the destruction of their world to return to this place at various times, on what became known as The Pilgrimage. There was no set timeframe to follow; those who wanted to return did so at their own pace. Sometimes it was to memorialize those who had been killed by leaving gifts or messages, other times to mark an important milestone in their lives. Eventually, it would be to add their own remains to those of their world they had loved and lost, spending the rest of eternity with them in the coldness of space.
It was for the latter reason that this group had gathered. Although Tycho had only made a pilgrimage to Alderaan once since its destruction, he had expressed a desire to 'rest' with his family. Winter promised that he would, and the necessary preparations were made. Now six days after his passing, Tycho was about to rejoin those he had lost so long ago.
"Do we say something?" Wes asked, glancing from face to solemn face. They had spent so much time planning how to get to Alderaan that no one had thought much past that, least of all Wes. This was his first Alderaanian funeral. "How does this go?"
"There's no real ceremony," Winter answered, her voice carefully calm. Wes suspected it was more for her daughter's benefit than the rest of the assembly. "If anyone has anything to say, they can. Then a final prayer is spoken, and..." She trailed off, and Wes understood what she wasn't saying.
"I have something to share." Everyone turned to look at Corran. It was difficult to do in the cramped confines of the bridge, made even more restricted as the Jedi made his way closer to the front viewscreen. He looked to Winter, who nodded for him to continue.
"I have many memories of Tycho," he began, turning to face his friends. "Some I keep as my own, but many I've shared over the last few days. The one memory that will always be vivid, though, was of the last time I saw Tycho. He asked me to do something for him, as most of you know, something that I knew would be difficult. But the man had risked his life for me more times than I can count--refusing was not an option. And although it caused me some... discomfort, I gained so much from my joining with him that it was worth it. Even through pain and debilitating disease, Tycho's strength of spirit, and powerful love for his friends and family, touched me deeply."
Corran paused, taking a deep breath. "The vision that I gave Tycho was of what he loved--flying. To do so, I reached back to a time when I had touched his mind during a dogfight, and I took what I'd learned and placed it into something new. I entirely created that vision, but his mind took possession of it, controlled it. He decided where it was going, what was happening, what he was doing. I saw... I saw behind the vision, a glimpse of the real Tycho, of his mind and spirit. And I could see what he wanted most..."
"It was his time. He knew it; knew it was a battle he couldn't win, and one he didn't want to fight anymore. He knew Winter and Lee..." Corran looked at each woman in turn. "He knew that you were suffering along with him. He hated seeing that, it hurt him more than any pain from the disease could. He wanted his own misery to end, but he wanted peace for you, too."
Corran stopped there, shaking his head as if he couldn't put into words what he was feeling. He closed his eyes and took another deep breath, and Wes felt an unexpected soft and reassuring touch at the outskirts of his mind; his Jedi friend was reaching out to all of them through the Force. He wasn't invading their thoughts in any way, just a comforting presence, like an arm around Wes's shoulder for support. A support that Wes hadn't realized he'd desperately needed until that moment. And that one moment of compassion put a crack in Wes's brave front. He hung his head, his back curving as he slumped in his seat. One hand wiped at his face as a tear slipped free, then rubbed at his eyes with thumb and forefinger, fighting the few tears that would follow. The touch at the edge of his mind intensified, warmth of feeling and friendship coursing through him, a kind of mental hug. Wes smiled through tears at the effort Corran was making. He knew how much using the Force still hurt the Jedi since his collapse.
I'll be ok, Wes whispered the thought.
We all will, the reply came, like words carried on the wind.
Eventually others in the group shared their memories of Tycho, supported and encouraged by Corran's soft touch. Soon a silence fell over them again, some watching the shifting ruble outside the shuttle, others looking down at their feet. It seemed it was time to do what they had come to do, even though none of them wanted to be the person to say it. As was often the case, Winter was the one to take the lead.
"There's a prayer," she started, breaking gently into the silence. "It was spoken at funerals when we had a world on which to be buried. And now it is spoken for those who are buried here. Lee has asked to speak it."
Adalee stepped forward at the invitation. Even though her eyes were red and the skin surrounding them was inflamed, Wes could see Winter's steel resolve mixed with Tycho's fire and vitality. She looked to her mother, then began the prayer. Wes bowed his head.
You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back,
Or you can do what he would want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Lee finished the prayer, and Winter slipped an arm around her daughter. Again silence fell over the group.
After a few moments, Winter stepped forward with Lee, and lay a shaky hand on Wes's shoulder. He looked up into her grey, watery eyes, and nodded; the duty he had been dreading was at hand. He glanced over the control panel to his left, even though he knew exactly where the switch he needed was located. He reached for it, his hand hovering over it for several heartbeats, then he flicked it. A red light lit beneath it, and there was a faint shudder through the deck of the shuttle. Wes looked up in time to see a silver cylinder float out from beneath his ship, slowly making its way into the swirl of rubble, all that was left of Alderaan.
"Goodbye, Tycho," Wes heard whispered somewhere behind him, and his eyes blurred with tears again.
Note from author: The prayer used in this story is actually a poem, "He Is Gone", by David Harkins.